Sunday, September 14, 2014

=the red queen=

Alice, the Morning After

What a dope I was not to see
the mountain of escalators going backwards

the Tyrannosaurus head
of nuts and bolts
the desert of creamed corn

& the rats
all those rats
that covered every surface between us
fierce as cherries.

Did I think it would be a cakewalk
with the sun going backwards
down a hall of mirrors
& the pitchforks
all pointing my way?

When I woke up at last
there was a commotion in the hall
the hotel was burning
and the staff informed me
that a Mr. Lightning Bolt had called
in the night.
I rolled out of bed
the floor was covered with sea urchins
and the air smelled of onions.
I was seeing double
but the two images didn't match.

I reached you by phone
hoping to explain
but when I opened my mouth
something like the soundtrack
of all the devils in the world came out.
I sat there looking at the hands
lying like plaster casts in my lap
and laughed along.

There was a beating on the door
and a frantic man insisting
"Your head is read!
Your head is ready!"

What could I possibly have said to that?
I'm asking you,
yes, you! 
Well, I didn't know either.
So I said nothing. 

Eventually, he went away.

=from yesterdays sketchbook=

Thursday, September 11, 2014

=subterranean news=

(found journalism: take several newspapers, cut random sentences out of random articles,  mix them up and lay them out into a column. Now you have oblique access to the secret news of the truth no paper dares to print.)

Anonymous Sources Claim,
"No One Is Saying That."

You’re forbidden newspapers and you’re told you’re going to die. Let’s be clear, people don’t become smart by saying to themselves, “Tomorrow I’m going to be smart.” No one is saying that. But I would say about Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: It is stunning because it’s about how to maintain dignity in the harshest situation. I personally got active before I was reading authors of this level. I was still in high school. Frankly, you’re the first to figure out there’s no pony in the manure.

In July and August, the rulers of Israel carried out their genocidal attacks. These methods are similar to those used in the Dark Ages of Europe, when religion-based ignorance was almost universal. Mayor Murray recommended that City Light and Public Utilities offer the same discount. According to the person who was not authorized to speak publicly about the move and spoke on condition of anonymity, she hasn’t lost any significant time to injuries and she’s still having as much fun as a 6-year-old.

You are just a curse.

But two years is an eternity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

=book recently read: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson=

No, oranges are not the only fruit, although there are many who will act as if they are. There are bananas, plums, peaches, and the melons; god knows how many different kinds of melon alone!


This is not the first Jeanette Winterson novel I've read. But it's the first one she published. It's the clearest and most straightforward, too. Although you can already see elements of her later style. The use of fairytale, myths, and flights of fancy, for instance. The theoretical underpinning that supports her subjective use of time, of parallel lives, of simultaneous narratives is also on display, but not as yet seamlessly incorporated into the narrative, as it is in her later work. 

In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit these devices are still in nascent, seedling form; they serve to amplify and illustrate the main thrust of the story in what is largely a simple, straightforward and relatively conventional way.


What is this novel about? 

It's a fictionalized account of her coming-of-age as a lesbian in an environment of religious ignorance and intolerance.


There are pineapples.


This book is called a novel, an autobiographical fiction, but I don't think there's any reason to maintain the usual literary pretenses and keep on pretending that the main character isn't Jeanette Winterson herself, that this work isn't a memoir with fictional and archetypal embellishments.


There are lemons,  persimmons, quinces, kiwis, and, of course, apples. Plenty of apples. Most people in the world are apples. There is nothing wrong with apples.



There was once a woman who left home one morning. She left a note saying that she'd be back soon. Then she locked the door, walked down the path, and turned the corner.

She hasn't been seen since. 

She's still waiting for herself to return. So are we. We can't continue the story until she does.

She took the pen with her.


When Lot's wife looked over her shoulder, she turned into a pillar of salt. Pillars hold things up and salt keeps things clean, but it's a poor exchange for losing yourself. 

You can salt your heart, or kill your heart, or you can choose between the two realities.

says Jeanette Winterson


There are cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, cranberries; like melons, god only knows how many different kinds of berries…


There are a lot of coming-of-age novels. There are even a lot of gay coming-of-age novels. So why are you reading Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit? 

You are reading it if you grew up radically different from other children. If you always found that you have nothing in common with most coming-of-age novels, not even much in common with most gay coming-of-age novels. You aren't even reading it if you were adopted, gay, and were raised to become a missionary by an adopted mother who's more than something of a religious wacko.

That's Jeanette Winterson's story in a nutshell.

But the point isn't the particular nature of Jeanette Winterson's dysfunctionally unique childhood. You don't have to be a lesbian or have grown up in an extreme religious household. What matters is the extreme alienation experienced by those who've endured a childhood of analogous weirdness. Radical weirdness is what's missing from coming-of-age stories written for the other 99% of those who came of age. That's why those stories usually leave me cold.

There are many kinds of orphans  This is a novel of orphans of a particular sort. Because you don't literally have to have been abandoned by your birth parents to be an orphan. You can be an orphan from the world of normality, an orphan among the human race.


She says,

People do go back, but they don't survive, because two realities are claiming them at the same time. Such things are too much.


There are all the fruits that were the result of mankind's mucking about with genetics. I mean the "invented" fruits, as if there weren't enough fruits already, as if the fruits that already exist aren't juicy enough, aren't sweet enough. I'm talking about the grapple, the pluot, the tangelo, for example, the ortanique, the limequat, the nectatotum. Yes, the nectatotum, I kid you not.

As a society we're tolerant about diversity when it comes to cramming our faces with what we can sink our teeth into, with what we can rend and devour; otherwise…not so much.

