Thursday, January 26, 2006

bodies, memories, things lost & found

Yesterday, I was standing in the shower thinking (my god, I sound like that Jane's Addiction song) about bodies. More specifically, about the relationship we have with our own and with the bodies of others. Presumably, these thoughts were triggered by the figure in M.E.'s painting, or because I recently began exercising regularly, but I realized that most of us are grossly disconnected from our own physical selves. Of course, maybe I am thinking about this now, because I spent last night in front of G. Love with more crotch-in-the-face action than a prostitue on Broadway, but I digress. (And, no, that wasn't dirty. I'm relatively tall, he's relatively short, and on stage and the crotch to face alignment just happened. His pelvic thrusts were not my doing. That was about the MUSIC. geesh.)

Look at me, humorously avoiding my own topic. Speaking only for myself: I've spent much of my life trying to get away from the very body-ness of my own flesh, despite having to walk around in it every day. There are a multitude of reasons for this, including abuse, rape, accidental injury, and whatever head trip I was dealing with at a given time. I'm hardly alone in having these kinds of experiences to reflect on. A report was issued just last week by a university in Washington that estimated 8% of their female students experienced rape, or attempted rape during their college years. This number, while shocking, is actually quite low. According to national statistics, the number is actually 1 in 6 women, or 17% (1 in 33 for men). So, there is this gap between one's visceral, physical/sexual self and the emotional/intellectual self of the mind. And I wonder, once the fissure appears, can it ever fully be mended?

But, back to the shower. Anyone who has ever traveled to a Latin American country can tell you there is a physical freedom to be found there. These are cultures that don't regard the body from a distance. They dance, they mock death, they are unafraid to touch each other. Sure, there are a lot of other things that are different too, and perhaps that has something to do with it. But we are uptight here, in the states, and it shows in our rigid hips and sterile burial practices. Add to this any number of personal tragedies and it's no wonder we live in a country with so many screwed up people. So, again, speaking only from my perspective, it occurred to me that I've often spent time in my head, with my art or words or dreams, to avoid dealing with the physical me. I sing too, but always found that more difficult to perform publicly, because I was forced to be present in my body. There was no page to hide behind, nor website. And when you've actually got the ability to sing and you want to express anything of value, there's no point in doing it if you can't be present.

As a writer, I have been trying for some time now, to capture on the page, a moment in time. Writing is fairly linear (I know, I know, one can make choices to mix things up, but the process of using language at all is linear). One cannot present all perspectives of an experience at once. Written and spoken language is one step removed from the language of bodily experience. As writers, we try to break it down to essential components, try, with rhythm, tone, word choice, punctuation, to somehow replicate the feeling of being there, even if "there" is someplace we've invented. And I don't know how anyone else writes, but for me, it is quite helpful to have my own moments to refer to. So, here's something I wrote, to give you an example of what I'm talking about:


It doesn’t matter where it happens.
In a crowded park or alone in a hallway
By the waterfront, the fish-tossers
Drinking in cheers and money.
The rest of the world will fall away.

He reaches out and pulls me to him.
I do not resist.
He buries his face in my neck
His hand on my hip, his arm around my waist.
We are still like this for a moment
I can feel the rhythm of his heart behind his chest.
The moments unfold in that slow motion
Speeded up manner of dreams and car crashes.

Breathe. I have to remind myself to breathe.
I tilt my head back just enough to look at his face.
I trace his cheeks and delight in his expression.
I kiss his eyelids, his forehead, his chin.
I am made electric by this closeness.

His hands move—one to the small of my back
Where it pushes me into him—the other
Runs along my spine, pausing between my shoulders
Before stroking the tender places behind my ear.
He cradles my head in his hand and pulls me to him again.
I can smell his skin; feel his breath on my face.
He holds me like this, suspended, looking into me.

I feel as though I should be afraid, but I am not.
He leans closer; I feel his mouth on mine,
Sweet and slow and welcome.
Our parted mouths speak another language.
He kisses me and I pour myself into him,
Kissing him back as if my life depended on it.

