My ten was published here. Please enjoy.
My ten was published here. Please enjoy.
to show her–the griever–
the terrifying, sublimity in bottomless agony.
You can’t help her picture that pure, petrified stance on the bridge
mid-way between his suffering and her own, textured so distinctly,
galaxies apart in their partnered struggle,
his fraught with the tortured, focused fight against pain, and hers,
witness, empath, limb, mother, wife, married to his suffering.
Her body pours static breath into his mad-gnashing vortex.
Where does one end and the other begin?
At the point of internal harrowing, razing cells that scream
in hysterical, frenzied death and reproduction,
death and reproduction,
with no end in sight, for these crazed, cracked-out enucleate disks don’t quit,
bear no mind but to destroy in their very giving–as if human.
I’ll show you the petals of the wide-blooming, morning rose,
heady as your bejeweled wedding day,
the dewy, pale, opalescent-translucence of redolent, velvety dalliance,
stained rust-dry at the edges–
a picture of blossoming, ordered DNA
perfectly-formed, fragile as your first-born’s, infant fingernail–
carrying its own prescient death at the borders.
not as a symbol, not as obedient structure,
but as herself, fragrant joy bleeding.
I’ll cup her in my gardening hands to grow a path between us–
sorely aggrieved and floundering shadow,
clumsily consoling your fear and mine,
both corraling an other’s-brother’s-father’s-husband’s-son’s fluxing end.
Could you crawl outside a minute to see?
The not-so-new addition (even the picture above is over a month old), a Husky pup, who, at 4 3/4 months weighs about 35 pounds of massive paws and thick, stocky chest and haunches, loves to “play” with our penultimate addition, a mostly white Japanese bobtail stray, smallish for a full grown cat typical of the breed.
The latter is wily and clever, eccentrically faithful to her chosen human, my daughter. She abides people amicably. The former is a doofus, aggro, boundary-testing youngster, whose only purpose in life is to play, eat, shit and destroy. She’s pretty, stunning ice-blue eyes with a thick, grey and tan wolf coat, and sweet. She’s also unrelenting.
Willow the cat is curious and heat seeking. She’s also playful. She often comes looking for Goose. She quietly stalks the puppy, who, upon spying her, full-speed gallops in a furious rush. She sniffs (tries to), bites and captures the cat with crushing will and heft. Frustrated by the rebuff–getting her nose clawed–she whimpers, turns her body around, and boom-lowers her massive girth to snuff out the feline, a horrifying domination, as if the small cat 1/8th the other’s size will be bone-crushed smothered in furry cement.
But despite the cat’s frantic struggle on her back, paws and claws air-poised to strategically strike vulnerable nose and eyes (everywhere else is futile with that thick, cushioned hide), her deep, low growl in constant grinding gear, she seems to know what she’s doing. Because despite clearly taking a beating from massive paws and jaw with beastly big teeth, she knows that at some critical pause, some crack in the feeble-minded puppy’s concentration, she can scuttle up a bar stool or leap up a high armoir to safety, wide-eyed glaring down at the dopey, tongue-flapping brute.
I confess that I watch in both amusement and terror, anxious and hopeful for the underdog kitty’s safety. I’m unwilling to intercede on her behalf, though, resolved that she asks for it.
The other image teasing me this morning is the picture on my website–a sort of branding logo–for onenakedpoet.com. The picture reveals a naked woman’s back, hands clasped behind her, one arm bent over her shoulder stretched down her back to link the other reaching from below to center of her back. The yoga pose twists rotocuff and bicep, which casts in relief dorsal and bicep muscles and sinew. Her ass is partially exposed, just the twinges of crack and buttocks.
The photo is also slightly blurred, out of focus. The back is mine. A few years ago, a photographer shot my unclothed yoga practice. I used the picture on a whim to name my author’s website–one naked poet. I deemed crafty the double sense of revealing heart and skin, a doubly exposed confessional poetry.
Clever as it may have seemed at the time, I now wince at that photo, which collapses the private and public in a way that could be perceived as both celebratory–an aging body contributed to the ongoing conversation of body “beauty” conceptions–and discomfiting.
Not discomfiting as to nudity or aging. No, the ruffle arises over the hidden face and naked back. The unwitting exposure is the attempt–all writers, all women–to confess, reveal and expose a mind’s “truth” without holding back, but being unable to do so.
A hidden face is in all writing: the persona or mask.
