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Adrienne Rich, via Joel:
[I haven't read it yet. You'll read it to me.]

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.

Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Muriel Rukeyser, via Joel:

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.

Another one via Joel.
Read this when you have a little quiet time to yourself.

 

When the call comes, be calm.
Say to your wife, “My brother is dying. I have to fly
to California.”
Try not to be too shocked that he already looks like
a cadaver.
Say to the young man sitting by your brother’s side,
“I’m his brother.”
Try not to be shocked when the young man says,
“I’m his lover. Thanks for coming.”

Listen to the doctor with a steel face on.
Sign the necessary forms.
Tell the doctor you will take care of everything.
Wonder why doctors are so remote.

Watch the lover’s eyes as they stare into
your brother’s eyes as they stare into
space.
Wonder what they see there.
Remember the time he was jealous and
opened your eyebrow with a sharp stick.
Forgive him out loud
even if he can’t
understand you.
Realize the scar will be
all that’s left of him.

Over coffee in the hospital cafeteria
say to the lover, “You’re an extremely good-looking
young man.”
Hear him say,
“I never thought I was good enough looking to
deserve your brother.”

Watch the tears well up in his eyes. Say,
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what it means to be
the lover of another man.”
Hear him say,
“It’s just like a wife, only the commitment is
deeper because the odds against you are so much
greater.”
Say nothing, but
take his hand like a brother’s.

Drive to Mexico for unproven drugs that might
help him live longer.
Explain what they are to the border guard.
Fill with rage when he informs you,
“You can’t bring those across.”
Begin to grow loud.
Feel the lover’s hand on your arm
restraining you. See in the guard’s eye
how much a man can hate another man.
Say to the lover, “How can you stand it?”
Hear him say, “You get used to it.”
Think of one of your children getting used to
another man’s hatred.

Call your wife on the telephone. Tell her,
“He hasn’t much time.
I’ll be home soon.” Before you hang up say,
“How could anyone’s committment be deeper than
a husband and wife?” Hear her say,
“Please. I don’t want to know the details.”

When he slips into an irrevocable coma,
hold his lover in your arms while he sobs,
no longer strong. Wonder how much longer
you will be able to be strong.
Feel how it feels to hold a man in your arms
whose arms are used to holding men.
Offer God anything to bring your brother back.
Know you have nothing God could possibly want.
Curse God, but do not
abandon Him.

Stare at the face of the funeral director
when he tells you he will not
embalm the body for fear of
contamination. Let him see in your eyes
how much a man can hate another man.

Stand beside a casket covered in flowers,
white flowers. Say,
“Thank you for coming,” to each of the several hundred men
who file past in tears, some of them
holding hands. Know that your brother’s life
was not what you imagined. Overhear two
mourners say, “I wonder who’ll be next?” and
“I don’t care anymore,
as long as it isn’t you.”

Arrange to take an early flight home.
His lover will drive you to the airport.
When your flight is announced say,
awkwardly, “If I can do anything, please
let me know.” Do not flinch when he says,
“Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him
after he told you. He did.”
Stop and let it soak in. Say,
“He forgave me, or he knew himself?”
“Both,” the lover will say, not knowing what else
to do. Hold him like a brother while he
kisses you on the cheek. Think that
you haven’t been kissed by a man since
your father died. Think,
“This is no moment not to be strong.”

Fly first class and drink Scotch. Stroke
your split eyebrow with a finger and
think of your brother alive. Smile
at the memory and think
how your children will feel in your arms,
warm and friendly and without challenge.

–Michael Lassell

Via Joel:

There was a Child
who heard from another Child
that if you masturbate 100 times it kills you.

This gave him pause;
he certainly slowed down quite a bit
and also kept count.

But, till number 80,
was relatively loose about it.
There did seem plenty of time left.

The next 18
were reserved for celebrations,
like the banquet room in a hotel.

The 99th time
was simply unavoidable.

Weeks passed.

And then he thought
Fuck it
it’s worth dying for,

and half an hour later
the score rose from 99 to 105.

–Thomas Gunn

And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.

But what will follow? Just this apathy, this dead flatness? Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal? Does grief finally subside into boredom tinged by faint nausea?

Neurodivergent K, from “Overcoming’ Is Not a Moral Obligation“:

Society demands that we keep overcoming, overcoming, overcoming. But we don’t have to. Nowhere is it written that to be a really real human you have to brute force your way through your limits. Nowhere is it written that not doing so makes you less worthy. For most people, constantly refusing to acknowledge that you have limits is seen as a problem. We all have limits & we are supposed to acknowledge them, know where they are, work within them.

But when you have a disability, it’s like everyone expects you to push past your limits all the time. They want to be inspired, or they want to not have to deal with the fact that a disability means “there are things I cannot and will never be able to do”, even as they expect me to know there are things I can do that they will never be able to.

So we are pushed to keep ‘overcoming’, and if we can’t we are failures and lazy. But if we can, we aren’t really disabled. It’s a no win either way.

My “revenge fantasies” are always so tame: I explain why he’s wrong–it is usually a he– and he agrees, feels really badly, apologizes.

Audre Lorde:

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That this speaking profits me, beyond any other effect…

I was going to die, if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences…

And of course I am afraid–you can hear it in my voice–because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation and that always seems fraught with danger… In the case of silence, each one of us draws the face of her own fear–fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we also cannot truly live…

And it is never without fear; of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death. But we have lived through all of those already, in silence, except death. And I remind myself all the time now, that if I were to have been born mute, or had maintained an oath of silence my whole life long for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die…We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.

The fact that we are here and that I speak now these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.

Adrienne Rich via Joel:

Not enough. When I dream of meeting
the enemy, this is my dream:
white acetylene
ripples from my body
effortlessly released
perfectly trained
on the true enemy

raking his body down to the thread
of existence
hurting away his lie
leaving him in a new
world; a changed
man

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