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the mutilation of the corpus which bore me

Academic writing raises questions and answers them, with an aim to be definitive. Personal writing tells a story but raises no questions. Hermaphroditic writing raises questions … and ends paragraph with questions marks?

Hermaphroditism is not just between, it is more. It’s at the hard cold margin and way way outside it all. Place.

In classical mythology, sex-changers always end up male. They’re not me and they’re nothing to do with me. Tiresias was liminal, that’s what the scholars saysee. I am not your limnes, damnit. I am no one’s limnes!


I don’t think hermaphrodite is the right word after all. Herm. [strikethrough]

[Dionysos, breaker of boundaries]

[minotaur section unfinished]

Sit down and shut up, I’ll tell you a story.

The minotaur has been running into walls in the labyrinth for years. It’s dark and she doesn’t know the way. He’s got no ball of string. Ze’s never seen anyone else, though it smells their breath and feels their eyes and stumbles over their deep footprints in the mud. The minotaur has never seen.

[outside of labyrinth finally sits before pool, sees reflection in pool stares at self until fades away (Narcissus). The landscape has a little piece of minotaur in it now]

HERM [strikethrough]

dionysian minotaurian brokenlabyrinth writing that’s me see it that’s me

Back off, mythographers, stay away! Don’t come any closer! I’m warning you!


listen to me!

I can’t write my body on the world as I want to, because I will always be read as a woman. If I write what others can read, if I present myself so that I am read as, at least, a queer woman then I will not be writing my self, after all. I can only write myself through words. Literally writing myself through words.

I can only write myself through words, and there are no damn words.


I hate the word ‘lady’. I hate how groups of females get addressed as ‘ladies’. This is my seventh year of single-sex education, and I have been in groups referred to as ‘ladies’ many times. I hate it. I might once have been a girl of sorts, questioning g?rl, an uneasy woman, but I have never been a lady.

I don’t like the name I’ve been given, and I can’t find a better one. Do you know how much this hurts? Do you know why this hurts? I don’t understand why it hurts, to be misnamed. You do this to me. You do this to me. Someone does it, anyway. Someone. And it can’t be me!

There aren’t any words for what I am, not real words, that just anyone would understand. Woman, girl, boy, man. Boy is the only word I like at all, but that’s not me either. The rest, throw them out, throw them out, throw them out. I’ve got no use for them at all. I’m never what they have in mind.

I’m not in the wrong body. I’m in my body. I’m in my right mind my mind mine. You read me and you place me wrong.

Hard to place. Can’t give you directions to the place where I’m standing. I’m still in the closet because you can’t speak me see the place I’m at you’re so far away around an unturnable corner. I kill myself each time I write myself and you don’t see me. Suicide of the author. Are you watching?

Open only to Jewish and Muslim women.

Don’t look! I can’t tell you this, I won’t. I’m leaving it out. This is expurgated. Do you see? Expurgated. You won’t see, so I won’t say. To be revealed and unseen, nononononono. My body is harder to see than my mind you can’t see it I won’t write it not for you who won’t see it.

This is a letter to the world which writes me everyday a letter to you and you write me everyday you write me down

I want to be a child. No you can’t see what I mean by that I won’t let you see you can’t see and I won’t let you!


Are you listening to me!?!?!!!?

angry and stuck and angry. Stuck here angry.

thank you gstein thankyou andy for seeing first

watch me do this!

I'm drinking for the first time in ages I'd missed the taste and I'd forgotten I liked dancing when’s the last time can’t even think of it and I've missed this too though I'd never known it before a whole entire commercial establishment full of queers lesbians the people whoever they are who will meet them in a lesbian bar on the wednesday before thanksgiving and first time out drinking in america always drank in other countries now on my own turf my own and ours and it's closer to my turf than just about anywhere else. Pockets. Bastions. Nooks and crannies. Here we are. They’re not quite like me but close enough so much closer to enough. Here we are.

Girl, look at this!

Ohgod, don’t call me that!

What should we call you? Kid?

I don’t know.

The first gay person I ever knew is dead. The first lesbian I was ever friends with is a man and overhead in the dining hall today nothing to do with me but someone else knows that Things Have Changed.

The other day, the whole structure of gender just stopped making sense, and I wondered why I acted the way I act. But then it reasserted itself … said a friend one of the few tall people I’ve ever been attracted to but she’s not too skinny she looks good in a dress and she looks good when she cross-dresses too

I can’t change the world. I didn’t change how she saw the world or herself. Did I? I don’t care. I don’t care because I’m writing.

Why is that only now do I admit that one of my favorite smells in the world is the smell of my own menstrual blood right up there with the smell of the air when it has just begun to rain the smell of the air when it has just stopped raining but this mine my body makes more sense now I see it I see it I can tell you that much now I see it the first thought that crosses my mind when I see the blood a surprise as always is that it’s such a beautiful color like poppies my favorite flower which don’t grow in the american northeast but I’ve seen them in california and israel so I know that red I’ve seen that red I’ve read that red it’s my red.

You learn to read slowly, but you do learn to read eventually. I learn to speak you learn to see. Slow.

