It is new years eve and it seemed like a good day to go and do something I had never done before: get a tarot reading. Growing up under the teachings of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, it was advised to avoid anything that was in the realm of witch craft and trying to contact spirits. It was said that the spirits in this world were actually working for satan, so trying to chat with them was pretty silly and dangerous. You really only need to watch that amazing 90s teen film, The Craft to know that it is not the power or spell that is bad, there is o bad or good except in the heart of the witch. No wonder the LDS church wanted you avoiding that, it completely rendered all the patriarchal god fearing and hell fire stuff null and void. It placed the power in you.
So I went to The Royal Arcade off Bourke Street Mall and found the adorable and busy pagan shop: Spell Box and made an appointment to see and be seen by Joyce. While I waited I looked around the store and considered by a candle that came with a tiny owl pendant. The candle was to be lit on a full moon and used to inspire wisdom. I looked at bracelets made from jade stones and tried them on my wrists to see if they would fall off easily. The stones felt cold and smooth on my skin. There was some young tween girls looking at fancy looking boxes with their Dad. ”It is beautiful.” The Dad said as he crouched down with his daughter. ”Will it fit all the stuff you want to put in it, though?”
When it is my time, I am approached by a buxom woman in her late forties. She has perfect ruby red lips and curly blonde hair pulled up and tesed around her face. She is wearing paisley and her skirts tinkle with tiny bells. I smile as she leads me up some stairs and ushers me into a dark room with a lamp and a small round table with a satin cloth draped over it. The room is hot like an oven. The fan is too loud so we leave it off.
”You can record the session on your phone if you like.” Joyce tells me. After fiddling with my iphone for a bit, I realize I have no idea how to record. ”Is it an iphone or android?”
”Iphone.” I say.
”I cant help you, I’m afraid.”
I laugh and put my phone away. ”My person would feel very validated by your comment.” I say. ”They hate iphones.”
Joyce looks at me and says, ”You have a partner?” Damn I was not meant to give her any free info about me, I think. I nod as I mentally kick myself.
They are creative and are very intuitive to the rage and anger within others. I am told and I agree. Joyce says that they are creative and do not focus on or express their own creativity enough. I nod in agreement. They need to channel the rage and anger around and in them and pool it into their own creative endevours. Joyce stops and leans back in her chair with tarot cards in hands. ”This does not help you, though. But, wanting the people to love to succeed encourage them to carry out their own dreams, is pretty important.” You cannot argue with that. I really want them to do their own stuff as they are just so talented and have so much more to offer than merely being part of other peoples visions.
Joyce tells me a bit about herself: raised catholic and completed a degree in psychology. She always felt a great spiritual presence or power around her and within. Not the spiritual power that the catholic church pushes: one of guilt and self hate. She asks me what brings me here. I tell her curiosity. ”I was raised in a religion that taught all this stuff was evil and should be avoided at all costs.” I tell her. ”I was too scared to even take part in sleep over seances as a teen, because the Mormon church strongly advised that stuff opened up your soul to the devil. ” I ell her that now that I am a grown up and no longer feel tied down by the fear of hell and an angry heavenly father, I can do things that I have always wanted to do or experience. Once you have ticked off the big ones: sex before marriage, alcohol consumption, tea drinking, recreational drug use. You need to get more imaginative.
”Do you work?”
The question makes me look down and then up again. I avoid her eyes and then gather my courage. Her eyes are kind and questioning. There is no malice there, it is only in me and directed at me. ”If you mean gainfully employed in full time work, no.”
”I didn’t actually. I meant what do you do thats important to you.”
My shoulders unclench and I feel my spine sigh a little as it releases tension. I straighten my tiny rounded shoulders as much as they will allow. ”I write. I want to be a great writer.” I say. It feels so good to say it out loud. In the tiny, one lamp lit windowless room, the statement feels like a confession fused with an declaration. ”Im getting a strong welfare sense from you.” I nod and frown. I am told that this is not to be ashamed off. The work that I do writing and making my voice heard is an important work and should not be considered of lesser value that working in a 9 to 5. Joyce tells me that my words and point of view mean a great deal to a great many people and will continue to matter. I am told that the kindness of the state allows me to do my important work that matters to people. ”You need to let go of all that fear that surrounds you in regards to your writing upsetting certain people.” Joyce tells me.
I am asked to divide the tarot card deck into three piles and pick a pile to take a card from. I do this and choose the top of the left pile. Joyce is doing card stuff and my bad eyes do not allow me to see whats on the cards. I concentrate on what she is saying. ”I ma getting a very strong child vibe and nurture.” Joyce tells me.
”I cant have kids.” I tell her. I feel a bit deflated at this. ”You don’t need to have kids in order to be nurturing. It could mean that you need to nurture your own belief in yourself. It could relate to how you value friendships and relationships. What is your relationship like with your mother?” I groan and make a face. ”Not good?” I shake my head. Joyce places cards on the table as she speaks. She says something that makes me squirm in discomfort, or is that recognition of something inside myself I am too ashamed to ever say out loud? ”You feel you would have done a better job at mothering than your mother did with you.” Joyce says. I stare up at the ceiling and turn my attention to the lamp light splashed across the wall. That is a horrible thing to think. I think. I nod slowly. It is true. I do think that sometimes. I wont ever get to know for sure though as I dont want any children. Being the eldest and having all that responsability when still a child myself, killed any mothering desires I may have had. ”I would have done things differently.” I say softly.
”You are on two very different plains.” I try to keep my adamant nodding to a minimum so I don’t break my own neck. ”I know she loves me but I do not feel connected to her at all.”
”She does not see your light.You are scared of writing what you need and want too as it will upset certain relationships, your mother/ daughter relationship in particular. You need to let go of all that angst and mother related fear and focus on doing what is important to you. You cannot control how people respond to your work. It is doing it and continuing to do it that is most important.”
Joyce encourages me to put it out in the universe, my wish or want or desire.
”Mother. I am going to write my truth and do what matters most to me. I am sorry. I love you. I have to this.”
I need to treat my writing more as a buisness. Joyce tells me that in the next three months I must focus on it more fully and even go away somewhere quiet and rural. I need to go away somewhere where there is a lake and mountains and I can sit and write with a view of the lake and be undisturbed. This sounds wonderful to me. I know you should be able to work anywhere as a writer, but, I would love to go somewhere with a lake view and solitude. I ask to see the card that is giving her this idea and she places it in front f me. She points to the tiny mountains in the bottom left of the card. I read the words at the bottom of the card: ACE of SWORDS. I look up at Joyce. ”Oh wow.” I say. ”This card is making some connections for me. It is bringing to mind a specific heart break that I’m basing a novel on. The person it is making me think of did not mean too but did break my heart.” I pause for a long moment.
”I helped a little.”
”You need to work on that book. What is something about that relationship that you are grateful for?”
I sit and think. ”They took my writing seriously.” I say. ”They were one of the first people to see me as talented and that I should share my writing instead of hiding it.” With that statement I proved that the ace of swords card can uncover a new way of thinking about certain situations. It can indicate a push to stop certain self delusions and focus on a brighter and more realistic perspective
Joyce encourages me to let go and put less energy into focusing on past relationships and focus more on the relationships that I have now. Common sense to some but revelatory to me. I may need to only do this to a point as past heart break is pretty good for poems and writing. There needs to be a certain amount of conflict or unrequited feelings.
