Divine Mother/Siren Song

The divine mother finally
comes to me
finally speaks

[it has taken me 56 years
to rip the wax out of my ears

I stuffed them with so long ago
I was terrified of hearing her lush
candy tones]:

I want to rub your shoulders
Oh lay down lay your head down on my breast
I want to feed you
I have the food right here
a tunafish sandwich and
a meatball one

and I have roses for you so you will always know
how wonderful you are

my delight, my little cookie
my bright animal
my brave girl
full of fire

and I will spread around you all that you might ever have needed
all you might ever love

Darling

[the smell of perfume around her. Silk scarf
the color of saffron, I can almost smell the spice
coming from her hands and her words
as she speaks
she is intoxicating]
I will never leave you

[please.
I cannot take
your betrayal.]

The mother’s nipple is bright red and her breasts are apple blossoms. The nipple in my mouth is sucky sucky delight I do not need anything more.

This is from my new work in progress, a memoir that is mostly in prose. The book is tentatively titled Jailbreak. You can find additional excerpts here, here, and here.

Sensitive


The Bellingham Review has also just published the following short essay by me (published under the title “Tender”) in their fall special issue of creative nonfiction about disability.

I’m on Facebook. Some of my friends are posting their fury, as artists and radicals, about something that’s just happened: A few art students have complained to college administrators about their professor. He’s made them watch, as part of a regular class session, an experimental film he made. It shows, among other things, his erect red penis again and again, at one point going into a woman’s mouth and later, her vagina.

These friends of mine are furious the students have interfered with their professor’s work by complaining. On their pages, commenters condemn students for their “fragile sensibilities” and “fragile feelings,” for how “delicate” they surely are.

Oh reader, I am fragile, I am delicate, in fact I’ve often wanted to write a book entitled Sensitive. Because spectacularly, insatiably, annoyingly, unbearably, I am.

I am not saying that everyone who doesn’t want to have to watch their professor fucking a woman on camera is someone who is Delicate, like me. But I thought I would tell about my own experience.

I am sensitive in almost every way a person can be. And most of my sensitivities come from disabilities. I have a couple different ones of those (physical, psychic), but the disability that has made me the most sensitive of all, the tenderest, perhaps the choicest meat to the touch, is the abuse and neglect I experienced as a child.

But the tender meat is tickled all day, and sometimes it’s// unbearable

“Grow up,” says one Friend of a Friend, and others echo, “Yup, they should grow up.” A woman comments, “One would hope that they’re mature enough to care of themselves and leave.”

None of us has read the students’ complaints because they are not public, so we don’t know what they told administrators about being made to watch the film. But a man mocks them for having what he writes in capitals as “Triggers. Oof.”

Oof. I am able to be triggered, yes indeed, and definitely not always able to take care of myself in a situation of harm and just leave.

About that last bit, no human being is in fact so powerful that we are always able to remove ourselves from what we can’t endure.

My friends’ 5000 fans condemn the students’ “latent puritanism,” their “learned helplessness,” their “censorship, punishment, and scapegoating.” Says a man, “The conflation of discomfort and harm is a truly bizarre phenomenon that I believe can be attributed to a vocal minority of bourgeois, sheltered millennials.”

To read the piece on their site and see the other work in their special issue on disability, click here.

Costume (poem)

Here’s a little  poem:

hunting hat

I feel like a superhero in my
Eddie Bauer down coat with its ridged shoulders,
chest piece like a breastplate, protective gear
in my strategic outside pockets:
several Kleenex and a phone stylus.

Wearing my “duck hunting hat,”
flaps over my ears, houndstooth,
warm and waterproof, looking simultaneously
like Elmer Fudd and someone formidable.

My Dream Man

Black bull

I’ve begun sweating hard on the upper chest and forehead several times a week. It’s only menopause, but I’m imagining I’ve become a transgender man and am suddenly staggering and shaking with the amp-force of testosterone. Women who have actually transitioned into men have said they felt like they were going through a second adolescence, and I feel like that, haggard, hamhanded and stapled into 780 volts of something electric I cannot understand.