Because you can spew words all over a mile long blog about love, ownership, family life, daily doings, heart break, possession, politics, hygiene and belief, everything that makes up a breathing machine called human, one particular human, and never show your face. You can write obscure, viny verses that suggest, tease and seduce but ultimately obfuscate and confound, leaving a reader clearing the rainforest, skin-misted without absorption, without sensing the screeching, raucous hues and pitches of a mad-scramble, raging artist’s pallet. That’s the writer’s plight.
So much color, so little connection. Blank screen.
But this is also the plight of many. The same kind of angst in complicitly witnessing interspecies battles, I experience eyeing that branding: nakedly hiding a truth–about women, fear, prejudice, the lengths we the civilized go to oppress the marginalized, the subterfuge victims cultivate to survive, configured bodies continuously on public display–utterly exposed without identity, without face. Hiding in plain site always is her lurking predator–in dark alleys of the city and congress.
Women’s problems are just women’s, some believe. I could turn around, show my wrinkled face, my sagging breasts, my pregnancy-ravaged poof belly and crepey legs, a less “attractive” view, but in whose eyes?
I am concerned about my or anyone’s acceptance or even tolerance for violent, insidious misogyny. I agonize over finding voice. In gendered inherited words, striving to write real from inside a body, I worry that we’re all cowards, immobile before the fray.
And I wondered if that old Italian philosopher Pico was right about humankind’s dignity and creative nature, the will of the gods, that if a man chooses to wallow with the pigs or dance with the divine, so he might do either according to how his nature blossoms from his choices. I wondered about pregnant possibilities and free will, humans as chameleons, shapers of their own destiny and fulfillers of their potential as they absorb what is around them, choosing to be like bats and hang upside down in a cave or cravenly ritualize baby killing or kiss the feet of the holy one. How free is the will of a beaten child, however, or a man gone mad from the war?
Two plus two always equals four, right? Well, except when things don’t add up. Take, for instance, an article I read the other day. I am aware that Mr. Mafioso, on a website entitled askmen.com, writes “Get Yourself a Sexy Mistress” half in jest. I get that the article is meant for entertainment–and it is entertaining–for savvy readers who recognize farce or irony. The caricature of a mafioso with his Italian/Sicilian Brooklynese appears in words like “dames” and “goomas” and his over the top machismo is both amusing and revealing that this author does not wholeheartedly advocate what he advises–to get a mistress with all boobs and no brains who poses no threats. Or does he? Of course, the writer knows that he is endorsing an “illicit” and “immoral” relationship without compunction and one with the criteria that the woman or women, as he recommends a circle of mistresses, be the receptacle of every man’s desires: to be used and disrespected willingly, i.e., cum on face, thrown money at for sex and secrecy, though not too expensive to thumb her nose at cheap motels and backs of Cadillacs. He depends on the everyman’s dream to have a beautiful woman with big boobs and no self respect to make the proposition.
Mr. Mafioso does not really mean it. The exaggerated caricature combined with his manifesto and disclaimer about his own lack of credibility–a convicted criminal–coupled with his good grammar and writing skills clearly show that he is not who he claims to be. He is not seriously a mafioso, a criminal nor an insecure man that needs to demean women to make himself feel better about himself, to make himself feel like a man. No, he is a writer utilizing a persona clearly satiric to pose behaviors that are recognizably socially unacceptable in the guise of a familiar reprehensible figure. He knows that all men are not that extremely macho type, but most men are in some part. There is partial truth that some men are excessively insecure about their manhood and need a certain type of woman, submissive with lower self esteem than he has, to make such a man feel whole, to give him an ego adjustment. To have that beautiful woman on his arm, one desired by other men, allows him to think he impresses as a big man, lover, and spender. How else could he get the girl? And if others perceive that, it makes it true. He works the outside appearance in hopes of installing some inside assurance of adequacy, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Mr. Mafioso works the stereotypes well. I read an article today on Mayor Betsy Hodge’s (Minneapolis) blog that stated this about stereotyping: it “blunts the humanity of the person making the judgment and creates unnecessary separation between two people in a world where more, rather than less, human connection is needed for us to move forward as a community.” She was referring to the unfounded accusation by some political figures that she was using gang signs in a photo that captured her and an African American get-out-the-vote street stomper pointing at each other, in an article satirically called “Pointergate.” She thought African Americans were being stereotyped in assuming the pointing was a gang sign.