The final portion of the read revolves around decisions and feelings of worry and fear of the future in regards to life and goals and feeling far behind others when it comes to success and progress. I am presented with the hanged man card. Joyce tells me this could represent a release of control and encourages me to not stress about all the decisions all at once and right now. It is ok to not have it all figured out. I feel comforted by this. I ask Joyce.
”Do you think that some of my stress about not being completely convinced of many things, comes from the whole being raised in a religion that claims to have every part of life sorted and planned? Because it is scary not knowing what will happen when I die but I’m much happier being more flexible in my brain space. My mind puffs are much puffier without organized religion deflating them.”
”That is certainly a very good interpretation.” Joyce tells me. It is then that she lets me know our time is up. We stand and I gather my tote. ”Give me a hug.” I do so and it is a wonderful soft hug. It could be due to the heat but I feel light headed and full of a inner fizz. It was 55 dollars well spent. I did not feel my soul opening up to satan. I simply felt freshly imbued with new found purpose and lust for living my life.
If I try, I can still remember at least one of the 13 articles of faith. The articles of faith are a small and concise over view of what The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints stand for in regards to their beliefs and teachings. They use the term ‘Men’ a lot.
When a little girl in Primary ( Sunday school for little kids) I remember my mother helping me learn them by heart. Each article was no longer than one sentence. The one I can remember and deconstruct from a intersectional feminist perspective, is the following: ‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions.’ I can even still sing it to the tune that my mother taught.
Yes people should be held accountable for their actions. Shame the world we live in still only seems to think this way about women of colour, single mothers, men of colour and not white boys who rape and gun down innocent people. Shame that someone as bad and horrible as Donald Trump can become President. If the Mormons believe that men should be punished for their own sins, how come so many voted for Donald Trump? Surely he can be considered a ‘man’ with many of his own yet to be punished for ‘sins.’ It seems that the members of he church that live where the church was started (Salt Lake City, Utah, think that openly bragging about ‘Grabbing her by the pussy’ is less offensive than the alternative the politically experienced Hilary Clinton. She was not without faults of her own, but surely the level of sins was less horrifying?
When I was 18 years old I slowly began loosing my religion. It was my first year at university and I am living away from home and the church community. It is so exciting and scary to be learning so much and finding out that perhaps not every single thing my parents taught me to believe, was what I was going to continue to believe. Who was it that said that A woman who reads is a dangerous thing? I was becoming a dangerous thing. I was becoming autonomous.
On a weekend home from uni, visiting my family, I am asked to have a ‘little chat’ with the leader of this small town branch of the church, the branch that I grew up in. I am in the Bishop’s office after church. I sit in a chair and stare into my lap with tears of shame as he tells me with such kindness that I am on a slippery slope away from the lord and all he has in store for me. My parents never pressured me about church after I left for university. I remember one day when my parents had the missionaries over for dinner, my Father introduced me as follows, ”This is my eldest daughter, Jess. She goes to university and she’s a punk!” There was not a hint of disappointment in his voice. He was proud. Luckily I was into the music and not in it to horrify my parents.
I am sure they worried and stressed about me. Looking back I am so glad my parents did not stop loving me just because I started doing my own thing. They did not have the controlling parental style of other Mormon parents. As far as my parents are concerned they could only teach us what they thought was right and teach us to think for ourselves. Do I sometimes fantasize about drinking wine with my mum and dad? yes, I do. But, you cannot always get everything you want. Seeing my parents tipsy will never be realized and that not a bad thing.
A few years later that very man who lectured me would get himself into a rather large-scale scandal. He would go to visit a young single mother in his capacity as a church leader bringing back a member of his flock. What would end up happening is that that married man with two children of his own, would get the single mother pregnant, leave his wife of 20 years or more and start a whole new family. This was pretty much the final nail in the coffin that was my membership and interaction with the church. I felt so sick at the hypocrisy that man exhibited and the power he abused. . The single mother he impregnated is a cousin of mine ( I have many) and she and him are very happy. I am happy for my cousin.I hope he treats her with respect.
Angela Davis said ’The seduction of assimilation is one of the greatest barriers to moving forward. Once that mirage of church perfection was shook and muddied I started thinking that in order to be the educated and critical thinking person I wanted to be, I had to let go of a few things that were holding me back. I had to jump of the cliff and hope swimming came naturally. I found it impossible to keep a steady balance or cohesion between my blossoming intersectional feminism and being an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ And Latter Day Saints. The wire cutters came out, but cutting was not the painless quick operation I hoped it would be.
This is what was rushing through my mind as I stared in horror at the electoral results for the state of Utah. On The New York Times website. The entire state of Utah is coloured in red. 375,000 votes went to Trump, 46.8%. The state of Utah chose Trump over Hilary. The state that does not separate church from the state, chose a sexist, intolerant of any religion that is not white Christianity. A racist and grotesquely wealthy man. Why? I suppose that any religion that is not run by a bevy of old middle class white Americans, must seem pretty freaky to their white fragility. If I sound bitter and snarky it is because that is exactly how I feel.
I sit and stare at that red state and want to throw my phone so hard it smashes. The shame and anger rushes up into my head and makes me feel dizzy. I am desolation. The rage in my heart is throbbing. The epiphany is painful. If you are Australian and you are an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, you have contributed to this election result. No amount of overt and frankly almost aggressive acts of kindness can make up for this.
The puritanical values of The church are things I can no longer silently agonize over, in an attempt not to offend a few people. I am ashamed to have been ever affiliated with a church and community that would think this is acceptable.
Where do they draw the line?
When Julia Gilliard was Prime Minister, I overheard a conversation about how disgraceful it was she was not married. I spoke up and said, ”That does not have anything to do with her ability to run the country.”
”It matters to ME.” One aunt said. The same aunt who told me she had crossed the street every time she saw a black man, while visiting America.
The values of the church do not give women bodily autonomy. They do not believe in abortion, so who do you think wants to help close down Planned Parenthood? They do not believe in marriage equality. Black people were not allowed to join the church until the 1970s. This always bothered me: If god and the church was true, then why was the church just as racist as everyone else at that time? Why didn’t the church include everyone from the start? Including same sex attractd people and queer people and trans people?
I have had conversations with male members of the church. I have had a relative actually use the ‘’ your vagina is a car’’ analogy on me. I have explained the fallacy of that belief. I have yelled in exasperation ”MY VAGINA IS NOT A CAR, UNCLE WILLIAM.” I have tried to calmly explain that it is not what a women wears that causes rape: It is rapists.
I have tried explaining about the 1 in four young women who will be sexually abused by the time they are 16? That is not a dress issue. This is rape culture.
I have tried to make them see that women should not have to be ‘protected’ men need to step up and be better. It has fallen on deaf ears and all I get is a headache of mammoth proportions.
This is not to say that I was raised without love. I was not. I love my parents. I have a great many problems with the church values. Some of the ideas in the church are lovely, being married to someone for eternity, can be considered two ways: lovely and batshit awful. My Dad always said that he could not think of anything worse than being stuck with all his relatives for time and eternity. That is right, people! My father said it way before Stephen Fry said it https://youtu.be/GzfCtGFgRSkand got all the glory. Which is why it can be argued that my father is as quick witted as Stephen Fry. No, my Dad is not on twitter.
I am simply trying to work through my confusion at a religion that tried to shape me, that has been known to blames rape victims and to encourage women to a purpose that seems, to me, revolves around procreation and pandering to the cisgender heteronormative white male ego.