Weird pustules popping out on my face. Itchy, literally and figuratively. Bursting out of my skin, like a werewolf. I dreamt I was at a conference and wound up having sex with my roommate at the conference hotel, a fictitious gay male friend. In the dream, he was a kind of gay man who is a sort of icon for me, bearded, curlyheaded, sexy, smart, activist. Teddy-bear-like, and smiling at me from the other queen-size bed. Fiendishly energetic and productive.

My roommate was also gregarious and kind, and our sex was friendly, funny (“Who’d ‘ve thought I’d wind up having sex with you! I haven’t seen a penis since 1980!”) and surprisingly fun.

“But I always knew sex with you would be really, really special.”

So who was this gay man? I was kind of frightened of the dream (I am a lesbian happily married to another woman) and spoke to my therapist about it. She said, “Do your dreams normally come true exactly literally the way it happens in the dream?”

“No.”

My therapist is gnomic — although she does not look like a gnome — she’s short, like me, but not masculine in the slightest, although she’s about 10 years older than me and therefore postmenopausal almost certainly. A crone, by the mythic definition at least. A little frilly —  she likes florals, wears hose — but not a femme fatale either, thank God, because that would terrify me in a psychotherapist.

“I like to think of every character in a dream as being part of the dreamer. Because who else would they be if not you?”

Who would they be?

“My lost brother.” The thought comes to me (I’ve never had a brother in the waking world), and at the same time the dream man looks just a little like my old editor H. who, balding, sweaty and fat but bearded and mustached, could burrow through any obstacle whatsoever with the sheer force of his energy. Let me be perfectly clear about this: I hate H. But when he was my editor I was telling him all the time that he was like a second father to me. (For all my hatred, it was true.) He never seemed particularly pleased to hear it. Still, the man was productive.

The dream man was far nicer and far cuter, but with a similar power as my mentor. The poet Denise Levertov wrote about him once without knowing that was what she was doing:

“the flowerlike
animal perfume
in the god’s curly hair”

My dream guy’s hair denoted animal powers — almost the “animal spirits” of the stock market — a sort of mammalian joy in what was possible, what could be done, in the work that could be accomplished. There was an “agricultural” sense to him, like a Wagyu that longs to plow the field. Brown and Taurean, beaming sweetly under his horns, able to give because so gay and empowered.

Able to love because of the enormous cord of muscle on his chest.

Stamping down the floor.

Tenacious. I have been tenacious but not in as entire a way as this man. Not in as direct a way as this man.

Just seeing my 48-year-old face in the mirror, trying to find a way not to see it simply as fat, exhausted, lined.

His face my face. Not so bloody different. I happen to be a Taurus, too. My hair is naturally brown. I make things I love, and I still love them after I have made them. I love to make love, and I still love my wife after I have made love to her.

“Power becomes you,” my first therapist once said to me. And, though I’m not transgender, I pretty much always have identified as a boy, but a weak boy. A boy of fluff, a boy not as confident as his actual powers would suggest, a boy afraid to use his core of fire. This man in my dream was different not so much by being male, but by being a man.

And indeed now I am faithful, as I never was. For I am not changeable anymore. I am myself all the way through — I know what I am, every piece good and bad, and I will not shatter or crack.

This has nothing to do with the blood no longer soaking my uterus every month, and everything to do with awakening from a delusion.

I find my Self inside me suddenly like a dragon of all genders, flexing its green limbs, coiling and uncoiling wings and legs and slow-raised eyelids, glancing softly at the world. Long eyelashes batting, webbed talons raking the black soil, look of love.

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012

Bear Days (prose poem)

In a meeting about the beloved community, my old enemy. She’d always told me I wasn’t good enough, never did the work of community-building right, never ever higher than a disgusting subhuman. For years, a little gremlin inside me deeply believed her. Now, in this volcano of a meeting, tiny room, I have such bigger muscles than I used to, and when she jumps down my throat I start chewing. She withdraws with a snarl and I tower up over her like a bear on its hind legs she towers back a bear too showing sharp row of teeth we push our faces up against each other nose to nose, I hiss and claw the air for show.

She withdraws. Or was that just a stalemate? It’s at least a day till I remember she’s a person. I try to imagine her as an infant left in the snow beside my howling bear, in my third eye she is wailing and I raise my rough paws over her, claws in, scoop her up and take her to my cave, milk by the fire, my silk blanket upon her.

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012