November for Beginners
by Rita DoveSnow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.
So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!
Eileen Myles realllly hated “Blue is the Warmest Color.”
I love you, Eileen Myles. My heart just scissored itself.
Los Angeles, CA
7th & Mateo St
November 15, 2013
"So let’s take the affirmation that we can master things we weren’t born prodigies at (P.S. nobody is a born housework-doing champion) as an incentive to apply ourselves a little harder to the things that grown-ass people of both sexes should just plain know how to do. We need to let go of our “bad at math” mind-sets, wherever they apply, and cultivate our own competence. This is what is known as being a well-rounded person who can function in the world."
As I sashay through the valley of the shadow of death
Hey look, they found Regina Mills heels!
My partner calls this Nazi regalia.
Rosalind Robertson do you see this?!
HOW TO WRITE ABOUT RAPE
“The dead bury the living,” Ken said. He pulled his coat tightly around his shoulders and walked a few yards ahead of me. “The dead never return to the living; it is the living that return to the dead. People search out the ghosts they find.” He walked silently ahead of me for a while and then stopped. He leaned against a heavy box and looked at me with something like pity. “I think I’m going to be sick,” he said. (Spicer, 2008, p. 25)
I. There is an image in your head now of you as meat. Something that can processed or parsed. Something to put stitches in. When he left me on the floor of the bathroom stall I understood my body as an object and that’s why I have no patience for for anyone who wants to talk to me about my vices or how fast I can put back a whiskey. When I died, the first time, I woke up and after that I couldn’t die. Or I was dying. Tense confusion.
There were days where I didn’t know where the blood was coming from and during it I bit the inside of my cheek so hard that my mouth filled with blood and afterwards when I rinsed my mouth the water that went down the drain was pink and so from that moment on I became aligned with blood, with iron, with the taste of something living in your mouth, I ordered everything rare.
When you write about the rape you fight the grossest impulse in the human heart: to make meaning. To say that this or that thing is connected to this or that other thing. But there’s not enough skin left to do the suturing—everything has gone incomprehensibly raw and there’s not enough left to sew together into order. Someone says the word rupture and trying to talk to you about Foucault and you take all their words in and arrange them in a lattice inside your ribcage because you feel responsible for making them understand. They want to understand. They try not to ask you questions and so instead they build a system around you that will ask their questions for them. The police need answers, the DA needs answers, the rape counselor needs answers. We can’t do anything without information, someone will say to you. You don’t have to tell us anything you don’t want to, someone will say to you. I become strung up between systems of judgment. You recognize, in a place like this, that your first mistake was bleeding. It’s in the water now, you spit it down the drain, and now they smell it on you. All those seamed places that can be pressed open.
You learn to drink a lot.
You learn to love rain.
There is an image in my head now of me as meat. As something that can be pulled apart and put back together. Someone is trying to sew you back together into an order that they imagine is the order you want—a health that is written in some other book. In the twilight of anesthesia you’ll tell someone that one day you’ll write it all down—as soon as the words stop moving.
You don’t know what a sentence like that means but you know it’s truer than what someone else will write about you.
This is how you write a rape: be deeply suspect of anyone who is championing your cause until you yourself can name what it is you’re fighting for.
II. I watch a lot of cartoons because I’m not sure how to understand real people interacting—even when it’s scripted. Still something true will happen and you’ll fall asleep wondering whether or not the whole world has conspired against you from birth to make you this particular subject which is what Lacan says, which is what Foucault says, which is why you think of Jenny Holzer who said,
SOME DAYS YOU WAKE AND IMMEDIATELY START TO WORRY. NOTHING IN PARTICULAR IS WRONG, IT’S JUST THE SUSPICION THAT FORCES ARE ALIGNING QUIETLY AND THERE WILL BE TROUBLE.
Which seems true when you’re watching Sailor Moon late at night and a man texts you and asks what you’re doing. It’s hard not to feel hunted. Which, of course, means it’s hard not to feel predatory.
While you brush your teeth you imagine that you’re polishing them into fangs. You learn animal instincts, you lay down before it rains, you always keep a secret stash of food, you bite your hand hard one night just to get used to the feeling—just in case one day you need to gnaw it off.
This is how you write a rape: instinct; this is not an essay it is a howl.
III. Whenever someone says they understand what you’ve been through, whenever someone says that they can relate, whenever someone wants to hold your hand while you tell your story, whenever someone cries after you tell them, whenever someone talks about injustices that led to your rape, whenever someone cites a statistic about the prevalence of rape, whenever someone writes a piece that gives advice about how to fix the rape problem, whenever someone writes a piece that attacks that advice on how to fix the rape problem, whenever someone writes a poem about how you shouldn’t rape people, whenever someone compares something that isn’t rape to rape, whenever someone presses a beer to their mouth and says, I don’t want to pretend to understand and then tells you a story from their own mediocre childhood, whenever someone thanks you for trusting them with your story, whenever someone says that they suddenly have so much more respect for you, whenever someone touches your shoulder lightly while you’re speaking, whenever someone takes your opinions more seriously after they know, walk away.
This is how you write a rape: don’t trust anyone who “gets it.”
IV. Try to remember how you get to wherever you’re standing. When J overdosed in the bathroom and I watched him stop breathing (and later watched him start breathing) I remember there was a house centipede and I remember the way his body made these sounds that were not breath because breath doesn’t sound like that kind of struggle. I remember when his mom sent me to bring him back to face the drug charges he was running from and then called the police remotely as soon as soon as I reported back to her that I had him that I never had a chance to give him the note she’d written him, on a torn out page from a day planner that said,
We all love you. This is what’s best. Love, Mom
This is how you write a rape: remember the hard shapes love takes.
V. Autumn will come again, something will die again. It won’t be you.
This is how you write a rape: practice mourning.
VI. Someone (maybe you) will try to make your story a story that has redemption inside it. They will make it the winter before your long summer. They will call you a flower that bloomed in a hard place. Something happens and it is low and terrible and then you learn something or you rise to great heights or you bend the world around you. But there is no justification. There is no justification for the spring day when somebody transformed you into meat, into a thing, into something to be possessed, cheek pressed flat against the top of a toilet tank in a public restroom in the lobby of a hotel whose name you can’t remember.
Someone will try to make your drinking romantic, your cigarettes elegiac. They will make a pastoral scene of you. They will build into you a hope for a world where bad things happen but they don’t stay bad—they become root points of power.
This is how I write a rape: He raped me in a bathroom stall. There was nothing good that came from it.
"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on."
Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”