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Katherine Sullivan’s Formal Post on Laurie Clements Lambeth’s “Hypoesthesia”

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“Are you touching me,

I thought to ask, but instead watched as he kissed each part and caressed

and did what we do when I feel right. I didn’t say          I can’t feel that,

but let his hands and mouth travel.

For the first time in my life I let go of my body a while and looked down

with fascination at the man I love in the process of loving me —” (lines 11-16)

Laurie Clements Lambeth’s poem titled “Hypoesthesia” presents three unique perspectives on disability that are captured in a single, vulnerable moment between a disabled woman and her lover.  In this scene, the female speaker cultivates a new definition of disability (that our class has not yet examined), offers an unguarded view of sexuality in a life driven by disability, and experiences the clarity of viewing the self through the eyes of one’s lover.

The excerpt above highlights the exact moment in which the speaker realizes that her body is not defined by her disability.  She is finally able to “let go” of her body and notice that her lover appreciates her exactly as she is.  This acceptance of self is significant in that the speaker learns to experience the pleasure of sex in an entirely new way.  She no longer feels inadequate for not being able to feel the delicate sensations that her lover draws on her skin, and in turn finds pleasure in her lover’s enjoyment.

This poem also describes a shift in the speaker’s attitudes towards sex in the lens of her disability. Up to this moment, the speaker’s entire life, and all of her sexual experiences have been “senseless,” meaning both without logic or thought, and without the feeling of sensations.  This epiphany allows the speaker to finally actively participate in sex, instead of allowing it to happen to her against her will.  Previously, the speaker was not able to actually feel what her lover did to express his feelings through her body, but she instead grows to experience it by watching and listening to her lover.

Lastly, this unique poem cultivates a new definition that our class has not yet come across. Not a non-normative functioning of the mind, or a broken or painful aspect of the body – but the absence of feeling, be that potential feeling bad (like some of the other disabilities we have studied) or good (like the sensations of the speaker’s lover).   In this way, her skin is essentially blind to texture and pressure, but not to temperature, as we see in the line “with each kiss planted along my belly, to feel only the cool afterward.”  This kind of disability connects to many other neutrality-based disabilities that our class has not yet studied, such as emotional disorders that render individuals incapable of processing other’s emotions.

The speaker’s disconnect from the traditional physical senses of her body lead her to a significant epiphany of how she views her own body, sexuality within that body, and disability.  This poem contributes significantly to our class’ on-going discussion of disability because it introduces the complications of sexuality and self-identity.

Written by Katherine Sullivan

November 4th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

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