My granny always told mem that it was bad form to discuss bodily functions in public. She pointed out that saying one was "full" after a meal called up unpleasant images of digestion, implying that one's intestines were packed. She never went totally victorian by calling a table leg, a "limb" but she always preferred re-naming a chicken "thigh" as a "second joint" to avoid the more lubricious implication.
This childhood training seems strange and out of place as I write from the Decatur prison for women in Decatur, Illinois. Here, pooping is not only important, but also vital and, thus, fair game for any discussion.
One fellow inmate told me that she didn't poop for the first two weeks of her incarceration. "I thought I was going to die," she states, her eyes wide with remembered terror. Another friend routinely interrupts a conversation to run away a couple of feet, the victim of painful flatulence, another result of the inability to poop.
I have not escaped this agony either-no matter how much cake, carbs, or any other food I trade for the meger prison veggies: canned carrots, canned green beans, and, occationally, the miraculous previously frozon broccoli.
My pleas to the doctor were met with a dismissive hand wave and a shot of Mild of Magnesia. He actually had the gall to say that, if I avoided certain foods, my body would adjust to the prison diet.
I begged for Metamucil. But I was denied. The doctor explained that, if they allowed me to have psyllium husks, everyone would want them. Then, what would they do?
With this stunning logic, I must admit I was both speechless and stymied.
Not to fear, however. On the rare days, when I am allowed outside, I have discovered an old friend: the generous and boutiful dandelion. Anyone with any experience with herbs or poverty knows the power of this plant.
The leaves are fresh, raw, and most preciously, dark green. Used in tea or mixed with other foods, the dandelion leaf can cure, soothe, and detox the body's digestive system.
ANother helpful and plentiful aid is the purple or white clover flower. We can buy chamomile tea from the commissary and, mixed with the clover flowers, the drink also helps solve digestive problems.
Some prisoners look at me with horror and disgust, they joke about me "grazing on the lawn." But I know that these are small green gifts are literally saving my ass. (And, of course I wash my food before I eat it. Besides, it's hardly more poisonous than the five leaves of iceberg lettuce on my dinner tray!)
When I was feeling funky as a child, my Grany's first question was always, "Suza, darling, have you had a B.M. today?" My answer in prison is, "Hell, yes, Granny, and, although you would never be in my position, your mother wit helps me along everyday."
Now if I could just get my hands on some chickweed.