a hunger too divine

Winter is a time for freezing. In the winter I remember the ice at the centre of my bones that no warmth could break. In the winter I feel my hands go numb and purple. I remember a body hollowed, sterile and inhospitable. I freeze over like these fields. It's a ritual I half-remember and a rhythm my body sinks into, year after year, with the shortening of days.

Sometimes, all my body knows to do is reject. To make itself smaller, concave, as if flesh itself is recoiling from the world. To become untouchable. To be entirely self-sufficient, feeding by cannibalising itself.

But last winter something toppled this logic and up-ended my world.  I was choked with Valium and at the centre of increasingly elaborate religious delusions: I was special, chosen, a reincarnated fallen angel with important work to do. I felt desperately that I should go to midnight mass.

I approached the altar to receive a blessing. Psychotic as I was, I knew, somehow, that I wasn't ready for the bread and wine. The priest put his hands on my head and I remember how it passed through me like a shudder but warm, full of something. That night, I walked out of my flat barefoot and walked a mile or so through slushy piles of leaves to jump off a bridge. I have no idea what was going through my mind, no idea if I would have done it if someone hadn't pulled over and wrapped me in a coat seconds after I climbed onto the ledge in the early hours of Christmas Day. It's only after a year that I understand what happened.

I had tasted love and it made me want to die.

Faith, it turns out, is not the sedate and gentle thing I imagined it to be. It is confusing, often brutal, often violent, and transformative in the sense of losing the ground beneath your feet. I was baptised recently, and for three weeks afterwards I descended into an all-out breakdown. I was drunk constantly, using cocaine daily and benzos to cushion the nights. I didn't eat. In sober moments, I screamed and writhed because I couldn't stand to occupy this body, this brain, to be so raw at the mercy of my own self. I was blank-eyed in confusion. Baptism was supposed to be about being wrapped up in God's love – like a hug, right? It felt more like a punch in the face.

There's a poem for advent by Kathleen Raine called Northumbrian Sequence 4. One part of it goes:

"Let in the dark,
Let in the dead,
Let in your love tonight."

Loving, especially loving God, is usually caught in the language of kitsch and sentimentality. Honk if you love Jesus. Jesus as best friend, holding your hand, taking the wheel. But love is terrifying: as it warms, it burns. At the centre of love are five still-bleeding wounds. This is never going to be easy.

When I tasted my first communion, the chaos fell into place. This is love, I thought. Perfect, unconditional, all-forgiving love, given to everyone whether we think we deserve it or not. I didn't think I deserved it. And yet there I was, turning up to a nearly empty church on a Thursday morning, because I needed it.

I opened my hands. I ate.

dead girl theory II: the undead woman

The Neon Demon is the September issue of Dead Girl films. Nicholas Winding Refn took Marc Jacobs' NO MATTE SURFACES imperative to heart: even the darkest of darks glimmer in this film, the coy reflectiveness of pitch-black magazine pages. To watch it is to thumb deliriously, jealously, suicidally through a catalogue of unattainable intensities. Beauty is terror and terror pursues beauty, wants to eat beauty, wants to climb inside it. It's everything a vampire film should be.

Elle Fanning in the opening shot of The Neon Demon (2016) {x
Jesse, Elle Fanning's character, is a Dead Girl before we ever see her live, and in her youth and beauty and indefinable somethingness that glamours all Hollywood, she is a familiar kind of vampire: the defanged, sparkly vampires of Twilight. The film pumps with her power, but it's the power of a teenage girl who's had to figure out how to survive, and she's still just sixteen and alone in an eat-you-alive city. She doesn't know that prowling around her are real vampires, or humans who really want to be vampires (or are they the same thing?) with cyborg faces and forever-diets and the constant ebb of ageing in their ears like funeral music. These vampires are necrophilic and cannibalistic in their worship of the Dead Girl: a make-up artist mortician who has sex with a corpse after applying a perfect deathmask of make-up; models who consume Jesse's blood to make them young and pretty again.