Growing up I was taught about the second coming of Christ. It was going to be this big judgement day where all the obedient and believers in the gospel would be saved. While all the wicked and evil in the world would be destroyed. I remember being quite scared of this stuff. I remember being taught that as long as you believed and tried hard, you would be alright. You had to believe, though, in the lord and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I was taught that you would know about the end of days and that we were living in them now. ‘There would be wars and rumours of wars.” I wonder if the Mormons here in Australia are thinking what I am thinking (more then likely they are not) that it is the Mormons who will help to bring about the destruction of the world, destruction that will not have the spiritual repercussion that they know to be so true. There will be no second coming of Christ, there will be dark days with no heaven to take the dead. Yes that is a dark thought and don’t worry, I have hope on happier days.
But what if the church is true, Jess? What will you do then? You little heathen. You were born into the gospel by parents sealed in the temple. There is more expected of you. You were raised in the one true church, do not forget that.
I had to delete an uncle from my facebook because his profile picture was of a painting of the Mormon prophet and lots of quotes from parts of The Book Of Mormon specifically from the section in Alma and Moroni. Quotes about how this ‘Prophet’ would sort all this out and help the faithful get to the top tier of the three levels of heaven. How this prophet would wipe out the non believers ad the devil himself. I did not only delete the one uncle, I deleted many faithful relatives, they would just get upset and hurt by the stuff I feel compelled to write. I feel it was an act with mutual benefit. I could do me and they could do them and we would only need to interact in real life at family things.
The quote / book of mormon quote that was shared was the following
Alma 48:10 And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.
And this one.
Alma 48:17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
It is not great literature. It is also, it can be argued, nonsense. My uncle’s brother commented: ”If it was certain we’d all get there (heaven) then we wouldn’t need to be here… Why didn’t they go for the gold class option and say Jesus instead of Moroni? Seems a bit redundant to say if everyone was perfect then the devil would have no sway… Goes against the whole master plan doesn’t it… Removes the point of the exercise? ” There was about 30 comments and I stopped reading. It was then I knew what I had to do for my own mental health and personal freedom of expression.
I remember asking my mother about this one true church business. I mean don’t they all say stuff like that? My mother assures the young 10 year old me, that ‘we are the truest of the true’.
When I was 11 I was told a story in Sunday school about a girl with disabilities. It was read from a copy of the Mormon magazine for little kids, called The Friend. In the story a girl’s disability is likened to being a flower that is placed in a shabby and cracked flowerpot. But, it is ok as the shitty pot is just for this life on earth, when in heaven that flower will be put in a beautiful and pristine flowerpot for all eternity.
The lesson was that I and other kids with hospital visits and inoperable’ operable medical problems, were meant to just be happy and grateful for everything as we had chosen this life and were made aware of the obstacles in the place our spirits lived before going to earth. The Mormon church really loved inspiration porn. I really wish I had known that term when I was young.
I think it is this mentality, the mentality that this life is just a pre game show to something afterwards that is much better, can make you less likely to try and change things in a concrete way or to have a more malleable way of thinking. When remember things I have said or done because of my religious convictions, I am mortified. It is my constant goal to learn, unlearn and relearn as much as I can. to what is going on around you in the here and now.
I want to make this world a good and inclusive place. This world deserves to be saved and kept from going under. I want to see all the different people in this world to feel safe and we are not there. I refuse to simply shake my head and say something like ”Oh it is just like they say in the scriptures, we will all be with heavenly father before long.”
No, the time for prayers is over. The status quo must be shaken and pulled out from the roots. It is no time to become complacent. We must maintain a healthy and productive rage.
I was told that in doing all the things that I was told not to do (sex before marrying, drinking anything alcoholic, kissing girls, trying recreational drugs, reading feminist theory, spending blissful Sundays doing anything other than going to church) would bring me sadness and disappointment from my father in heaven.I was also taught that lowering my standards would bring me great sadness. That is why that episode of South Park is so good, the one where the boys go to heaven and find out the one true faith is Mormons. Then you see two missionaries are talking on a white cloud and one says, ”We are going to go learn about how stealing hurts us on the inside.” Again, it is my father who finds this hilarious. My mother is not as amused.
The deep inner sadness has not resulted from me breaking all these rules. I suffer from depression and no bible story can fix that, on the contrary it has bought me nothing but joy and happiness. I was given a patriarchal blessing at age 17 and i wish I still had a copy of it. I remember one line in it, ”Doubt is a destroying agent.” Doubt in the church, that is. I have found my curious and enquiring mind to be the opposite of a destructive force.
It is now in the present political climate that I feel that I may not have done enough. I have deleted my Mormon relatives from Facebook as it was too much emotional energy trying to explain and educate. With ardent faith such as the type I associate with the particular religion in which I was raised, explaining that birth control being easily acquired is not something that effects your choice to simply not take it, is not affective.
One of my Mormon uncles threw away all their Cat Stevens records after it was revealed that Cat Stevens had converted to the Muslim religion and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. It was only acceptable if people were converted to the Mormon faith.
Growing up I have heard members of the church make homophobic jokes, racist jokes and sexist jokes. I witnessed a fiancé of one of my cousins grill my brother on what scale of attractiveness he thought our then 13 year old sister was. The fiancé said it was important to know what level of hotness his sisters were. He steadfastly ignored my outraged expression. I was without the vocabulary at the age of 16 to articulate my rage out loud.
This fiancé would later tell my sister that the reason he hated me so much was because he had never met a girl younger than him who was just as smart if not smarter. This man is now married with four kids of his own and lives in the states.
In 2015 during one of the Republican primary debates, Donald Trump declared that destroying political correctness was his No 1 campaign issue. No doubt it worked and all the conservative far right wing white people rejoiced at the prospect of no longer having to worry about being held accountable for their words. It was not only Americans who rejoiced at this promise, it is people here in Australia, even if some of those people did not realize that their outraged exclamations of ‘’reverse racism’ and ‘its political correctness gone mad’’ and fear of anything that is not middle class white christianity, have contributed to the second wave of popularity that Pauline Hanson is enjoying.
People who say these things but are not able to see the thread that connects these comments and beliefs with harmful political ideologies. These ideologies are in power now and there are people who will not survive the next four years as a result. Helen Razor has written that we should not hate individuals but hate the system. I hate so many systems. It bothers me that he faith I was raised to have is a faith that seems built on a base of imperialist white heteronormative capitalist Patriarchy. The very basis that this diminutive feminist killjoy wishes to dismantle.
Is that enough, though? Is it enough to simply expand the circle of moral concern? No. But it is a start. I will continue to read poetry.I will continue to read zines, see live music and encourage the creative output of so many talented people that I am lucky to know and be friends with, as well as the creative output of people I do not know personally. That and perhaps taking Helen Razor’s advice which is to read some actual books by Karl Marx.
It was so hot on Monday and I knew it would change by nightfall. I had a day of heat avoidance to fill. I would not waste it in a house that is sans air conditioning. That was what I did growing up on the farm. There was no where to hide back then. That was then and this is now. Now I could simply get a train to the city and find somewhere air conditioned to hole up in. I could not take the silly smile of my face as I sat inside a nice cool train carriage with a new novel in my tote bag. I was going to the National Gallery Of Victoria to see the David Hockney Exhibition. I had been a bit meh at the concept at first. I mean, how many white guys did the NGV need? I guess I was still a little disappointed that when I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition in Sydney, I had found it to be very small. I had hoped for more of her paintings to be on display.