There are plenty of things that grow naturally that we find distasteful, that we spit out and spit on, that we trample, that we uproot, burn, poison and call poison.

There are fruits we have no use for. Fruits we feel compelled to destroy. 


Upon discovering her daughter's sexuality, Jeanette's mother and her church-mates literally attempt to have the gayness exorcised out of her. Jeanette is quite religious herself up to that point and even several points afterwards. You can say she's still religious to this day. But she's been found to be sleeping with another girl her age from the congregation. It's her first and, up to that point, most profound experience of erotic love.

They met in a fish market where Melanie was shucking whelk.

Their friendship and eventual love affair was one of mutual self-discovery and innocence. Upon exposure, Melanie repents and returns to the fold. 

Jeanette rebels. 


There are grapefruits and grapes. There are apricots. There is the guava. 


Jeanette Winterson's fucked-up childhood wasn't like my fucked-up childhood except in the radical quality of its fucked-upedness. It left me feeling like she did: that I had nothing in common with the rest of the human beings in the world. And not merely feeling that way. 

Most adults remember a time when they felt unique, misunderstood, alienated. It's that feeling they are recalling in coming-of-age stories. It's what makes those stories so popular.

But I'm not talking about that nostalgic ache for what was little more than a misapprehension, a stage of the road to maturity.

I'm talking about having a childhood in which you find yourself truly alone, misunderstood, and alienated to the point of psychopathology. Not some melodrama you're playing out in your teenage, hormone-laced brain. Oh there's that, too, but this is something more. 

I'm talking about the sort of childhood that decades later more than one psychoanalyst who listens to your story stares at you with an expression between astonishment and hopelessness and says, "I don't know how you turned out as normal as you did."

That's when you know the therapy is over.


Somewhere out there, the woman keeps walking. We presume she keeps walking because we can't imagine her ever getting anywhere. Where would she go anyway? Who would have her? Where could she ever belong?

She left everything behind. But, remember, she took the pen with her. She had the foresight to do that much. 

As a result, she has the power. It's her story.

Is that what we really hold against her?


There is the much maligned, much sought after durian. There are probably fruits in the rainforest and the jungles of Africa we don't even know about yet, fruits no human tongue has ever tasted, no human teeth has ever rent apart, fruits on the highest branches, in the densest, thorniest thickets, fruits whose juices never dripped from any human chin…


This is how you survive. You leave your home, your old life, everyone you ever knew and loved. You're ready to chew off your own leg to free yourself from the trap. You can live without a leg, you cannot live without a heart. For that matter, you can live without a soul, but what would be the point? These are the kind of calculations you must make. You leave the people who loved you difficult as that might be, but this is a choice made less difficult when you realize that these people never loved "you" at all. They loved a projection of "you" that they themselves have invented, that they themselves need for their own complicated reasons, that really has nothing to do with you at all.

Jeanette's mother adopted her with the understanding that Jeanette would be dedicated to the Lord.

You leave home understanding that you can never go back. That you have to find another home. And how can you? Home is always the place you've come from. Every other place you hang your hat is a home away from home. 

Home, you realize better than most, is a myth.

For you it never existed in the first place. That's what makes it bearable to leave. That's what helps you survive the road, survive day after day with no known destination ahead, no rest for the weary, no room at any inn.


There are fruits you don't even think of as fruits, like the date and the fig, the peanut and the olive. Fruits like vanilla that you just know as a flavor, that you eat and enjoy without ever thinking, "What actually is this, anyway?" 


The woman may have already returned. She might only have been gone for a week or two. Maybe only the afternoon, although that seems unlikely.

More likely, she's been gone for several years and come back to the house where she used to live but so changed that we took her for someone else entirely. A stranger who keeps mostly to herself. 

I don't think this is true, but it's possible. It's the best we can do under the circumstances. 


Going back after a long time will make you mad, because the people you left behind do not like to think of you changed, will treat you as they always did, accuse you of bing indifferent, when you are only different, she says.


There are the fruits you forget about altogether, even though they're fairly common, until close to the very end, the coconut, the rhubarb, the  papaya.


More likely, she's living another life, in another city, with another cast of characters far away from here. She's sitting on a bench by the sea right now with an open book on her lap, the sun shining on the page where she writes her own story, the arm of the one person in this world to ever truly love her resting protectively over her shoulders. By betrayal, she writes, I mean promising to be on your side, then being on somebody else's. There is a person out there somewhere who will always be on your side. But you have to have the courage to strike out and find them. He or she is the one person to know your true name, the one person who can call you back from wherever your desperation takes you, no matter how far away you must go to become who you are, even to the very end of life.

If there is a home, any such thing as home, that is what this person is.

This person is home.


There is the fruit in the Garden of Eden, the fruit blamed for every evil in the world ever since, the forbidden fruit that tasted even just once, just one teeny bite, just one furtive lick, damns you forever.

Don't believe it.


She is writing now, writing her life, day by day, line by line. We are only ancillary characters, those who've been left behind, those whose clutches she freed herself from, those she escaped, those who misunderstood, those who never changed, those who never flowered, those already dead. 

We thought this was Eden but it's only a cemetery.

What right had she to leave when we stayed here to rot in our graves? What right had she to be resurrected when we were the ones who followed the Law?

How is it that she is rewarded? How is it that God loved her best, that sinner, that pervert, that abomination?

She who tasted the fruit, who stole the pen, who we cast out and who stood damned in our eyes forever more. 

How is she happy?

How did she dare it—and how dare she?

How goddamn her did she find a home?

                            (for Hank)


=from today's sketchbook=