By Cheryl Johnston
Honorable Mention, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2022
“The body is a precious thing,”
The righteous rebels cry:
“The body is a lovely thing
To kill, to sell, to buy.
Oh, woe to those poor spirits, then,
Who rest among the saints!
They can no longer die nor kill—
Poor slaves! What hard restraints!
“The body is a golden tomb:
Its catacombs of flesh
Will twist and rise and writhe and bloom
To scatter, warm and fresh,
Upon our spirits’ shaking feet,
To bleed its silver seas,
To vomit out the only sword
That mortal hands may seize.”
The title of this poem translates to "the voice of the people praises death." It was inspired by a comment on a news website that referred to restrictions on medically assisted dying as "slavery." The poem expands upon this sentiment to demonstrate the nightmarish, objectifying view of the human body that arises when absolute autonomy, extending even to the freedom to harm ourselves or others, is held up as a societal value.