There was hardly a line for the tickets, just a couple in front of me who were having a loving time. The young woman giving her boyfriend an affectionate slap on the bottom as they waited. They got their tickets. I was about to step up to the ticket booth when a tall older white man simply walked past me. It was as if I was invisible to him. He simply walked past me and even nudged me a little on his way. I spoke up and said. ”You just walked past me and I have been standing her the whole time.” I then walked up to the ticket booth and tried to get my rage and heart palpitations down to a regular thrum. He did not even say sorry. I am short not fucking invisible, I think in a loud shout of indignation. He was not so old that he was dottery or had simply made a mistake. It is important that you know this. I swear that sometimes my entire existence is akin to Sophie in the land of giants. Luckily I don’t get eaten, I just get incredibly exasperated at the self involvement of old white men, wherever I go.
When I walk into the first gallery space I am confronted by an onslaught of colourful joy and bright posters of ipad made artworks. They are printed and pinned to the wall. Each one different and amazing. There are many impressions of flowers and candles and the changing light of day through widows. There are phones on the walls as well that show some of the works taking shape like magic before your eyes. I walk around and around the first section in wonder. It is like wandering through someones brain who is in love with everything around them. Even an ashtray with some half smoked cigarettes, is a loving beacon to temptations given in to and sated desires. In the image of the ashtray Hockney has seen the beauty and possibility held in the minute moments of a day. Even the ipad image of a bright ball of light behind the black scrawled words of I AM GOING BACK TO BED, is not displayed as a sign of defeat, but more an acceptance of what you cannot change and simply doing what you can. Sometimes all you can do, the best thing to do, it to create one laste art and go back where you are happiest.
Outside this exhibition the city wavers in heat and wind. The sun burns. Here amongst the art, the light is bright and there are no dark corners. The air is cool but not freezing. I stand in front of the ash tray picture and stare for ages. Why do I love it so much? I am never so transfixed by ash trays in real life. I always think they look sad and smell bad. I always think about all the times I sat in a smoke filled room and had trouble breathing. Hockney’s ash tray is a glass one on a bright yellow table and the glass absorbs all the bright yellows and oranges and refracted light. It is not a sad and sorry state as it may have appeared had I seen it in person and not in an art gallery.
The next room has its walls completely taken up by square slabs of forest trees and branches that fill up the walls of the gallery. It is magical and also reminds me of art in children’s wards of hospitals. I guess you have to have spent a great deal of time in hospitals to make such a connection. The walls are very big and reach up high. Creating trees that stretch that high would have been difficult for a man of Hockney’s age, I would imagine. The sheer maths of the whole concept would be beyond me. The whole exhibition is from the last decade. That is astounding. I feel like the whole thing is a beautiful over flow of positive feeling. It is exactly what I need. Of course I find myself thinking cynical thoughts. Like, its easy to be creative and happy when you are so financially secure as Hockney is. How many people have an entire trust with people working for you? At least he using it to create beautiful things before death takes him from us.
Hockney’s large scale landscapes of Yosimite park are really beautiful and it facinates me as to how he manages to capture the play of sunlight and how it reflects on puddles or in the sky, through trees and such. My most loved one depicts a puddle so enticingly that I wish I was there wearing gumboots, so I could decide whether to simply marvel at the perfect stillness, or, jump into it and shatter the serenity. I simply stand and stare at it with a tilted head and drunk smile. A gallery guard walks up beside me and says how it is his favourite as well. ”I like how the light plays off of the water and the colour of the trees.” I nod and smile.
”Would you like me to take a photo of you with the picture?” He asks.
”No thank you.” I say. ”I think it is beautiful enough on its own.”
”More beautiful with you.” He says.
I laugh softly. ”Thank you. But, I’m happy with a picture of it all on its own.” I say.
There is a room that has about seven or so blue benches in it. On the walls are paintings of chairs and people that are not quite right. They are at weird angles and seem to be sitting on a chair strangely or standing weird. You look at the walls and your eyes move al over the space. There is a mother and baby sitting on one of the benches and the Dad is taking a photo of them on his phone. He is standing far away so as to get the surroundings in the photo. In another room there is a large screen that is made up of smaller screens. The screen starts black and then square by square a scene appears of people juggling. Then another scened shows people throwing brightly coloured balls to each other as a tiny adorable dog trots around their feet. There is an old women standing on a bright ottoman. I sit and watch the dog for ages. I love how happy it seems to simply be around the activity even if the little thing cannot seem to figure out how to join in on the fun. The little dog simply trots around and sniffs at the balls as the sit on the floor for a second before someone picks it up and throws it to another. I am that little dog, I think.Or, more accurately: we all feel as if we are the little dog at some point. To be specific creativity is the little dog. Is that dog a super special personal pet of David Hockney? Or is it a pet owned by one of the jugglers or the people playing with the bright coloured bouncy balls?
There is a thirty minute interview with David Hockney that is filmed in the exhibition. I watch it twice. He is dressed like a mix up of old English Farmer and artist. I am especially taken with his tweed jacket and bright yellow tie. He tells of throwing away his paint brushes and paints as he totally embraced the new innovative ways to create his art. He sits amongst his Yosomite works and discusses how he never looks back as painting is all about the now. He does explain that he considers happiness to be a retrospective thing.
“Happiness is a retrospective thing, I think. It’s only when you look back, you can think oh, I was happy at that time.”
The long rectangular gallery that exhibits the entire collection of Hockney’s 81 Portraits And 1 Still Life is overwhelming at first glance. You simply have to take a deep breath and have little sits on the seating provided, in order to take them all in. There are famous people like Barry Humphries ( who did look splendid in his dapper as all get out suit and hat and shoes combination. I was far more taken by this fellow. The hair stylist to the A-list: Earl Simms. I like how his posture and gaze is inviting and not bored. A few of the portraits show faces that are less than ecstatic at having to sit in the same chair for three days straight. I feel like Earl is about to laugh or is at least thinking thoughts that are amusing to himself. He could just be incredibly excited to be sitting for a potrait for David Hockney.
This is a portrait that Hockney did of one of his L.A home’s house keepers. Her name is Patricia Choxan. Her gaze is serious and thoughtful. I wondered as I looked at the paintings if each person was paid the same in order to sit for Hockney. Did they get paid at all? Was it an honour just to be asked? Did Hockney pay his cleaners extra for the sitting for the portrait? I found myself really hoping that was the case.
This is the portrait that begun the entire series. The man with his head in his hands is J-P Goncalves de Lima, long time gallery assistant to Hockney. Hockney found him this way after the news of a young man who committed suicide. A young man dear to them both. David found him and since he looked exactly how they both were feeling, Hockney decided to paint it. It must have been so difficult to paint this portrait, but the feeling that it had to be done, would have powered them both through. Who can stand before this painting and not feel such intense sorrow and loss for everyone who has ever lost someone in this way. Everyone knows someone who has felt this way first hand. The colours are bright and this juxtaposed against the very real sadness in the man’s posture creates a sense of hope through pain. This to shall pass and rear up inside again and pass and return. This portrait makes me think of all the times that I have ever seen my own father sitting like this. The clothes are different. The chair and rug is different. The posture and physical embodiment of despair? very much the same.
In a ”post truth” world and a world that seems happy to let the idiots take over, there is something cathartic about seeing this male human in a posture of frailty and woe.
