When you read nonfiction, it’s easy to find yourself reading long paragraphs about stories of one’s grandparent, parent, or sibling. At times, you may find yourself reading about more than one personal experience at a time, but very rarely do you read a creative nonfiction piece that switches between two people from the perspective of someone else. In Sharon LaCour’s creative nonfiction piece “The Body’s Betrayal” uses alternative perspectives and poetic voice to describe the life of a beloved mother and daughter, making this piece a great example of finding this balance and making sure both sides come across just as strongly.
The piece begins with the statement “In the end my mother’s skin is what took her life.” While reading this, we are aware that this section will begin with the mother, and will be dedicated to the mother. This applies to every part of the piece, we are given a small introduction which indicates to us who the section is for. For part two, “2/I said yes before I knew your name”, this is the first introduction for the daughter. “Your tiny body held to my chest, my eyes and yours, an absorption of love, a connection of flesh.” After every part, there is something there that signifies the period of time that the writer talks about. The first section of the daughter begins with her birth, then in part five, “5/ I knew you before”, it begins with “Now, child, your she-body is soft and round, sensuous and womanly. A grown up body, more separate from me in its adult form.” At this point, the writer describes the daughter as grown up, but in between part two and five, she acknowledges the growth from baby to kid, to teen life. In part six, “6/Floating away”, this is the final stage of the mother, which is emphasized with the line “Is this how you felt at the end?” This piece ultimately gives emotional value to every part of the writing.
This piece not only does a wonderful job of separating the two very different experiences, but also creates something beautiful about it. If you look at the first statement paragraph that introduces the piece, you will find the sentence “her skin which had over decades thinned to the point of transparency where the blue veins mapped a complex pattern of tributaries as intricate in design as the spider’s web, as tenacious and as fragile.” This sentence uses intense imagery to describe the state that the mother is in. “Thinned to the point of transparency,” simply describing the fragile state her skin is in, and following with the statement about the veins not only allow us to imagine this, but also to read it with a good flow that catches the reader’s attention. Whether you are a poet, a fiction writer, or simply an artist, this line is written in a way that is meant to catch the attention of every type of reader. In the third section, “3/ Eyes to Eyes”, the second paragraph holds a lot of emotional value that captivate the pain the writer feels as they watch their mother slowly pass. “Then I watched your body dissipate, the tortured skin turning black, the pain deep inside the bone. Slipping you into pajamas, the hollow around your collarbones, the wires of your arms, the transparent skin, the breasts like small, weathered bird’s nests hung on a fence. Did you feel betrayed by your body? Or is it the other way around, that you gave up on it finally, stopped fighting to keep it going?” More imagery is presented here– the hollow collarbone, the wire like arms, the skin, the breasts. It then transitions into the questions, the confusion and the feeling of pain that the writer feels, possibly hinting at a sense of sorry for the mother. This feeling is leaked slightly in the fourth section, “4/ My body is not my own”. This starts with “daughter, did your name feel wrong even then?” Executing the feeling of guilt the mother feels for not only her own mother, but her own daughter.
Overall, this piece challenges multiple literary techniques, but is able to create poetry in a creative nonfiction genre. It captivates the feelings of guilt, betrayal, confusion, and sadness all at once, and with the imagery, gives the reader an unforgettable scene that sticks with them.
Kimberly Valle, contributing Creative Nonfiction editor
Read this piece in Issue 7 of Levitate Magazine!