The Phenomenology of Embodiment—a poem by Marie Cartier

Picture of author, Marie Cartier (left) and her partner, Kimberly.

Photo of the author and her wife by: Margaret Smith

In these United States and across the world we are in quarantine. Lockdown.

Shelter in place. We’re alone together.

And I miss it all: restaurants, coffee shops, movies, hanging out with friends in real time,

But mostly I miss hugs—and I live with my wife and we hug a lot

…but I miss hugs from friends and even sometimes strangers.

I’m a hugger.

I miss handshakes and whispers and rubbing shoulders and close smiles.

Are we embodied beings? Does the body need other bodies?

What is a “crowd of something called” is always my favorite thing to look up:

a pandemonium of parrots, a swarm of eels, a fever of sting rays,

a cauldron of bats, a gaggle of women,

a herd of sea horses, a clutch of vampires, a clowder of cats,

an army of frogs, a crash of rhinos, a business of ferrets,

a passel of possums….

It’s all mythical now, for humans anyway, groups and crowds.

We might as well be mermaids.

And if mermaids were fish, a group of us would be called a school.

If we were human mermaids, we would be a tribe.

And if we were sea mammals, like dolphins, we would be a pod.

I’m missing my pod,

my school, my tribe.

Like whales or manatees, or dolphins—we need a pod.

We are social creatures. We zoom our pod on social media.

And I worry for the elderly in my pod that they do not use this technology that keeps us whizzing

into each other’s homes.

Zooming in– in Brady Bunch boxes.

Here we are! Open your mic!

Toasting the edges of my Brady Bunch box with my glass of wine—Cheers!

Did God mean for us to need each other in bodies? As bodies.

In the same space?

What does it mean that we are here spinning on the planet in embodied forms?

Our experience and our consciousness of being in bodies—

the phenomenology of what it means to be in a body with other bodies.

We are bodies first I think; we are bodies.

Human bodies. A crowd of them, a group… a family, a band, a community,

a nation, a city, a town…a party.

So– I miss hugs, and handshakes and close spaces and smiles and whispers.

I miss sitting tight next to strangers at a sold-out play, a concert, a movie….

I miss crowded events, parades…a club where I am jostling my drink

across the floor to meet my friends.

I miss waiting for a table and making small talk with the other patrons

and chatting up the maître de.

I miss laughing with clerks at the convenience store and talking

to everyone. In person.

And I miss hugging. I’m a hugger.

And I miss, oh I miss

my pod.


–Marie Cartier
April 2020

Photos by the author: from the “sheltering at home” collection

Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

Categories: Embodiment, Women's Voices

Tags: , , ,

11 replies

  1. Thanks for this awesome poem! It made my morning!
    Don’t forget my favorite–a murder of crows.


    • A few weeks ago, I read a post online in which a guy said he’d photographed a murder. How exciting– right?? I clicked. It was a bunch of crows standing on a sidewalk. A murder of crows. I guess the guy thought he was being clever. Or witty. Or smart. Hah!


      • Barbara, a “murder of crows” is a bunch who hang out together! Really!


        • Yes, I know that. I know all the collective nouns Marie used. “Murder of crows” is also used in a couple mystery novels I’ve read, though I don’t remember which ones. We have, in fact, a murder of crows on our street. The crows mostly live across the street from my building, and they travel up and down the street, often speaking very loudly to each other. It’s majorly cool to watch and hear them. Hooray for crows! They’re among the most intelligent of all birds.


  2. I miss those things, too. Will there be a day when we say to each other, “Remember when we went to hear that symphony orchestra?” Will there be a day when we remember how we went to the theater and had intermission conversations with the strangers sitting in the next seats? Will there be a day when we remember what it was like to walk down the sidewalk and meet a friend and shake hands or hug?

    Or are we already asking those questions and not being able to answer them? Verbals hugs to you, my friend. Bright blessings!


  3. Thank you for this beautiful poem and your lovely sheltering garden photos. I get it, though this hermetic novelist and playwright does not miss sitting close in a sold-out house. I’ve loved watching the videoed plays, the Jane Eyre from the Uk National Theatre and 12th Night. A local production of “The Children.” All viewed in the comfort of my cave. Still, I relish the up close experience of another mind as I read your poem. A breathless intimacy. But I gladly pass on the hugs you crave. A pod. Maybe I could be happy in a pod with an ocean for my roam and room. I feel a frisson. A tiny ecstasy occasioned by the notion of belonging to an ocean. How your poem has tripped me. Again, my hearty thanks and smiles.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I miss hugs too and I’ve never considered myself to be a “Hugger”. I did it cause it felt like what I was supposed to do. Now, I know what it really means to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough be in someone’s space and for them to connect with me in mine. I love you Marie and Kimberly and I can’t wait to HUG YOU BOTH💜🤟❤!


  5. Wonderful thoughts to take time to ponder. I remember our search for pod members when you came to visit San Diego. What fun to schmooze the hotel workers, the Gay kids on the streets of Hillcrest, the restaurant workers and the liquor store cashiers. You have made this a way of life that makes you shine. Good on ya❗️🍀🍀🍀


  6. wonderful post you share, thank you. As a single woman living with her lovely cat, I do miss hugs a lot. So I decided to start to hug trees.


  7. I think I miss hugging less than most because I have dogs who are always touching me – snuggling – licking – singing (bird) – being emotionally present –

    I am used to being alone ( except for Nature), so the lack of having people around isn’t that much of a problem.

    I also regularly hug trees, touch branches, feel the velvety petals of flowers, furry catkins – this is such a great time of year – so my senses are filled to the brim.

    I am fearful of irresponsible people during this pandemic….

    Liked by 1 person


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