Letter to C
I’ve been thinking about the disappeared in Argentina, and the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. When I google the disappeareee woman by mistake, the first result is Loving him Without Losing you: How to Stop Disappearing and Start… and the title trails off, like they do in listings in search engines when they get too long. It seems bizarre and almost romantic that that title drifts away. What will you ever start doing? You will never be able to know unless you… click this, buy this, find page 72, connect the right d… it’s a puzzle you have to unravel perfectly in order to stop disappearing, and you have to do it before it’s too l…
and then the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who (Wikipedia): created a dynamic and unexpected force — no one expected the mothers to keep showing up and undisappearing themselves, attempting to undisappear their children. I just finished Maggie Nelson’s new book (The Argonauts, hard for me to title it because my relationship with her books is one long poem only) and she talks less about disappearing into motherhood than anyone I’ve read on the subject: she says you’ve got to go to pieces and face death to get the baby out, but it gives me hope how valiantly she insists upon remaining, too — after all, she chose to tell the story as the “I” so she remains. She forces life unto herself with language. The baby comes, the flesh of her belly slides off, but she forces life back onto her body.
I think there’s a way as a woman-identified person that that’s all what I’m always doing: forcing life back onto my body. Trying to get sensation back in parts of my body that don’t want to have it. Maybe it’s not even “as a woman…” — I wrote that without thinking. It’s been dancing from my mouth lately, that kind of phrase: it’s been a confrontational, gendered week in which I often haven’t been able to tell if I’m picking up gender as a cloak (avoidant) for human-human conflict so as to hide it and shield it from being scary/human-human…or if there’s just no way for me to escape gender, I have to keep hitting myself/other people over the head with it, and calling its name all the time is necessary and everything is as gendered as it seems. When I was trying to talk through my conflict with S, at one point I consciously stopped calling/naming all the things that had been gendered in the conflict we’d had because it felt both tiring and like it wasn’t bringing us closer to one another / wasn’t helping us understand each other. I went at it from how much I love him and desire connection with him instead. Maggie Nelson: Unable to fight my situation, at least for the time being, I try to learn from it; another self, stripped.
I’ve been reading more Cassandra Troyan since you wrote to me that something about my writing reminded you of her, something about being straightforward but not trusting but not dishonest — what a gift for me for you to call that out. (I saw she’s moving to Oakland, yesssss!) And I came across this video of hers (a Trauma Dog video I think) where one of the first things you see is a dog in mostly-darkness and you hear a voice, maybe from behind the camera, saying/cooing, it’s okay, we like you, to the dog, as if to calm it, and the dog’s nose twitches a little bit.
In this week I’ve had of gendered everything and my fury about always doing unseen emotional labor, this jarred me: can I ever escape it’s okay, we like you as a guiding principle? (for me / of how to be here / of how to make it ok for others to be here or remain / that I replicate as what makes it okay to not disappear oneself) I mean, I long for a day when reassuring others that they are okay and that people like them isn’t my automatic or primary role. I mean, I am curious/fascinated by what it would be like not to need others to like you/me for it to be okay to be here, to stay, to be safe. The longing to be liked it so twitchy. So disappearing.
Claire Raymond in The Conversant: Long before her premature death, [Ana] Mendieta’s ephemeral projects already engaged a paradoxical performance of vanishing: performance art/earth work and the photographs documenting it.
and, I would add: the people liking it
talking about it
making it okay
I also want to link this back to earth destruction / environmental vanishing but, like you read in that new book, I’m already obsessively doing that, so it’s enough for now. There’s clearly a political angle here, too, about what makes things okay, about white fragility and about the ongoing/increasing leap of poets and artists right now to a “liking” of Mendieta that does/doesn’t make them okay… but that needs to be my next letter, I think. The internet and the disappeared and whiteness is many more letters…
One last thing, I’ve been thinking about the weird grammar of new agey Bay-Area talk that crops up around me: I want to presence _________ (do you ever hear that?) as a way to say I would like to mention or I would like to bring in or I would like to remember…
“I want to presence that we are gathered here on the solstice”
“I want to presence that my grandmother died a month ago today”
“I want to presence the indigenous people of this land”
I wonder why this particular way to bring something forth: does this mean it (whatever the referenced/presenced thing is) wasn’t there otherwise and wouldn’t be there otherwise, or does this mean it was already there and is already and you have to “name it” to remind yourself that it’s there? as E says, only-half-mocking of Bay Area new-agey lingo: name it to tame it. We know putting it into words “tames” it, but is “presencing” it that too? Or something else? Is presencing in reference to something that has otherwise been disappeared? Is this a linguistic reaction to that disappearing? Or does this lingo also disappear it in a new layer of earth?
the disappeared woman
how and when does she disappear
how and when does she re-appear
if we call her disappeared does she reappear
or do we permanently/extravagantly disappear her
precisely by doing that?