OBVIOUSLY I KEEP WANTING TO BREAK MY NDA.
Obviously I have been wanting to do this for years. I have discussed it with editors, with journalists, I have discussed it with myself, I have taken up fiction in the dark, I have “hid my face in a crowd of stars,” I have found so many ways to hide my rage in universal currents and found ways to channel my pedagogy into the stars, about which I have only a beginner’s knowledge, because I want to give, and because I was born to give, and because I have tried to work outside of the ordinary delivery systems of power and knowledge as long as I’ve lived, and because I have always wanted to work, and I always have worked, and because I don’t want to starve, and because I have starved.
Obviously my lawyers, who are excellent, have said again and again over the years, we completely understand why you want to break your NDA and we strongly recommend that you not.
So, putting this out there without actually putting it out there, something that writing a daily column before dawn has gradually been teaching me how to do, I do want to tell you about the Federal mediator who described to me in intricate detail having her ass grabbed by her direct supervisor in the military, how when she reported it and nothing happened she punched the guy and then “he made me scrub the floor of the Quonset hut, alone.” The prosody of this sentence, if you could hear it in her accent, might fill you with the same empathy and hilarity it filled me with. She kept me in her windowless office for hours, recounting her own experiences with gross bosses and creep coworkers and a total absence of accountability ever for decades upon decades, for her entire life, and then describing bad bosses her own daughter had had and all the bad career advice she consequently gave her daughter, which it turned out was all meant to clarify for me why it was her intention and in fact her noble duty to throw my case in the garbage.
I strongly suggest that you not pursue this, she said. It will ruin your career. You are young. You will be marked in your industry. It will even affect your reputation in other parts of the country. Who do you think wrote the law, she kept saying. Who do you think the law is for.
This is supposed to be some kind of celestial text, but some nights still fill my belly with knives, and some mornings I still wake up gasping.
Even though I know better, even though I’ve moved on, and even though the culture has now begun to move into this territory, in ways that both slake and enflame a rage and a sorrow that unfortunately have the exact shape and size of my entire life. Of our entire lives. And every other crime our culture commits in the name of safety, security, and the market fulminates around the same source.
I am confident, I wrote in a poem from the belly of the worst of this era,
I am confident
This sensation of futility
Will go straight into my pussy
That this futility
Is in fact
The very substance of pussy
Leaving aside for now how transphobic it was for me to essentialize gender with genitals or how unfeminist it felt then and still feels now to feel that the maw of my own body had become a grave for every single evil in the culture.
Leaving all that aside
What I would write would describe what attempting to use the existing channels to address a toxic situation could and could not accomplish. It would describe what the knowing whispers ofat first blush sympatheticfemale colleagues did to protect the predator. It would describe the colossal dismay at seeing what older self-described feminists were really made of. I have wondered for years at the sorrow of women who are so ruined themselves by this whole structure that the main quotient of their response to a younger person’s act of courage is jealousy.
It would describe how a lifetime of experienceslet’s call them extracurricular experiencesnot just with assault and violence, or with an often homeless and occasionally incarcerated parent, or the career suicide of putting care for another human being ahead of your own ambitionand the experience of the impulse to care as nothing but a feminine liability, a maladaptive vestigial trait that capitalism should have fucking learned you to shed by now, and it would describe the whole situation of the kind of labor and the kind of fight for personhood you do because you have to, because it seems to have been laid out for you as your role, this arena become the proving ground for your virtuosity, however wee, however grand, and this particular conversation, this subject, your being forced to pay in every way for men’s appetites, for their negligence, for their prominence, and then for their willingness not to destroy youfor the privilege of not being totally destroyednot to mention the ambient white noise against which you take your every step: the constant war, the incarceration, the trivialization of your moral sickness and the moral sickness of your sisters, the wall to wall humiliation of your distinguished sentiments, the requirement that you and your sisters do all of the thinking and all of the militating and all of the sacrificing and all of the caring and all of the succeeding and all of the beauty and all of the visionary futures and all of the prayers and all of the self-lacerating for it never ever ever ever being enough.
It would describe the warped shape of the law and the nothing the law again and again becomes, when it comes to men and their institutions.
It would make light of the insane stream of texts I got last night from an ex, in which he compared me with high sentiment to Ruth Bader Ginsburg (?!)
It would speak of Venus, under whose aegis the Law supposedly does its work.
I want to write an opera for Bulgarian Women’s Choir called Divine Justice.
I want a judge and jury made of grinning eminences who are more confessors than sentencers, who sing you your sentence so it rings through your heart, rearranges your guts, un-incarcerates whatever’s left in you that’s good.
Sometimes I can’t sleep. Sometimes I wake up with a belly full of knives. Sometimes I don’t know what will ever be enough.
Sometimes I can’t believe I still haven’t written THE SECOND SEX ON THE BEACH, describing what happened when I crashed the memorial service of Shulamith Firestone at Saint Marks Church, THE SECOND SEX ON THE BEACH because the program featured a picture of Shulamith in a bikini, reading The Second Sex on the beach. I found myself in tears at the podium, telling second wave feminists how much I had needed them my entire life and career, how my mother was every bit as brilliant and insane as Firestone, and how scary it was to really confront what seemed to have been the real wages of feminism: isolation, penury, schizophrenia, despair.
The feminism I grew up with was benevolent propaganda. Because my own mother conformed to the old Plath/Dickinson model of suicide/insanity/confinement as the true husbands of female brilliance, I have I think been a bit extra retrograde and extra fucked in my attempts both to confront and to completely flee this culture, the present, the now, the cold facts. I have always felt that the space where I have had to make my lifeand where we are all making our liveslies in some mysterious suspended zone between everything we’ve been told we can be and what is (and it cost the culture nothing, but profits corporations greatly, to have women, and Dreamers, and queers, and people of color yearning and working toward a world in which we can truly be everything we already are, and give all that we have to give, rather than contorting ourselves into wrung little parodies of our talents and our enormous love....)
We thought we were citizens; we were made into spectators.
We thought our sexuality at last belonged to us, but it remained a commodity; a grotesque family heirloom.
Psychic, telepathic, empathic, neuroticwe are gifted. We are so gifted and our experience is so grave. We have had to invent these worlds beyond the world in which to restore light and grace to ourselves, slough the callouses off our ideals, honor our again and again destructed sex, cry over all the spilt and the spoiled milk.
My teacher says the fight in the heavens is over. He says the woman in blue and white is sitting on the throne. He says that this is a time in which prayers will be answered. When I’m in grace I know it’s true.
But acts are prayers. This month so far I have written twenty-one columns, given eighteen astrology sessions, written two blurbs and two letters of recommendation, paid off a debt that has gnawed at my heart for years, been approached by a Berlin gallery and a Kansas theatre who want to put on my play, I have pined for my lover, I have quit pining, I have been offered a fancy residency and asked to speak on a panel about French literature about which, I protested, I know nothing, have gone to the desert to see if I could see what’s wrong and right with me, and the one day I went without photographing the sunrise I felt very sad to have missed it, and the sleep I do is stolen from my deadlines, and love I give is stolen from my career, and the competing I refuse to do nurtures my sense of justice and feeds, like Rilke’s night, on my face, and nothing, none of it is enough, and nothing, to quote Claudia Rankine, nothing in nature is private.