Now read this my body what you can see of it anyway I’ll show you in a mirror so you can see around the corner look over my shoulder into them mirror:

hide body

hide bode

brody body

hidden hide

in the box

boxed in the closet hide

hidden shadow under the fold


lean grin leaning

grinning lean in the mirror


i see it you don’t

you don’t see i won’t tell

won’t tell you

you can’t know

in the box you aren’t in the box i am

in the box with ambrosia

ambrosia and me in the box ambrosia

jerk jerk ambrosia jerk jerk ambrosia


you don’t see what i’m doing

fine what fine

the time ohtime ohfine

timefine jerktime

ambrosia time gone and past

and time and go and to the fine

and to the and to the fine and to the fine


you didn’t hear me

good for the shame no name don’t tell

won’t tell

maybe if the life tell

maybe to tell

want to tell maybe

i won’t say won’t say wont wont wontwantwant

is that it’s this

this is it

what i couldn’t do didn’t understand

doing it being it feeling it

in the crick straight crick for once finally

finally lee lee lee side in the lee

of the storm of the rock of the wall in the lee


this space fine time this fine finally fine

thankyou gstein this is where i hide my body

the place you showed me gstein

you broken the prose

let it
not the punctuation

no more of that
corseted bra'd held precision
free ball
work harder, as hard as me
it is hard ambrosia

But I’m not sure that I even know what I’m saying.

trust it go on with it coming fine just fine all

fine coming go

with it go come

let it let it

hide outside there here

hide folded out inside you

hide hid hidden hid was hid long ago hid long past long past

in past with no word place for the

body hide

guide it out of the body hide hidden box

ambrosia guide it out ambrosia jerkambrosia guide it out

no eyes don’t think of eyes don’t look for them don’t think of them

no eyes flying eyes round about

not seen not unseen



out guided

hided body

guided body out

out with the jerkambrosia

out out fine out fine dry day out

in the light

no name never name no name

but place here with the ambrosia place

before the mirror

leaning in the grinning mirror grinning lean

ambrosia below grinning

grin sweet delight jerkambrosia

body my body jerk ambrosia ambrosiabody

body my ambrosia body mine

seen or not mine at the place where it is

signed or not signed in the place where it is body

embodied body ambrosia body body seen

by me mine by me

my eyes my words in the mirror grin

thankyou Andy you spoke it first I saw you

so I see me you in the mirror with me I saw you first

you saw yourself so I could see you

and see me

you spoke yourself from a distance

no ambrosia without your sight my ambrosia body

never saw it before your sight


Don’t imagine a book, unless it’s a very messy and large scrapbook with strings leading out of it, body parts and bodies pasted in, videos and images and sounds, conversations and tensions and thoughts. Your thoughts. My thoughts. The provocations challenges fears arousals blindnesses sights.

You. You write part two. Go on, do it. Write me. Write me.

The end of all human societies writes ‘The End’ and closes the book and throws it on the fire crackle crackle glow crumble ash the end no one to see


So, is this herm writing? What I want is to write as an academic, but to learn how to leap the gap which that tradition of writing makes to gape between the scholar and the object of study. The scholar hides from zirself. I want to see myself, at least. Even if no one else does, I need to know where I’m standing, so that I can measure the distance between myself and the object.


One Student's picture

Re: Strike

Do I need to do the coding myself?
One Student's picture

Sit down and shut up, I'll

Sit down and shut up, I'll tell you a story.

Not exactly inviting engaged dialogue, here!

Not at that point in the piece, no. I work toward it. And I do consciously acknowledge the conflict between my desire to be seen and my reluctance to show (which arises from fear). I indulged that on purpose, though it makes me seem childish. The intent was not to be reasonable ...

The landscape has a little piece of minotaur in it now.

You clarified what I meant by that line, and thus what the whole minotaur story means; thank you.

Generally, you pick up on the lines that are not as thoroughly thought out, that I had doubts about.

hard to place. Can't give you directions to the place where i'm standing

the geographical, the traveling mind.

That was definitely at the back of my mind, as well as my own experiences traveling. I'm exploring the geography of gender - the climate back home doesn't suit me ...

I've never read The Sound and the Fury. I did read As I Lay Dying, but it's one the few novels I've read for school that I really really didn't like. But then, the only American writers I like are science fiction writers. And Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon which is historical fiction about the middle of the 20th century told through the lens of comic books.

But I'm not sure that I even know what I'm saying

Do we ever, even when we think we do? Language is always miscommunication.

I'm not resigned to that! And I'm afraid that what happened to gertrudestein will happen to me. The editor admitted he didn't understand what 'lifting belly' meant!!!

Partly, that line reflects my discomfort with non-academic language, which is at least supposed to pretend that it's clear. And this piece is also about my search for non-academic language. So that's why it's there.

here with the ambrosia place

this, I'm assuming, is your "lifting belly"

... not quite. Or perhaps yes, exactly, but maybe I just can't tell that you understand.

Seeing the minotaur:

A friend of mine saw that first minotaur picture herself, and it reminded her of me, because for about a year my default user icon on LJ was a minotaur.


