by Anne Boyer
The army was made of War Boys, lumpy with tumors, bald and pale as anyone in chemotherapy, many of them dependent on the terrifying medicine of another (captive) person's blood. They looked like an army of the ill, aspiring to the state of machine, and given this, they had a hilarious lack of respect for being alive. One of them, gilding his mouth with spray paint (as was the custom of the War Boys when they were about to hurl themselves into something fiery or wrecking) said that he would "rather die historic on fury road." Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie with the War Boys, took place in what looked like the kingdom of the mutated, the cancerous: that is industrial capitalism's future kingdom.
I was coming up with categories of death, including one about the artist using, as material, their own. A type of death that wasn't heroic, exactly, but perhaps was still historic--death as art as a death that means. But meaning may not be all that. Lots of things mean. And arguments against turning one's sickness and/or dying into art include some convincing ones, like the effect it will have on those who will grieve especially the death of the dying or those who provide intimate care for the sick person who is always thinking she needs to make art out of it.
Serious, disabling illness often transfers responsibility for a body from the person who inhabits that body to the people around that person. It seems to transfer the weight of subjectivity, too, or maybe more precisely, "will." The sick person has enforced upon them a diminishment of their will.
Read the full essay on the Poetry Foundation website.