womanness is a sequential visual poem documenting experiences of female body, spirit and personhood.




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CHAPTER 5: SHADOWPLAY








1Carrington, Leonora. Down Below, New York Review Books, 1988, p. 45.

2Angela Carter: “Any woman may manage, in luxurious self-deceit, to feel herself for a little while one with great, creating nature, fertile, open, pulsing, anonymous, and so forth. In doing so, she loses herself completely.”


3Gass, William. “Rilke’s Doctrine of Nonpossessive Love.” The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love, edited by Robert C. Solomon & Kathleen M. Higgins, University Press of Kansas, 1991, p. 463.

4Dionyso, Arrington de, High Priestess of Voltage, 2020.

5Lampadius, Sabina. “As a symbol.” Translated by A.M.H. Lemmers. Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited by Jane Hirshfield, HarperPerennial, 1995, p. 37.

6Gass, William. “Rilke’s Doctrine of Nonpossessive Love.” The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love, edited by Robert C. Solomon & Kathleen M. Higgins, University Press of Kansas, 1991, p. 452.

7
(Where did I first write these words? In my journal? For a grant application? They live now in the incomplete draft of Borrowed City: a performance in three places)


8(a word that spreads across the tongue like a tangible palette cleanse, delicious)

9Gass, William. On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry, Nonpareil Books, 1976, p. 17.
Lately it seems that what opens the floodgates of my words is someone else’s misunderstanding of my female form. For example: I know you’re on a singular journey. For example: I’m worried I’m using you. How do I explain that an absence of domesticity is not an absence of women’s life itself? How do I explain that my body is not a resource to be pilfered but a forcefield, unfathomable in its totality? These explanations pour out later in poetry and image and play, coaxed by the medicine of metaphor. Creativity as a balm, as a map through alternative terrain. As I crawled back into bed it was alongside a me that once shrunk in the face of a man’s shame, a me that instantly dismembered herself in order to accommodate another’s fear. The gap between these two selves is the very definition of self-intimacy.

The instant my body split open again out poured all the darkness in equal measure to the light. Topside sight creates secret underworlds just as vast and fertile and complex. Leaves in my hair again. I find them later as I’m trying to wash a strange taste from my mouth. So many beings are alive within me simultaneously. “An androgyne, the Moon, the Holy Ghost, a gypsy, an acrobat, Leonora Carrington, and a woman.”1 Here I am virginal in my posture of worship. Worship of my body & worship of the natural world one in the same, although I’m told that to embrace this metaphor is “luxurious self-deceit”2. No matter, the virgin’s naivety is so pure it becomes a kind of prophecy. In isolation sex is a metaphysical ascent, it’s infinite transformation. I don’t have to explain to myself that in each new moment I am already a different creature in a different mood. But see, here we are beneath the nightfall and he wants me exactly as I was before, fixed, my body scrubbed of its unpredictable vitality. How quickly the virgin becomes the whore, how quickly naivety becomes disenchantment, womanness rinsed of nuance and contradiction. I refuse to accept this dichotomy / or maybe I succumb? The entire expanse of female mythology storms through me in the instant of being grasped for pleasure’s sake and I can no longer tell the difference. Body slick, hair wild. I am simmering in restraint, already searching the horizon line for new worlds. Days later there will be the beckoning of a car heater and his body a lucid, curious gift but in this moment I think, there must be another option. “If our reward for being loved is solitude preserved and freedom encouraged, we may pass right through it, like the tail of a distant comet, and never feel the wash…”A rush of blue through my body.

I return to my bedroom as if returning to holy ground. A fourth star penciled on the wall. The High Priestess of Voltage.4 In the quiet that accompanies the faintest dawn light I become what perhaps I inhabit most comfortably, the crone, as I’ve been since I was a little girl with strange wisdom whispered through my ears, holding dominion over my vast solitudes. I linger within her grasp as I gather lecture notes and stumble through these “terrifying Hekate nights”5 until a week later I am Kali slicing off heads with no remorse. The word chimera keeps appearing in things I’m reading. 1a: a fire-breathing she-monster. 2: an illusion or fabrication of the mind. An unrealizable dream. I try to stitch two truths together but end up tangled in contradiction. I feel monstrous, too enormous, immortal, psychic, murderous, can’t you understand? “The poet says that love feeds on itself like a fire, and must be fed its own flames, as if Prometheus were to dine on his own entrails instead of being pecked by the beaks of those voluptuous birds. Is love then the punishment for the theft of a heart?”6 I have yet to meet a man or a culture that can contain it all.

No matter, I have always made secret worlds, secret selves. I am always in performance. Sex could be about love, yes, but it could also be a weapon. A lie. A trick, a plea, numbness, prayer, a cage and also its release.7 I offer you my changeability, my wild weather, my flux8. “Furthermore, the sexual, in most works, disrupts the form; there is an almost immediate dishevelment, the proportion of events is lost.”9 

For example: I pulled leaves from my hair and dreamt myself back through a night of many lifetimes. For example: to seek truth is to tumble through chaos, unceasingly.