The portrait of Julia Green is my pick of portrait with best outfit. It was difficult to choose amongst so many well dressed people. But Julia’s outfit caught my eye and drew me to it like a magpie to a bottle top. I have a particular perchant towards black and white outfits with bright coloured tights. It was interesting to walk through the exhibition and pay attentions to each person’s choice of footwear. Hockney always painted the shoes with great care and it is interesting to see how much the shoes told you about each person.
The final section of the exhibition was in a large dark room with a large screen on each wall. The screens each showed the progression of a season as experienced in Yorkshire, the north of England. There was summer, autumn, winter and spring. It was magnificent and awe inspiring and above all it was calming. I stood in the centre of each of the screens in turn. It was like walking through into the other side of the world. The colours change and alter as time goes on. Seeing the winter season was like walking into a haze of white. If you stood close up and blocked out anything from the peripheries, it was like drowning yourself in something pure and blinding.The whiteness gets you feeling dizzy and disoriented.
I have always loved Autumn the best out of all the seasons. Seeing the leaves changeand the foliage of Yorkshire countryside, change right before my very eyes nearly made me cry with the emotive wave that this video art instilled within me. Seasons change and comeback. Even if you don’t.
This week has been a week of waking up sad. It is as if as soon as I open my eyes and feel that sleep is gone and the day cannot be avoided, it hits me. I am old and will continue to get older. I will die. I will not have done all I want to do. I am wasting valuable time even having these self defeating thoughts. Why am I wasting time? Friday morning brings with it a blessing. A very concrete reason to get out of bed and attempt to get myself better. It is psych appointment day. I like my psychologist. I get up out of bed and turn on the radio so as to have some friendly voices in the back round as I get dressed after my shower. I wonder how many other triple R breakfaster listeners are getting ready for mental health related appointments? How many are avoiding them?
There had been good things about this week. I had received a package in the mail. It was from Celeste and it was so lovely that I almost cried with how strong the feeling hit me: being loved and loving back. I had long stopped being angry at her. It felt weird to even look back at those past feelings with anything other than shame and embarressment. Chalk it up to confusion deep in my cells. I lay the gifts out on the bed and gaze at them in turn. There is a purse in the shape of a slice of fairy bread. The sprinkles are made from coloured sequins. There is a bar of soap with packaging that contains a poodle picture and the words YOUR A FANCY BITCH. I laugh. There is a hanky in such lovely packaging that I think I will never open it and sully the hanky with my snot. The picture on the hanky is of a little girl and some black cats. You can frame hankys if they are pretty enough surely. There is a photograph with a note written on the back in black texta. I run my fingers over the words knowing that Celeste has written those words with her own slender hand. The photo is one I know she has taken herself and gone to all the trouble of getting it printed.
My beautiful Jess
I don’t really ”do” christmas but these just had your name on them. So proud of you and your literary presence: I hope the purse does not make you like your egg purse any less. Love always C. XXX
I felt like such a society lady, two purses to alternate between! Somedays I may want to carry coins, myki card and lip balm in an egg and other times it may feel like a fairy bread purse kind of day. How extravagant!
As I get dressed into my high waisted shorts and blue and white striped t shirt, I consider if today will be more tearful or contemplative or angry, when speaking with my psychologist. The first few were mostly crying. It is a nice cool morning as I walk to the train station. There are birds singing and as I cross the street I see a woman pushing a small young boy in a wheel chair. The woman is chatting to the boy as they go in the opposite direction to me.
On the train into the city I read my poetry book about the life of Frida Kahlo.I put a postcard in as a placeholder for the page that holds the sentence that makes me think it would make a good tattoo if I was to ever get a text tattoo.
The visible wings of the misshapen angel.
I smile at the thought of how that line applies to Frida and myself. I wish my parents had purchased me a book on Frida Kahlo back when I was 11 years old and crying in front of the full length mirror in my bedroom. I was looking at how deformed my body was pre spine surgery. Oh Frida, better that I become aquainted with you now than never.
I get to my psychologist 10 minutes early. I hand over my new mental health plan from my GP. This makes me feel quite accomplished and organized. Not only did I sort it out, I actually brought it with me to the relevant appointment.
My Psychologist comes out to the small but pretty waiting room (there are always fresh flowers on the coffee table and water jug with glasses).
When I sit on the couch across from her I am talking about the Frida book that I have in my hand. I could spend the entire session simply waxing poetic about why I love that particular artist. My psychologist knows this all to well and manages to focus the session back wher it belongs: on me and my feelings. I squirm as she asks me how I am.
I am very good at saying I am fine to people when they ask me that. In fact I prefer it. I hate being a downer to people unless they are are a white male asshole. If I did that here I would not get anything out of the sessions.
So, I tell her the truth. I tell her about my morning sads. I tell her about what I am working on in regards to writing about being raised mormon. I tell her how it is affecting me and bringing up all this stuff that is slowly festering away inside of chest most of the time on most days. I cry very little. I do get angry.
She tells me the anger is a good thing and that it is good and healthy that I am writing about this stuff. It is good but it is also dangerous for me emotionally and mentally.
”Did you know that mormons in America voted for Trump. How can my relatives have faith in a church as racist as all that?!”
”I want to write about growing up mormon. I want to tell it how it was for me. I want my parents to understand that just because i find many faults with the church’s ideology. That does not mean that I think they are bad parents. I would not swap them for any other alternative.” I look at my shrink a moment. ”I would not even swap them for Beyonce and Jay. Z as parents.”
She laughs a little and says that I am funny. She does not make notes when I say something funny. She makes notes when I say serious things.
I like how when my psych says that we have run out of time, she does not immediately get up and usher me out. She usually sits with me for ten or fifteen more minutes, trying to get me leaving her office on a more positive note. Or maybe she is more concerned with me on the days that she extends my hour.
When i exit the office and make my next appointment, I see a man sitting in the same seat in the waiting area that I was sitting in. we glance at each other and he looks away quickly as I am still smiling at him.
Coming out of the building and entering the city streets again, feels strange. I feel tired and drained and like I just want to either drop in a heap and cry or walk and walk untill I cannot walk anymore. Is it a strategy to to quell depression by simply running yourself beyond the point of exhaustion?
I eat. It is a little past midday and I have not had breakfast. I walk towards Elizabeth st and make my way to some comfort food in the form of Chicken parmas and chips and lemonade at Shnitze. There is a cue but it moves fast. I pay the handsome young asian guy, take my table number and go sit at the window so I can people watch as I eat. Knowing how good these tasted, even when all messed up by meds, makes me appreciate them even more now. When the chicken, tomato sauce and grilled gooey cheese, is placed before me, I get hand tremours in my excitement to get it all in side my mouth. People think eating alone is a sign of having no friends. For me, I find eating alone a lot less stressful. Maybe thats because as far back as I an remember, people have always showed a great deal of interest in what or how much I eat. Eating alone and unwatched is one of my pet feelings. A feeling that I love like I love a kitten. It could simply be due to all the preservatives contained in the Shnitze chicken and chips, that made it taste good to me even when my taste buds were missing in action thanks to the antibiotics cocktail I was on.
After eating as much as I can, I leave for my next activity that I hope will lift my spirits a little above the emotion sharing hangover that is swirling within. I get a number 19 tram to Sydney Rd. I go to Tinning Street Gallery space to look at the paintings on small postcard sized canvases by Shaun Tan. They are painting done of cities all over the world that Shaun Tan has seen on his travels. There are also paintings of Brunswick, his home of ten years.