Another icon I've used:


Don't know if I want to get visual with this. I mean, my writing is very visual, in that I use strikethroughs and so on (though the formatting on serendip doesn't permit that). But I've liked Picasso's pictures of bulls, too, for a while. And Picasso's cubism as the visual equivalent of gstein's poetry ...

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Is that true? Technology has many levels of representations, too, you know. See more.
Anne Dalke's picture

a very messy and large scrapbook with strings

Sit down and shut up, I'll tell you a story.

Not exactly inviting engaged dialogue, here!

I see this essay as a challenge,
to all your readers,
to work as hard as you are working.

work harder, as hard as me

You do make it hard.
On the one hand

I won't let you see.

on the other, you ask,

Are you listening to me!?!?!!!?

You want me to listen...
but refuse to let me see.

So, finding myself between a rock and a hard place....

what I'm doing is writing back the way you write:
calling up,
putting down,
posting forth

...what arises,
for you to do with as you will.

Personal writing tells a story but raises no questions.

How 'bout this instead, per Barbara Johnson?
It keeps the questions in play, refusing definitive answers:
"the place where impasses can be kept and opened for examination, questions can be guarded and not forced into a premature validation of the available paradigms. Literature…is…a mode of cultural work, the work of giving-to-read those impossible contradictions that cannot yet be spoken."

The landscape has a little piece of minotaur in it now.

Nice: how we change the world by being in it.
Engaging in it.
Leaving pieces of ourselves as we go.

Back off, mythographers, stay away!

What's the meaning of myth?
A fixed script?
A flexible one, useable and revisable?
A False Story?
The True One?

questioning g?rl, an uneasy woman


You do this to me.

who's that? to whom do you speak?

not real words, that just anyone would understand

real=easily understandable?

I'm never what they have in mind.

do words have minds?

hard to place. Can't give you directions to the place where i'm standing

the geographical, the traveling mind. Edward Said. Susan Stryker:

"travel as a habit of mind," of the importance of getting some distance in order to see clearly. This is an "ascetic code of willed homelessness," a procedure which allows you to think beyond the




to theorize what is new. It privileges the concept of movement, of transition, an openness of mind facilitated by being "unsettled."

I can't change the world.

You are changing it, by being in it, breathing in and out (see:
"the landscape with a little minotaur in it now," above).

smell of the air when it has just begun to rain

this whole passage puts me in mind of The Sound and the Fury--know it?

i've read that red it's my red

Read Gail's Menstruation sculptures:

you learn to see. Slow

let's talk some more about your presumed audience--are you making the audience you want, by the way you are writing?

(am thinking Anzaldua here, writing bilingually,
& so forcing her audience into being bilingual...)

look over my shoulder into them mirror

as Doctor Faustus had us do

brody body


in the box i am


I've always disliked this dish: coconut and orange slices and long chilly Sunday afternoons. not warm and comforting like the word promises it will be

in the crick straight crick for once finally

Crick Crack, Monkey

But I'm not sure that I even know what I'm saying

Do we ever, even when we think we do? Language is always miscommunication.

At the risk of lecturing, this from "Why Words Arise--and Wherefore":
In a class session devoted to analysis of some poems...the conversation turned to the question of differences between "languages". If indeed there were highly unambiguous "languages" (mathematics, as well as, for example, computer programming languages), how come ordinary "language" was invariably highly "ambiguous" in interpretation (so much so that poetry was a legitimate art form and "literary criticism" a legitimate profession, with a method not dissimilar from "science")? What emerged from the discussion was the idea that ordinary language is not "supposed" to be unambiguous, because its primary function is not in fact to transmit from sender to receiver a particular, fully defined "story". Ordinary language is instead "designed" (by biological and cultural evolution) to perform a more sophisticated, bidirectional communication function. A story is told by the sender not to simply transmit the story but also, and equally importantly, to elicit information from/about the receiver, to find out what is otherwise unknowable by the sender: what ideas/thoughts/perspectives the receiver has about the general subject of the story. An unambiguous transmission/story calls for nothing from the receiver other than what the transmitter already knows; an ambiguous transmission/story links teller/transmitter and audience/receiver in a conversation (and, ideally, in a dialectic from which new things emerge) (Grobstein, Two Cultures; cf. also Norretranders).

here with the ambrosia place

this, I'm assuming, is your "lifting belly"

you spoke yourself from a distance

see, on this, jrizzo re de Beauvoir: 
"distance was what allowed her to write with the necessary amount of objectivity."

leaping the gap which that tradition makes to gape between the scholar and the object of study...I can measure the distance between myself and the object

see also lvasko on feminist art and the self portrait:
Self-portraiture is not always about the self, however. Female artists have used their bodies to address larger issues and ideas....Cindy Sherman is not drawing attention to herself as woman or as artist. Rather, she is drawing attention to the different stereotypes of femininity and the different ways “in which representation can shape a woman’s constructions of the ‘self’....we begin to focus less on her and more on the image and message of what is being represented.

Do you know that gstein's Picasso saw the minotaur (and his wife) several times over the course of his career?

see minotaur

see minotaur become increasing abstract,
less fleshy....

And am very much looking forward to your further representations--