I am eager for his tongue, the taste of him.
I bite his lip. He is in my blood.
Slowly the world returns to us.
A crow complains in the distance,
A child finds a nickel on the sidewalk.
I dream of a language without words.

Now, the above never happened. There was no man sweeping off my feet by the waterfront. It's completely fabricated. It's certainly not one of my best poems, but whatever. I have no objectivity concerning my own work, but I do think I came close to stopping time, which is what I was after. Would I have been able to write this way if I had never met someone who made my pulse race, never fallen in love? If I had not, at least on occasion, been able to be present in my body? I'm not so sure.

Moving forward... with all the things I had swirling around in my head yesterday, I could not have imagined finding more to think about in such depth today, but apparently I was meant to write a second volume to accompany the original novel-sized post from the beginning of the month. I am afraid that this won't be the last of my blog-tomes. I am a wordy girl, and when I find I am stuck in my head, I process verbally. It's how I get back out. I wish my energies could be directed toward writing novels or poems that spoke universally, moving men througout history, but I don't know that I can. I only hope that I occasionally say something of value or interest to someone else and that all my efforts aren't soley for my own purposes. It's a struggle, but I'm trying to live as openly and honestly as I can, and right now that has taken on a kind of confessional quality. Sorry about that. It's a tool I am exploring to help me to become unafraid to bare all that I have inside of me. I apologize for any insipid, sappy, self-absorbed, or inconsistent moments that will occur along the way. I do have a story to tell, but it's hard. I'm working on it. In any case, I've since been in touch with the Dave I wrote about in the aforementioned post, hence the mind trip.

I've no idea where to even begin. It is lovely to know that someone I cared so much about still exists in the world and that we've found our way back into each other's lives. It's also strange. How is it that memories from sixteen years ago can still grip me as though they happened yesterday? And how do I integrate those feelings into my present? And what does that mean, anyway? So much has happened, so many people, experiences, and miles between us, and yet, I feel as close to him somehow as I did so long ago. I was reminded of a phrase he had once written to me, I thought, in the journals he gave me. But upon looking in the journals, I found I was mistaken. I had been so certain. Those three words had stuck with me for years (no, not THOSE three words, but rather: "with inexplicable love"). I knew I wasn't wrong to attribute these words to Dave, but then, where had he written it?

It took hours before I realized he'd written them on the card that accompanied the journals, which were a christmas present from December 23, 1988. I haven't torn up my apartment searching for the box that likely has the card in it, as I decided to trust my gut. But then I found myself wondering whether all memories are, perhaps, unreliable? Maybe. But when something is real, you know it in your bones (at least I do) and that sort of thing doesn't fade over time. When my gut tells me something, I listen. It has never been wrong. It's only when I don't listen, or I don't have a gut reaction that I find myself getting into trouble.

So, here it is, 2006. I am 32 and live with my boyfriend and two cats in the endless grey of Portland. Dave is 37 and married and building things in sunny southern California. Sixteen (or more!) years passed between us in silence, yet, we had not forgotten each other. And here we are, about to embark, I guess, on a new chapter in our friendship. That's so freakin cool I don't even have words for it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

the first exchange

Here the earth thrums
blood dark deafening
its own ears helpless
against the static noise

Hope lies prostrate
amid the sand and insects
beneath the body’s frail need
searching for a place to bury
doubt and resist even as hands
close on mudflat longing
salt and sweat and repose

Here in the cold
hollow of an empty day
a quiet unraveling
where my heart unfurls

As you know, I'm involved in an artist/writer exchange in which we each create work in direct response to the other's. I've decided to document the process. The above work is my response to this piece by artist M.E. I apologize for the slant of this photo, but I wanted to capture the texture of the paint. Both the visual and written work is intended to remain in an unfinished state, changing with each exchange (either building off the prior piece, or inspiring a new piece) until the project concludes. Again, we know nothing about each other, save for the work. I'll include updates as the project progresses, including information about the gallery showing, once that information finally materializes.