Purge/Porsche, by Danielle Legros Georges

In the heat of August, just as the raspberries were ripening in the woods behind our house, before the long summer days of the north renounced their reign to school uniforms and conformity, my mother would assign us a week for the purge.

She pronounced the word with an accent in English. Which made it sound lovely, like a cologne, or chocolate. Like porsche, except with a cooing u and a rounded dj sound at the end.

And it is the end we are talking about. Our ends, my siblings and me. There were 5 of us, and the purging had to be well calibrated. The absinthe-like magnesium citrate procured. The drinking of it all down. Its glowing greenness like an evil jewel radiating in the pits of our stomachs. An hour later, and the volcanic rumble.

The becoming of the Porsche engine, sputtering and growling, air through its pistons until it was all done. We would emerge wane from the throne, from the seat of reckoning. Each having a quiet afternoon after that. The subdued afternoon of a child who had seen the face of god.

All across the Caribbean this hallowed tradition would be enacted. In countrysides and cities, such purges and bush baths took place. Rituals in the fear and face of intestinal worms. Rituals to clear us of the dangers within us.

I am reminded of this after my first colonoscopy. Having turned a mature age I am advised by my doctor to have this procedure. “It is wise,” she says. This given my family history. My father’s death of colon cancer at 39. I was 14 and remember his face in his coffin so unlike his real face.

The word procedure, as Dr. Patel utters it, Prosi Dior, is not like my mother’s purge, so full of danger and mystery. Its polysyllables, its hard “D” darkens things, makes things waxy and hard.

A camera through the rectum. Rectum is the word the Nurse 1 uses as she explains what will happen to me. Likely accustomed to saying the word, and seeing her patients cringe, she carries on as if nothing were. Nurse 2 sticks an IV needle into my right arm for sedation. There is no space for bursting into tears. One must suck it up. And I suck it up, haha, rectum I think. And then I wake up.

It is done. Like that. Rectum I think and it is done. The sideways pink face of Nurse 1 appears to tell me that no polyps were found in my colon, and that I will not need to return for another 5 years.

After the test, you must be driven home and escorted into your home. You must not drive a car or operate any machinery until tomorrow notes the Instructions Following Endoscopic Procedures sheet I received a week prior. I’ve asked a close friend to collect me and drive me home. She does, pats my hand, and drops me at my door. She must run to catch her exercise class. She drives off. The purr of her car’s engine is all I hear walking up the stairs.


Danielle Legros Georges is a poet, writer, and professor at Lesley University. In 2014, she was appointed Poet Laureate of the City of Boston, a position from which she acts as an advocate for poetry, language, and the arts, and creates a unique artistic legacy through public readings and civic events. She also teaches in the Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences Writers’ Workshop, University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the author of the collection, Maroon, and articles, essays, and reviews in the areas of Caribbean literature and studies, American poetry, and literary translation. Her poems have been widely anthologized. Her latest collection is The Dear Remote Nearness of You (Barrow Street Press). Of the poems, Edwidge Danticat writes, “These lyrical, poignant, and powerful poems show Danielle Legros Georges’ deep intellect and profound empathy, as well as her endless gifts as a poet, storyteller, and brilliant oracle of the human spirit.”
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