Tinning st gallery is down an ally with lots of amazing street art. The space is open and it is calming as soon as I walk in. I have had anxiety attacks here…I push that thought away and look at the cute baby being held by their Dad as they look at the paintings together.
There is something about seeing the artist’s painted impressions of the world around him, that is soothing and nostalgic to me. It could be because the paintings are small. Seeing the hugeness of the world reflected back at me, through expressive and beautiful and small paintings, makes me feel like the world is big and overwhelming. The world is also made up of many tiny details that can be focused in on if you know how to, every now and again.
It was the paintings of night time scenes that I love the best. It seems like a sort of witchcraft the way the artist manages to create moody evening scenes. It seems like You are looking at the city street sprawled out in front of you and if you stepped a little closer you would be in it. The one pictured seems to be painted from the view seen through a car windscreen or while riding a bike through the night. It feels as if you are moving through it at an incredible speed, causing the street lights and head lights to warp and waver.
I walk around the gallery 3 or 4 times and stand at varying distances from the paintings. There are rows of paintings that are a well above my eye line and height. I wonder if this affects my perception of the paintings that require me to crane my neck up and stand on tip toes so I can get a little closer. I wish that I could ask the Dad if he would mind letting me sit on his shoulders so I can look close up at the small paintings standing on the highest shelf. When I leave the gallery I have decided that though the small city scape paintings are lovely, I prefer his weird and surreal children’s book illustrations.
Then the voice of my mother whispers with the memory of words she has spoken: ”Is nothing sacred?”
Perhaps but the answer is different for everybody. For me it is wandering an art gallery. For me is the kiss on the scare on my belly left side, as I switch off a lamp. The scar that I received while out cold on a operating table, while he sat in a waiting area and waited with my parents, for news. It is me sitting in the garden with a book. It is the sound of him playing guitar in the other room as I write. It is drinking a glass of water after making love and giggling. Is there anything so scared that I will not write about it? No. But there are secrets not mine to tell. Some promises are sacred, not any that I ever made to a heavenly father as a child, though. I break them like windows.
I go to the art and framing store. Outre Gallery to pick up something I got framed. It is a print from an art exhibition that Leong and I went to in Nara, Japan. It was after feeding the deer. It was a retrospective of a Nara born artist that had been working for over 3 decades. Time vanished and five hours later we were finished and drunk on creative possibility realized. The artist’s name is Seiji Fuji Shiro. The work I had printed is of a black girl holding a playing card that has no numbers, only some abstract shapes and squiggles. It is an image made completely from coloured paper and the border is a forest with some playing cards placed amongst the green foliage. The picture makes me think of chance and the roll of the die and how slippery my hold on every minute of the day, is. Most of all the image reminds me of a very good day. I cannot wait to bring it home and hang it up on the bedroom wall.
While I wait for the woman to go get my art work, I look at the display of pins and badges and broaches. I see one in the shape of a knife. I fall in love with it. It looks as if it may be a little bit sharp at the point. It is created by the person behind the brand Bad Girls Art Club. It is shiny and promises bloodshed if used with ill intent. It reminds me of another piece of jewellery that I had given to me once by a blaggard and a fake. This one is better. This one will be a gift for myself from myself: a physical manifestation of closure. I pay for it and immediately pin it to my lapel under my Feminist Killjoy badge. They are perfect accomplices.
I am given the framed artwork. It is wrapped in bubble wrap. I exit the shop with it tucked under my left arm.
Written for and performed at the 2016 Digital Writers Festival 11th of November: 6pm
The internet that I imagine is a intersectional feminist utopia. Some People think that would be a bad thing. Some People think that is a way of silencing people. But the only people that would be silenced in an internet that is a intersectional feminist utopia are people like the person who sends dick picks to their prospective date as a greeting. The only things that could be silenced are the porn rings started by teenage boys and men, that take sexy photos, given to them in private, by women who are simply showing their own bodily autonomy.
If someone was going to send an unsolicited dick pick from their computer or phone, in my intersectional feminist utopia, that dick pick sender would get a little electric shock from his device straight into his finger tips as soon as he tries to press send.
In my intersectional feminist internet utopia, white feminism would no longer be the default poster child for feminism. When you entered the internet of a intersectional feminist utopia, there would be woman of all colours and non normative body types, you would know just as much about Muslim feminists as you would about disability feminism, the rights of Indiginous Autsralian women, would no longer be overlooked or ignored. They would be better understood and actual improvements carried out. As would Trans inclusive feminism. These would no longer be considered by some as ‘inconvenient’ or
‘too complicated’. I know we can do this.
In the internet I imagine that is an intersectional feminist utopia, I would not get random messages from men claiming to be the voice of reason, annoying and baiting me as I try to concentrate on my writing and educating myself to better help my internet imaginings to become a reality.
Men telling me in no uncertain terms that I have it all wrong and that it is feminism that is the delusion. One such person, who was a friend from years ago, felt the need message me from LA to ask me about how I felt about the film about Men’s Rights Activists no longer being shown at Palace Cinemas. When I commented that I was pleased. He said that I was a bad feminist as ‘the film had been made by a woman’.
He wanted to know how I could be so unsupportive of ‘One of your own.’
This film gave a platform to a man who believed that rape was acceptable. Woman can be damaging to the cause of intersectional feminist utopias being built. This guy did not actually care about any of it he simply wanted to purge all his faux intellectual bullshit at me feet and then rub my face in it and then call me a fascist.
I did tell him ‘Fuck Off.’’ I then went back to my own writing. When I went to check later he had sent essay long ramblings.
In my intersectional feminist utopia, guys like that would not be able to send such rubbish. The internet I imagine would look for certain phrases and words and if the message was seen to have a substantial amount of racist, sexist or rape culture material, the person about to send it all would be redirected to a host of webpages that could educate and illuminate the person. It would be up to them to take the time to read or watch the talks/articles.
I know it may not happen, that people would find ways around it. But, this is the internet I want to imagine for now.
Today my friend recently received a message from a guy on OK Cupid who was a 53% match to her. His actual profile name was The Triggering. Straight up he was making light of a serious and unpleasant emotional and very visceral affect that trauma survivors can experience when faced with something that makes them have flash backs. Here is what this person sent to my friend as a message.
‘’Do you know what it is like to learn that your whole life is a lie?
Your thoughts, actions, interests and perceptions of reality…all a misguided projection of reality stemming of ignorance if not stupidity.
This is how an ex-feminist feels after waking up from a cozy utopian hallucination.
The ex-feminist would probably feel like a fool. Knowing that all along they were causing more harm than good
Unknowingly promoting censorship, segregation, indoctrination and bad science.
Time to take the red pill. Feminism is a cultural cancer in disguise. Designed to enslave our minds.”
In the internet I imagine the intersectional feminist utopia internet, minds have been freed from the enslavement that is white capitalist patriarchal oppression.
In the internet that I imagine, The Triggering, is someone who does not exist anymore. Not because they have been shot from a cannon into the sun, but, because they read some excerpts of Bell Hook’s, and Andre Lorde’s books and poetry and actually listened to the women around them instead of simply trying to ‘obtain’ them sexually. His own ignorance and stupidity would dawn on him and he will see how much he needs an intersectional feminist utopia in the interwebs and in real life.
