Natural History by Maia Dolphin-Krute


Natural history is things in a box behind glass or things in a sentence behind a conversation.

Natural history is how it usually or suddenly feels: “People experience spontaneous variations in pain intensity in most painful conditions, which is known as ‘natural history.’ “ ‘Known as’ is an admission of metaphor. Natural history is using the vocabulary of nature of how things are or are supposed to be to talk about history or how things happened and whether or not they can be understood as having been supposed to happen.

In the diorama of natural history in or sometimes of my body, I use a squashed turkey baster for the pancreas. It is a one to one representation and relatively as effective. An inflated balloon and mostly filled with water is the stomach which is maybe smaller than you think it would be and rests on the turkey baster. I twist and twist balloons that could be animals into the tract of the intestines. (‘Tract’ wants to be a metaphor, like miles of polemical viscera, but really, it is still just a tube). I chew small pieces of gum and stick them onto and somehow inside the balloons because it carries saliva and is the only way to pack as much surface area into the intestines as possible while maintaining elasticity. I cannot find anything small enough to be the villi. A funnel for the rest of it. Things attach with rubber bands, thick ones, or more gum. The glass is this poem. My gallbladder I spend the most time making, a green clay model, to scale, that I made years ago when maybe I was going to have my gallbladder removed and wanted to know what it might look like.

For the pills, I pack tiny pellets of gerbil food into the containers that come in toy dispensers in grocery stores, which is what they really look like. I push them into the chewing gum. The artificial sweeteners and saliva work on the plastic and then the pellets. The other pills are things to make the diorama hotter or colder, mostly colder so that nothing melts. The pain I show by how hard a turkey baster is.

I include wall text: “People experience spontaneous variations, which is natural history.”


Maia Dolphin-Krute is a writer and artist based in Boston, MA. Her first full-length book, Ghostbodies: Towards a New Theory of Invalidism (Intellect, 2017), an examination of chronic illness narratives within critical theory, will be out in Spring 2017. She is also the author of a forthcoming chapbook, Aron Ralston: States of Injury (glo worm press, 2016). Her work has recently or will soon be featured in Full-Stop, American Chordata, The Deaf Poets Society and elsewhere. Currently, Dolphin-Krute serves as Editor at the Boston-focused arts publication Big Red & Shiny.