From the Archive: “Blessings on the Stomach, the Body’s Inner Furnace,” by Robert Bly

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“Blessings on the Stomach, the Body’s Inner Furnace,” by Robert Bly, appeared in the Fall 1993 issue of MQR.


I think the stomach must have gone to the dark goblins given grace far out in the groping tundras, and learned from them how to magically father the children of heat. How delicately the body carries in the loaves of carrots, onion and brown rice, and throws these heat-seeds into the furnace, near where the furnace-keeper lies sleeping, all awash in awakening murders.

And the liver, the ileum, the duodenum, the jejunum, the caecum, the fore-gut and the hind-gut gather, secrete, comfort and hatch the new food, and the thyroid and pancreas call up the heat preserved for eras under the ice, bits of sunlight that got caught in a stone, tiny sexual flames in the sparrow’s foot, the fire from the dry shavings in our tongue…. So that our brains go about warmed and fiery, and after that can explode into the cello concertos, and imagine the giant blinking at the top of the beanstalk … the barbarous fingers scratching its head….

Then we know ourselves companions to the bark-eating porcupines out for their morning walk, friends even to the mineral stars, whose inner furnaces heated them so well they produce their coppery light. So someone in us says, Blessing then on our inner stove, on which the furnace-keeper sleeps even in the day; and blessing on all these calefactors, cookstoves, kilns, boilers, caldrons, urns, tinderboxes, Franklins, retorts, stewpans and corncob-ranges; because of them we can exchange sparks of light through the souls in our eyes when we meet our lover on the dance floor at someone else’s wedding.


Image: Chase, Louisa. “Fire and Rain.” 1982. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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