virginia woolfs down
the weight of blue salt water,
new room of her own
the weight of blue salt water,
new room of her own
I fold myself as though I am traveling inside a suitcase. My limbs curl and bend. I want this day to have nothing to do with me and everything to do with the humans around me. The snow has lost its shine; it has aged and curdled. A pigeon ice-skates, trips on a bundle of discarded city. And though this wasn’t supposed to be about a pencil, several hours later, a poet hands one to me. It is unsharpened and new like my body once was. Before the pencil, a woman on the 4 train heading uptown talks about peppermint tea and her dislike of hot chocolate. She talks of the heft of cold climbing beneath her layers. She whispers out a love letter to the Islands where she grew up and memorized recipes. After the pencil, a moon in the shape of a question mark or a slurred howl. After the pencil, a crack in the sidewalk with laughter oozing out. Closer still, and a knock-knock joke jammed between one square of concrete and another. Before the pencil, a gentleman of elder status, peeing outside of a park in chinatown. He is wedged between two shopping carts in the shape of a home minus chimney and foyer. After the pencil, a puddle of curious shade of yellow patronizes the city street. Before the pencil, a kiss so magnificent and hungry, that skin gains thirty-seven pounds from its embrace. Somewhere, though it is unclear where and when, possibly seventy-four years ago, you see her. With long sullen face, I smell the soot of words wafting off her palms. It is Sunday and there are no parties to prepare for or meals to measure. Simply, a pencil to purchase at eighteen mile long bookshop. But it was never really about that pencil.
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” ………Virginia Woolf.
“Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above,” said Virginia Woolf.
A handsome human lays across from me and asks how I identify. I look at the calendar to see what day it is. Because yesterday’s answer may be different than today. We talk about clothes and hair and all the things that get in the way of these self-applied labels. And a few days earlier, I share words with another who prefers to identify as present. These words, she said, are only meant to stifle and confine. So together we rip off the layers of words stuck to my skin. I am left feeling raw and red and inspired.
violence is a garment on the body (Bhanu Kapil)
I just want you to know where it comes from.
imagine a pit of soil
watch out for the earthworms
spiders larvae the wingless the roots
watch out for delicate stems and snapped off
brain like a garden
imagine a mother dipped in razors
measure chemicals and lose track of
try to belong here
here with the lopsided poets
here with Brautigan and aroma of Plath’s poison
here with Hemingway and Woolf’s drown
here with Mishima and Thompson’s bullet
here with Berryman and Kosinski’s suffocation
here with Sexton and Gogol’s starvation
here with mangled metaphors and disillusioned stanzas
here with your own tongue swallowed on the eve of resolution
want to memorize your pill collection
cut you open
put lips to bloodied forearm and cracked clavicle and climb over the edge of any bridge before the costumed men carry you toward the rubber and drool
Does it matter? Do apple cores or cucumber seeds or coils in mattresses matter? The inside is never investigated. The inside is hidden. Stuffed into smaller sizes to reduce the swelling of life. The inside of the earth is filled with jam and I am filled with solace. Discuss.
Virginia Woolf dug out the emptiness of her pockets and filled them with death. Sometimes I want to alphabetize her exclamations, shelve her alongside Anne Sexton and Plath even though their names are so far apart.
It begins with a room. A room large enough to house a typewriter and cotton. Those voices. The overweight entity of sadness. A room where ovens and rivers and pills have no invitation. A room only for words.
My room is 10×12. It is white with smudges of previous tenants on the walls. It is only my own if I pay my rent installment. At this moment, I am too big to fit here. I cannot leave the pills and scars on the other side of off-white door. I am too distracted by woman in black with scarved neck and historical rhythm. She advises me to write my way out.
Write. My. Way. Out.
In a room full of student loans and academic breathing patterns, I am told that I am too feminine. My character is too feminine. For a body to think IT is in the wrong place, it’s clothing should be more gender specific.
I walk my way out of my uterus. My blood stains. My throbbing reminder of baby hips and procreation and genitals. I try to walk my way out of IT.
“Unless men and women can be androgynous in mind, literature itself will be permanently flawed.” Virginia speaks of the need to remove clarity. Circumcised language. I dress up my sentences in ties and skirts. I braid its hair and then remove its larynx to alter its voice. My poems play with dolls and trucks.
Write my way out.
If I had a room that was my own. Where I could pierce the walls with grotesque poetry and musical instrumentation. Where I could behead language and intention. And consistency. Where might that room be?
New Jersey. Colorado. Massachusetts. Standing on that bridge in Northampton. Hiding by that creek in Boulder. Dancing beneath the rain in Vancouver.
I cannot write in one place because I cannot breathe for too long when stillness is my option. I fear being known. Was Virginia learned? What she interpreted? Was she broken apart by symbols and expectations?
I am trembling from lack of moisture to my lips and lack of holding to my hands. This room is lying to me. Brooklyn is shaking me, stealing my rest. Did you take naps, Virginia? Did you hide out on benches to run from the wind of rushed commuters?
I am afraid to sit down for fear of the bed bugs, Virginia. They are everywhere.
I/I/I………….“’I’ is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being.” Did you feel that, Virginia? Were you lost inside yourself, digging your way out with words?
What is my own? How can a room be my own—something impermanent and borrowed—when I can’t even call this body my own?
I am afraid to sit down for fear of these bed bugs. They will survive far longer than any of us. I am jealous of their persistence.