lily poetry review press

The Body Dialogues by Miriam O’Neal


Major Tom Looks at Earth from Space

By Stephen Page

A friend of mine had a male neighbor that lived next door to him who had a son in junior high who during last year’s Halloween dressed as a girl. Another friend of mine told me that every time he came home from work, he found his 4-year-old son wearing his mother’s high heels. I told each of my friends the same thing that “This is a normal thing. Your son is just trying on a different persona.  Besides. Is it politically correct to try to change him or his behavior to fit your idea about who he should be?”

The narrator in Miriam O’Neal’s The Body Dialogues is having dialogues with herself, trying to find a mental voice that feels comfortable with her body. These conversations become poems.  Mx. O’Neal separates the book into three sections in her search for her narrator’s voice.

In section 1, the metaphorical and literal “Birth” represent that painful realization that the baby has when she realizes she is outside the comfort of the womb and inside the outer world. From that moment on, like the baby, it seems the narrator does not feel at ease with her body or her surroundings. Anxiety becomes the theme of the following poems until finally, near the end of the first section, in “Breathe,” the narrator decides she has to accept who she is, and that the only way to do this is to relax.

In the 2nd section of the book, the narrator travels to foreign lands in order to adventure outside the microcosm of her current existence, hoping that this will free herself emotionally.  She wants to be less judgmental of herself and accept her body for what it is, a part of herself.

In the 3rd and final section of the book, the narrator is at home again remembering her travels and how she found a different perspective of her body by looking at it from foreign locations. One poem depicts the International Space Station flying overhead and the narrator imagines projecting her being inside one of the astronauts, looking out a window at earth, all the while singing the song “Major Tom.” She begins reading voraciously, ferociously searching for other poets who have searched for and found comfort with their bodies as they are. In this manner, literature becomes one of her guides on her journey.

As a final note, there are not only references to the narrator’s mind observing her body, she is continually comparing herself to people around and trying to decide if she is beautiful or not beautiful.  Additionally, there are dialogues that infer gender identification and sexual preference. All of these poems become epiphanies. The narrator is understanding that for many people, mind-body oneness, beauty, and gender behavior are societally taught, not internally programmed. The ways in which we come to terms with ourselves and balance our emotions evolves through living life. Moreover, the ways in which see ourselves physically in comparison to others in the world around us are our subjectively our own interpretations.

You can find the book here:

Stephen Page is part Apache and part Shawnee. He was born in Detroit. He is the author of four books of poetry, several stories, essays, and literary criticisms. He holds degrees from Columbia University and Bennington College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, a First Place Prize in Poetry from Bravura Magazine, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant.