Erythrocytes: Flowing through the Body
A Metaphor for Hypertext

The Body - Within

Francesca Wodtke

Today I fuse with the Shelley Jackson. I am a red blood cell. Not a white blood cell, not a platelet. Purely red in my iron content. Doing a job. Working: Traveling. Voyaging within my body, down the paths that I find. Within the smooth tube of vessels, I travel, carried along by the force of the Pump and driven through the tightest patches by my muscles contracting, forcing me further. Sometimes I have a choice about where I want to go. Sometimes, I choose the first exit out. Sometimes, I carry through to the end of the vessel where I may find an organ, or where I may just reach the base of a limb. And then I have to go back.

As a red blood cell, I am happy in my network of tubules: veins, arteries, venules, capillaries. All tied up like an overcomplicated spider's web, the fibrous tendrils forcing their way through flesh to access every cell. I am in the network; and this body is hypertext. That is to say . . .

Shelley Jackson's body is my body. I have become a part of it. I have no choice. Once I have entered her network, by means of an orifice, I am contained and I am captured. There is no way out. There is no route through the maze. All I can do is carry along the paths that are laid out before me. I come back to the heart, to be pumped through once again. There is no right way. The appearance of choice is no more substantial than a mirage in the desert. I can travel to the knees now, or I can travel later, but ultimately I will have to reach the knees. And if I don't like the knees, because I find them offensive, I can leave that region of the body. But the risk is still there. I may fall to my knees at any time. Shelley Jackson's links are hidden, codes, indecipherable, enigmatic secrets. Her body parts are not sign posted.

Then again, there is no signpost at the beginning of the Caroti d, to tell me where I shall end up. I take a chance. It's a risk, but I'm at the mercy of the web of tubes within the body. And being only an erythrocyte in that great universe that is the body, it, quite frankly, doesn't matter very much.

Divisions and Nomenclature;
The Patchwork Quilt of Body

The Body -- Without

My experience in life has taught me, among other things, that people are very keen on nomenclature. We name the flower a fuchsia or a nasturtium or a hibiscus or a geranium or iris. Then, we name the petals, we name the stigma, the stamen, the nectaries, we name guide lines, we name anthers, pollen, the receptacles, the filaments and the ovaries. We name the carpels and the sepals, we name the bud and the fruit. And we name everything with two names (just for starters). And then, we drop a level to the cellular. Plant histologists come to the fore. Cellulose cell wall surrounding syrups and saps and a multitude of saccharides. Energy production units and transportation devises to distribute water and food. Xylem and phloem up and down.

It's the same with the body. Somehow, we forget that the body functions as a single unit in its entirety. There are organs and bones, skin and hair. But we insist on wrenching apart body pieces, labelling them with names as if they are single entities and have nothing to do with one another. Pieces of body that function individually as if they have nothing to do with the other parts. Shelley Jackson has divided and sectioned up the body like a cadaver on the table and yet... and yet, she manages to weave together every part so that it becomes a unit of the greater whole. Shoulder links to Knee, Breast links to Toe links to Heart and Eye and Upper Lip. Isn't that the way the way the body is? Shelley Jackson manages to bypass the man-made distinctions by linking together every part of her body to constitute a continuous and greater whole.

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