The intersectional feminist utopia that I imagine the internet to become, is good for all of us. To make the internet that I imagine when should we start in building it? You might ask.
We already have. We just need to keep going.
It was a comedy of errors that started out my day yesterday yesterday. The small kinds that do not matter so much to me usually. But yesterday was not just any other day, It was my youngest sister’s birthday. It was the day I was going to be on a panel about Literary communities. It was lucky that I often leave the house two hours earlier than I should. I am paranoid about being late to things, about getting somewhere and not having time to feel comfortable in the new surroundings. It does not matter if the setting is not new. I still need to feel comfortable and have my bearings, like where the toilets are and the fire exits.
I listen to Beyonce as I walk to the train station. It is a sunny/ cloudy day. There is wind blowing my freshly straightened hair all about my face. I was walking and worrying. I knew that today was the U.S election. I was following the progress with dread and fear and a stupid hope that it maybe all alright. I get to the train station and fish around my tote, looking for my coin purse in the shape of an egg, it had my myki in it and my house key. The egg purse was not in my tote. ”Fuck.” I say out loud. I forget that ear buds do not stop people near you, from hearing you speak out loud. They just make me unable to sense when someone is near me and able to hear my profanity. Like at that moment, an older woman was walking to the myki reader across from the one I was swearing near.
I make my way home. The house is locked and nobody is home. My key is in the purse that is inside the locked house. I swear again and louder this time as I am at my own front door. I check my social media and it is a mix of don’t panic and screen grabs of moments on The Simpsons. It will not leave me, this dread in my stomach. It is not simply nervouse about being up on stage and expected to be clever and informative, sort of dread. This is a dread that I have experienced a great many times when trying to discuss social justice and feminism with family members. That feeling of being struck by a pile of loud decrying bricks that are upset that you mentioned they may be bricks. Only it was not just a few misguided loved ones: it was millions of misguided strangers.
It is easier to fare evade on a tram. I walk to the tram stop. It takes a little longer and I am really working myself up into a tangle of worry. How am I going to speak to a bunch of hopeful and lovely passionate writers in embryo, when all I wanted to do was shout cry in horror? I wait for the tram and read things obsessively. ”Only 16% of votes have been counted.” ”What the fuck, Florida?” The tram comes and I get on it. I hope im not late to the panel. I text the organizer. I text my sister whose birthday it is, for the second time that day. ”It is your birthday and Trump may be elected. Good Grief.”
”That would put a dampner on things.” Is the text I get back. I will regret sending that pithy text. It just will not occur until later on.
I get off the tram on Collins st and practically run to The Wheeler Centre. The independent Publishing Conference is starting today and I will be on the last panel for the day. The general manager of Express Media will be my co panelist and I am secretly chuffed that I can share a stage with someone so much better qualified to discuss literary community than I am. I am not late. I arrive and the panel before mine is still on. I get to have a cup of tea, meet Pippa and catch the last ten minutes of the current panel.
Being on a panel run chaired by a friend is incredibly nice and calming. It also seems really surreal. When did I manage to make friends that did so many interesting and inspiring things? I swear that sometimes I still feel like the timid little waif from the bush who is still dreaming of becoming a writer and living in Melbourne. For 45 minutes Pippa and I discuss our community building trajectories. Both important and both different. I keep waiting for someone to ask me, ”Do you make money from your art?” Like in the youtube video of that little boy being interviewed. At the money question, his little face just crumbles in sadness. But, nobody asks me that. I say a few things that get tweeted and this thrills me. ”Be a fan and you will get fans.” ”People who are threatened by your desire to write, because it is a part of you that they cannot control; in the bin.” ”Go to things and be cute and funny. If you cant do that then just be yourself.”
The panel ends and there is a round of applause. I get asked to open up the open mic section of The Rag And Bone Scribble Salon, at Embiggen Books (near The Wheeler Centre) that is on at 6pm. That means I have about an hour to get something cheap to eat. Enough time to eat and check the election progress. I see it over and over and want to cry. I should not have sent that text to my sister. It happened. He won. I am not so much shocked as simply sad and limp with grief. If you love someone who is not a white cis gendered man then you understand what I am talking about. If you have any sort of disability, any religion that is not white christianity, fear is imminent. I wanted to check something quite particular in regards to the polls but, i ended up meeting a friend at The Moat and having pre event expresso martinis with her. She was about to take part in a pun competition r something like that. I was no help in helping her come up with any. I can only pun when it is accidental. The expresso martinis were excellent and I was so grateful to be able to discuss the current horror with someone who was equally discombobulated.
We are both sad and scared but not surprised. Australia has given Pauline Hanson a second wind of popularity. There is talk of privatizing Medicare and we are being inhuman to refugees. There is a mood in the air and it has been brewing for a while. I am grateful to not be where I was during the Australian election results. The one where Tony Abbot was elected. I was with my family as I had to go tell my parents that I needed a kidney transplant. I was surrounded by people who had voted for him. They were not worried at all. I sat there feeling sick to my stomach. I was exactly the type of person the Liberal government did not care about, a drain on resources and society. My parents and my aunt and uncle were not so worried as I. It is easy to be cavalier when you do not have so much to loose at the hands of an unsympathetic government.
I go to the party at Embiggen Books. I get to hear poetry from four people with distinct and beautiful voices.
Adolfo Aranjuez is the editor of Metro, Australia’s oldest film and media periodical. He is also the subeditor of Screen Education, a columnist for Right Now, and a freelance writer and speaker. In 2015, Adolfo was named one of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s 30 Under 30. More about him at http://www.adolfoaranjuez.com/
Eugenia Flynn is a writer, social commentator, and arts worker. Eugenia runs the blog Black Thoughts Live Here: Eugenia Flynn
and her work has been in such publications as Crikey, The Lifted Brow, The Guardian Australia, Peril Magazine, and VICE Magazine. She identifies as Aboriginal (Tiwi and Larrakiah), Chinese Malaysian and Muslim, working within her multiple communities to create change through writing, art, politics and community development.
Grace Vanilau plays across many creative spaces as an interdisciplinary artist. Her overactive imagination and fearlessness gives her permission to sample new things. She is a CCD practitioner, educator, spoken word artist, singer, songwriter and her recent acting debut in the highly acclaimed theatre production ‘Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’, keeps her active and out of trouble.
I open up the open mic part of the evening and read one poem. The people who follow me are amazing and it is so great to be somewhere on a night such as this one, that seems so very hopeful. I know this is not the case for many people in America those who are not white heterosexual cis gendered, which is actually a great chunk of people, whiteness is not the status quo people perceive it to be.
I got to talk intently with a beautiful queer woman who was doing her thesis on queer post apocalyptic young adult fiction. We had the same name and it was like we were two peas in a pod. I had been drinking some sparkling and I said, ”Do you think the most revolutionary thing we could do tonight, is to go home and make love to our non cis gender white partners?” She laughs and says that is a wonderful idea. It is here at this gathering of people who are talented writers and speakers and movers and shakers. Here, poetry was in power for a few precious moments.
I go home and I do make love. It seems like the only thing to do that was in my reach.
