womanness is a/an:

visual exploration
poetic investigation
personal essay
intimate practice
erotic expression
performance of self-authorship
visual-verbal love song1
pursuit of a new archetype
living metaphor
nocturnal poem2
archive of female overflow
a map of intuition


1Mann, Sally. Hold Still, Little Brown and Company, 2015, pp. 208. 2Paz, Octavio. “The Kingdoms of Pan.” Translated by Helen Lane. The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism, Harcourt, Inc., 1995, pp. 18.
CHAPTER 8: AMOR FATI








1Fuses, Dir. Carolee Schneemann, Electronic Arts Intermix, 1967.

2Nelson, Maggie. “The Reënchantment of Carolee Schneemann.” The New Yorker, 15 Mar. 2019, newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-re-enchantment-of-carolee-schneemann. Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.


3(oh, the irony of failing to surrender)

4CHAPTER 2: QUEEN OF THE NIGHT

5www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/ice-drift

6(quite literally the things my body is absorbing and then reflecting back to me through my blood)

751st All Japan Aikido Demonstration (2013)

8Lewis, Sarah. “Arctic Summer: Surrender.” The Rise, Simon and Schuster, 2014, pp. 76.


9Wolkstein, Diane and Samuel Noah Kramer. “Inanna and the God of Wisdom.” Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth, 1983, Harper Perennial, pp. 11-27.

10Campbell, Joseph with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth, 1988, Doubleday, pp. 202.
I’ve been thinking a lot about negative space. Inverses. The invisible balancing the visible.

A year ago I sat beside her in the café near my house. It was raining that March, constantly raining. Her emotions were potent and overflowing. Mine were suppressed, cool. I was shocked by my own pragmatism. The show had been cancelled. Classes had been cancelled. The rental house in the hills of Silver Lake that she’d walked me through only days earlier now suddenly packed up, locked up, departed. Negative space. I remember glancing around the crowded café and it felt like being back in New York. Small spaces, crammed bodies, shared refuge from any number of inhospitable weather moods. The light was amber-colored. We both kept checking our phones. Everyone kept checking their phones. Disaster was, without exaggeration, imminent. I felt like one slice of an infinity mirror. Part of them, part of me. Endless loop, forever, ever...

Just days earlier it had been sunny before the rain and we’d sat across from one another in a bistro off of Sunset. I’d told her about seeing Fuses1 for the first time, how high I felt, the words2 that poured through my mind, and the sharp point of a feeling I still can’t quite describe. Here at last was a woman who had loved these men and loved the great expressive wilderness of her body and lived only for herself and the process of making her work. I was crying because I loved her work——loved her, Carolee——so much I almost couldn’t bear it and I was crying because I was standing at the precipice of a life I didn’t want and please, I begged, to her, to the air, to all that sacred negative space, please just give me a year to figure it out.

Of course, in the week that came next I packed all my books and papers and I left my office for the last time and I stood disoriented in the grocery aisles and I sat beside her in the café while she didn’t eat her food the same way she never ate her food when we were in school and the way I couldn’t eat my food the March before or the way I’d never been able to eat around him and used to try to convince myself it was because of some kind of love even though of course it wasn’t love, it was terror, it was trauma silently compounding within me. Yes, in that wild week where the architecture of our collective life folded in on itself, it felt simultaneously like a small portal opening up into another world. Negative space. I asked for a year and I was given a year and then some. I was given a lifetime. I was given a parallel self, a life I’d never anticipated living, time gained but also violently interrupted.

I was looking back through the notebooks I kept during that time and the pages are marked obsessively with the idea of surrender. It wasn’t new to that time, it was a concept I’d been trying to gain intimacy with for years. Trying and failing3. Of course I could understand the concept of surrender but I didn’t want to understand it, I wanted to embody it. I wanted to live it. This was me at the edge of night4, remember? This was me knee-deep in ocean waves and suddenly slipping under. Surrender as “surrender” had always troubled me. How do I allow nothing? How do I feel into nothing? How do I stand at that open mouth of destruction and let it consume me unfeeling when there is dawn and Café du Monde and desert sun and stolen records and the tastes of lime and strong spice and the stars above my eyes as I gasped his breath in through mine—

Surrender as negative drift5. As blood messages6. As the strange ritualized grace of aikido7. Body metaphors. “It is why, I imagine, the Sumerian goddess Ereshkigal is the Queen of Hell and also the Mistress of Life, constantly portrayed in a position of giving birth.”8 It’s why her sister is Inanna with her back against the tree, the pleasures of her body birthing a dream of power.9 Surrender not as nothingness but as the deepest form of feeling. I imagine myself in a dark cave letting my cheek trail across its rough edges. Endless expanses and only the tenderness of that cheek where tears slip and kisses land with which to map the strange terrain. Beautiful absurdity. But also, an opening.

Let me feel into every possible crevice of the thing that terrifies me, the thing that pains me. Let me feel it so intimately that it becomes “the demon that you swallow,”10 a part of me, fused so exquisitely that there is no longer a separation. That, I think, must be something like surrender.