I “point” this out not to get sensitive and politically correct minded about those who are stereotyped in Mr. Mafioso’s article–bimbos, machismos and mistresses–but to point to the truth about how we fall into stereotypes, not just make them. Stereotypes exist for reason of people practicing patterned behaviors over time, generations. If people are overexposed through media or in lived experience to African Americans making gang signs or being in gangs, they will use that patterned behavior to make conclusions about all African Americans. Not only that, they will look for confirmation that those behaviors exist even when they don’t just to make the stereotype true. It’s human nature.
Stereotypes are assigned by gender, ethnicity, race and age, mostly. While they are shortcuts that help in certain situations, to avoid dangerous people or for police investigative work, for example, they are so subtly a part of us that they are imperceptibly abusive. Stereotypes tap into the familiar, something most are drawn to like promise of the pillow and sleep. We want to be as comfortable as the somnambulant. It is difficult to take things not at face value but at examined value, actually having to pay attention, look closely, and withhold judgment until enough facts or evidence is present to make a determination after assessment of worth, trust, and/or truth. The sheer thought of the endeavor to be open and informed and equanimous is overwhelming. That’s why people are not so, generally. That’s why we rather stereotype. It’s the lazy person’s way of handling people and appeases our yearning for order and familiarity, for our egos. “See, I told you he was an asshole.” Stereotyping also makes for good jokes.
But let’s be good readers. Mr. Mafioso wants us to see that his persona is a jerk, that men should not merely use women as human toilets to cum into or for the sad scaffolding of their own nearly absent thin, weak egos. However, he is also showing us that his satire would not work if not based on certain truths about the human condition: there are men and women who treat each other the way he describes–using each other for sex, money and status–and we recognize and relate or recognize and hate that kind of behavior or both. Mr. Mafioso starts off with accepted notions of the mistress–having one is wrong/immoral–and builds on that idea that so long as you are going down the road of socially unacceptable behaviors, let’s go all the way. Here are some things that respectable citizens would not approve of: men who use women as their sperm banks and credit them with no self-respect and esteem and women who fuck for money and status and like those guys.
We laugh at ourselves. A friend texts me the other day with a screen shot of a man-filled sports bar with a dozen or so television screens transporting live or prerecorded football games, maybe a half dozen or more of them, where women with serving wench boob-filled bustiers serve the ever flowing beer. I text back, “When men fall lovingly into the arms of their mistresses–their own self-caricatures meta narratively.” He was mocking his own stereotypical picture of himself doing something he loves to do–watch a ton of football on a Sunday with a buddy in a boob bar. He is both amused at himself enjoying the actual entertainment and the entertainment of himself as stereotypically enjoying what men are stereotyped to like. I suppose I could counter with a snapshot of my teenaged daughters and I at the nail shop getting mani-pedis or our brows threaded. Except, we don’t do that. My daughters are smelly athletes with neglected nails, as am I. Perhaps we are stereotypes of the anti-stereotypical females.
Judith Butler tells us we should fight stereotypes with anti-stereotypes. I say, “Help! We cannot get out of the stereotype game!!” Because aren’t we merely instating new stereotypes that way? The anti-femme type becomes the stereotype of the butch type, even if only exercising a modicum of “boy-ish” behavior because just a hint will do for eager minds and attitudes. There is no way to escape that binary that stereotyping forces.
I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist. I claim my stake as a close observer of human behavior and a superior note taker. I say the key to breaking the mold is for people to think, to stop depending on stereotypes and do the work of patience, of having an open mind and being informed. Look at Mr. Mafioso. He is a stereotype in service of exposing stereotypical behavior. He expects the majority of his readers to sheepishly identify with or bristle at what he portrays and advises. That’s called irony.
Poor readers may not pick up on that. Un-exercised minds, ones not disciplined in the rigor of observant examination, of continual curiosity and vulnerability to wonder and awe, will lazily confirm their beliefs by the existing patterns without question–for their own security. It’s unkind as well as it deepens fear and separation as the good mayor states. Here’s a close cousin of the stereotype, a cliche: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Here’s another: think before you leap. No, feel compassion before you “blunt the humanity” in you and imprison your victim with a stereotype. Thanks for the reminder Mr. Mafioso that we should get ourselves a sexy mistress–and she is our own beautiful human capacity and desire to love. Unfortunately, she is still just the side chick.