“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
everywhere.” WARSAN SHIRE
Back stage at The Melba Spiegletent, there was free champagne and babes in abundance. It was the party to celebrate and mourn the end of Cherchez la Femme. The poetess Gem and I were last minute ring ins to perform for the crowd as a couple of acts had pulled out. Should I even add that detail? Does it really matter how we got involved? I wonder sometimes if there are some details that should be left out in the name of self branding. It would look better perhaps, if people knew I was booked in months on advance. Oh look at her! she is so in demand! I was actually pleased to be asked to join in on the morning of the actual show. It meant I had little time to worry and cause stress acne. I had a friend’s birthday drinks in the afternoon. This meant that I would already be tipsy by the time I rocked up to the Spiegeltent at 7:30pm. A auspicious start to the proceedings.
It was great actually. There was a guy at the birthday drinks who thought it was cool and edgy to bait me about my passions and convictions (feminism and writing). ”I’m sorry.” I ended up saying. ”I am growing quite bored of this conversation.” And then went off to talk to someone else. He was a in real life troll. While at the birthday I drank a couple of gin and tonics. I was feeling pretty excited and attention hungry, by the time I arrived at my final destination for the evening. I had been asked to do a reading of some of my poetry or something. I chose something. I chose to simply talk about a few things that annoyed me and a few things that any normal person would keep to themselves, for fear of ridicule or soul crushing embarrassment.
While backstage with Gem, we drank champagne from plastic flutes and talked and giggled and talked some more. She did her reading before mine and was so classy and beautiful I could barely stand it. Her reading of the Ann Sexton poem Ballad Of The Lonely Masturbator made me blush a little in recognition of myself within the lines and stanzas.
''My little plum is what you said. At night, alone, I marry the bed. Then my black-eyed rival came.''
These are the poems from Gem’s readings can be read here and now. They are great poems. The kind of great that makes you not want to bother.
And then you do.
The Slaying by Linda Kunhardt
Once a week a nurse comes
to town to cut up a baklava.
I find executives in my pants.
The owner chooses a big one,
then the nurse hoists it.
I find executives in my pants.
She climbs up, poises a knife
and when the angle is right,
I find executives in my pants.
plunges the Farmington knife,
honey gushes out, and
I find executives in my pants.
Source: Poetry (May 2010)
The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator by Anne Sexton
The end of the affair is always death.
She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,
out of the tribe of myself my breath
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Finger to finger, now she’s mine.
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Take for instance this night, my love,
that every single couple puts together
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,
the abundant two on sponge and feather,
kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night alone, I marry the bed.
I break out of my body this way,
an annoying miracle. Could I
put the dream market on display?
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
a piano at her fingertips, shame
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night alone I marry the bed.
She took you the way a woman takes
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today’s paper says that you are wed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
tue 27-9-2016 2030 approx
<insert (desired/nerd) reference *in this space*>
- to commiserate with n. post[er]
sings “ …walk it // off in the // rain somehow, yeah…”#
to choose trope # 1 go to page x
to choose cliché # 2 go to page y
#Pulp (from ‘Street Lites’, lyrics by Jarvis Cocker, B-side ‘Do You Remember the First Time’)
Meridel LeSueur on belief as action from “The Fetish of Being Outside,” New Masses [a communist literary weekly], February 1935:
“Belief is an action for the writer. The writer’s action is full belief, from which follows a complete birth…a creation of a new nucleus of a communal society in which at least the writer can act fully and not react equivocally. In a new and mature integrity.”
Ruth Lechlitner, “Lines for an Abortionist’s Office” (c. 1936)
Close here thine eyes, O State:
These are thy guests who bring
To gods with appetites grown great
A votive offering.
Know that they dare defy
The words of law and priest—
(Better to let the unborn die
Than starve while others feast.)
The stricken flesh may be
Outraged, and heal; but mind
Pain-sharpened, may yet learn to see
Thee plain, O State. Be blind:
Accept love’s fruit: be sleek
Fat and lip-sealed. (Forget
That Life, avenging pain, will speak!)
Thrust deep the long curette!
See Meridel LeSueur on belief as action (1935 – above)
The poet closes with one of her own and it takes almost all of my restraint not to run away and refuse to follow on from such wonder.
There is a band called Face Face that plays after Gem and I hug her as soon as she gets off stage. We go get more champagne and then we dance to the band. We are the first to make use of the dance floor area. This wins us free t shirts.
I had been asked to send through a brief bio to be read out as my introduction. It was exactly one sentence long and mentioned none of my achievements over the past year.
So, when a proper intro that did mention my achievements, was read out I was surprised and astounded at my own awesomeness. This is a good feeling to have coursing through your brain and blood as you take a stage and invite an entire audience into the palm of your hand. The sound of applause helps as well. ”The bio I had sent through that morning.” I tell the crowd. ”Mentioned none of those amazing things. I had forgotten about every single one of them. The bio I had sent through had been. Jess Knight is a Melbourne based writer and proud scorpio girl.”
Im not sure what happens when I have a microphone in my hand and stage lights flooding all over me. It is nice. I like it. I like it alot. It is when I feel most powerful and in control. I talk about things that have been stuck in the recesses of my mind and can never be undone. The first hand job I ever gave was to the boy who I had crushed on since my first year of uni. I had thought he was so punk with his studded belt and those white singlets he wore. He introduced me to punk music. ”You might like this.” He had said, throwing a punk compilation on my lap. ”You’re a total weirdo.” He was not wrong. On the night he made the move, I was in his bed after a show. By ”first move” I mean taking my hand and placing it on his dick. The after math went all up the inside of my pajama sleeve. My Tweety Bird pyjamas. My grandmother had bought me those and now there was cum all up and in them. The guy did not even kiss me. I remember agonizing over that detail for months. ”All the punk boys I knew let me down.” I say. ”Because of one detail; they all went to private schools or all boy boarding schools. They grew up in the suburbs.”
I was drunk and I know this now because I have a memory of doing a faux sexy shimmy for the crown and saying how adorable i am. Ever seen a girl with metal rods in her spine try to shimmy? You missed something great and awful and weird all at once. When I came off the stage, there was applause and a few whistles and cheers. Gem hugged me and I swear I really think that if I got a hug and positive affirmations from her every time I performed, I would make funny and play the fool every day.
Someone should create a comic based on us two adorkable creatures. We could have adventures around the world and solve poetic crimes committed by the white cis gendered male poets. ”You are not Ginsburg!” we could shout and then clobber the offending man over the head with word weapons and mind tricks.
You were meant to come as your favourite feminist. I had finished the book about Frida Kahlo that I got for my birthday. That was the basis of my decision to take my inspiration from her short and eventful life story. Frida was most enamoured by her own existence and being aware of her own inner world and the word that existed around her. We even had similar spinal surgery. We both had bone removed from our hip in order to fuse our spines from getting any more twisted. Her surgery wound from that particular procedure, got infected. She was never ever anybody but herself and not sorry. That is why I went to the party and was simply myself. I invoked the spirit of my honorary art sister. I was myself and the flawed feminist that is always trying to do better, read more widely and battle the nasty inner thoughts that still plague me due to internalized mormon indoctrination. It is so insidious the thoughts that burst inside of me that are not from the person I am, but from the person I was. I am trying to replace her, it is a slow and long winded process.
I want a print of this framed and on my wall. I love this painting of hers that she did 1944, Broken Columns would have been a good source of comfort and revelation to 11 year old me. Oh I had a back brace just like hers. I did not have the breasts or the unwavering stare. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to be air. It would be awkward to try and dress up as Frida Kahlo. The cultural appropriation that would be involved would be grotesque in the levels of racial insensitivity. Especially as she was such a strong nationalist.When you have a body like mine, it is difficult to picture yourself – even in fun – as anybody else but you.