Real Bodies in Belém

Alyssia MacAlister


13th January 2016

strand of spider silk from eyelash to shoulder
contrasts with the gymnast’s pubic hair,
coral-colour muscle flays as feathers on a running man
who won’t fly with feet planted on the platform
slender, uniform, as if it were one person in all the positions
only brows and lashes form a distinction
blow dust from a bicep

            – sit down –

shadows (one tall, one small) pass in the far end of the room
polish the glass, do not pause
to look at digestive systems mounted in cases, neutral bluepurplebeige
contemporary art pieces
boobs are stuck on
and we laugh
or not

she must’ve been gorgeous once

the niche, the cavern at the base of her spine is for life
four week old sea monkeys
we watch them blossom in their tubes, skinless
press against the cylinders
soak in formaldehyde

            – rest on each other next to the toilets, Mogwai plays –

blood vessels of face and neck a red thicket
bronchi sponges a human reef
where there are clown fish
(there aren’t, they’re at the other end of Lisbon, we saw)
I expect them to emerge brushing orange scales on tricolour branches

artery pancake
placenta, pan fried
candy floss just pink plastic casts of respiratory systems
and then there’s some cancer

heart and lungs a factory made by a child
with many tunnelly rooms



transparent coronal sections of the brain
of a guy with a beard
his whole head in resin

the cleaner catches up
swabs the feet of a body builder
with her fluffy duster
her son trails behind
stops, stares, unblinking
Guillermo Del Toro child of four
ignores the plastinated people
eye contact traces me as I move
easily, he’s the creepiest thing in here

            – pause in the gift shop –

and we wrote to say thank you
in the visitors’ book
we even drew a pole dancer
with her skin on

Illustration by Alyssia MacAlister

Illustration by Alyssia MacAlister

Previously published in the UKCCWS Illustrated Anthology Vol. 3 (2016) with the accompanying illustration.

Alyssia MacAlister is a Masters student in Creative Writing at the University of Durham. Alyssia writes poetry, prose and non-fiction and is nurturing a found-text poetry project with the working title Proper Gander. When she’s not cutting up newspapers, Alyssia spends most of her time reading trauma theory research and saving insects from life-threating situations. Contact at