The Navel

Alice Friman Click to


Alice Friman has new poetry forthcoming in Ploughshares, Georgia Review, and Negative Capability. Her sixth collection is The View from Saturn, LSU. A new collection, Blood Weather, is due from LSU in 2019. She’s the winner of many awards, the latest, the 2016 Paumanok Poetry Award. She lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she was poet-in-residence at Georgia College.

The brain’s most amazing function
is that it enables us to think about how we think.

I say, mucking in the frontal
cortex, stirring the neural soup,
makes for migraines. Since
when was the navel we so loved
to gaze at moved to the head?
Adam and Eve had no navels
which didn’t seem to bother them,
yet in all their famous paintings—
Michelangelo, Titian, Durer,
Masaccio, Cranach the Elder—
we find correct bellybutton
placement. That’s not from too
much thinking, but not enough.
As for me, like Descartes I think
therefore I am, but let me say,
I never had a profitable thought
when I thought about thinking.
The trouble must be my navel.
Oh, that I were as buttonless
as Adam and Eve—two dumb
experiments with nary a thought
between them until guess who
put one there: An apple a day
keeps the doctor away. That’s
what he must have said, coiling
a caduceus around that tree. He
knew apples have no such effect
even with cheese. He knew
once they left nevernever land,
what with the back-breaking
labor, scrubbing the cave, kids,
no dishwasher, and making ends meet,
they’d keep needing appointments,
coming back for x-rays, MRIs,
spinal adjustments. Now there’s
someone who understood exactly
how he thought. Winding the winesap
in his designer suit of bright skin,
so tight and well-fitting, he reasoned—
he too would like to sport a button
if he could ever figure out where to put it.


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