Everybody wants to be a vampire before they get too old. The human partner grows desperate and bitter as their body fails them and their vampire remains immaculate. True Blood's Hugo, tired of waiting, betrays his vampire lover and her friends to the anti-vampire Fellowship of the Sun, while his lover explains that she finds his ageing "curious. Like a science project." Bella Swan has nightmares about growing old and is "always begging to be a vampire without delay". In an episode of Angel, an actress who lies about her age spikes the eponymous character's drink in the hope that he'll loosen up and turn her. Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown features teen vampire groupies who vlog their way to vamp-town:




For women, vampirism means being a Dead Girl forever: suspended in the perfection of girlhood, never falling into the traps of age and maternal life and human exhaustion. The undead woman is breaking the rules without breaking them; making her escape by embodying  and subverting  the patriarchy's ultimate ideal. She will be young and sexy and enchanting forever, as long as her corpse stays moving and talking. She's a Dead Girl with agency, able not only to refuse an autopsy, but to rise newly-fanged and tear out the coroner's throat. She's the spectre of the woman who couldn't be killed. Catherine Nicholas' Can I Live? says of Kim Kardashian, "Kim solved the impossible problem. She is the kind of woman who is supposed to die, (doesn't she seem like a good candidate for a sensational murder?), but she lives." The undead woman is Lady Lazarus, queen of death-defiance, living always in spite of.


Blood and Roses (1960)


But undead women don't always live. Just as vampires are not just vampires, immortality is not just immortality. Since Carmilla, vampire women have been a little freer to love other women than their human counterparts. But perhaps the reason for this relaxation of rules is that the queer vampire does not ultimately challenge heterosexuality. The common narrative is of an otherwise heterosexual woman unwillingly brought under the power of the vampire, casting her in the role of predatory lesbian and nullifying any possibility of legitimate love. At once monstrous and sexy, the vampires of films like Vampyros Lesbos titillate while reaffirming the immorality and unnaturalness of queerness, and ultimately end with a stake through the heart. Queer vampire women, it turns out, die about as easily and as often as queer human women on TV. True Blood incurred real-life wrath when it dispatched Tara Thornton off-screen and without mourning after seven seasons. That Tara was the series' only black queer woman is notable: immortality, like mortality, seems to be an unequal playing field, and it is perhaps no coincidence that the most ancient and famous of vampires is a wealthy European aristocrat.

Despite this, it is hard not to feel the sense of triumph in vampiric survival. Nina Auerbach wrote that "vampires are neither inhuman nor nonhuman nor all-too-human; they are simply more alive than they should be." Embodying any kind of female monstrosity  whether it be ageing, queerness, disability; any deviation from the perfect glassy-eyed girl in the pages of Vogue  carries with it the persistent sense that one shouldn't exist. The space between life and death, the shadowland in which vampires live, is a space of survival that screams of wrongness. It's the space that is occupied when you should have died so many times but you're still, inexplicably, here, refusing to go quietly. Undeadness is still a state of subversion, even if it doesn't last forever.

o bydded i'r hen iaith barhau: lessons in losing a language

This is what language is:
a habitable grief. A turn of speech
for the everyday and ordinary abrasion
of losses such as this

which hurts
just enough to be a scar.

And heals just enough to be a nation.
- Eavan Boland, from 'A Habitable Grief'

I'm in London, living alone. For the first time, I feel what I immediately recognise as hiraeth. That untranslatable feeling-state belonging to the Welsh. The yearning for the Wales of history and myth, for the Wales that never will be and maybe never was. A feeling that belongs to the body and belongs to the hills, as if they're the same.

**
I'm in year eight Welsh class. The teacher is hawkish and terrifying. She belongs to the time before Welsh-medium education crossed from nationalist dream to widespread reality. I laugh too loud at a friend's joke and she asks me to explain it. Between giggles, I translate (English was forbidden, so of course it was all we spoke). I accidentally say "chickens" instead of "ieir." I genuinely have nightmares about her fury for years.

**
Through the winter in an English city, a word beats through me; it says: adref, adref, adref


**
In primary school, we are taught about the Welsh Not, a sort of plaque which was used to discourage children from speaking Welsh (which for many was the only language they knew). The child wearing the Not at the end of the day was beaten. I appreciate the weight of this language, the investment our teachers have in us speaking a language they were never permitted to. But I'm also fed up of getting detention for speaking English.

**
I have a thought I want to express; I look up the word I want in the dictionary (the perfect word, the exact word I mean). In Welsh, it doesn't exist. This happens every day, every piece of homework.

The only lesson I enjoy is English. This is the only time I can speak freely without coming up against a language that feels archaic and unsuited to the modern world. I read and write endlessly in English: stories about strange worlds and dystopian technologies. The books on the shelf in Welsh class are all about pirates and highwaymen. I read novels in English and pretend I've read the Welsh translations.

I purposely choose a school that doesn't teach Welsh to move to.

**
My maths teacher in my new school sees each student individually at the front of class. He talks me through a problem, something about geometry. I'm trying to answer him, but I don't know any of these words in English. I answer questions in Welsh without realising. I feel so stupid, so desperate to be rid of this language.

**
At night, when I can't sleep, I sing si hei lwli to myself. I used to be able to play this on the harp. Si hei lwli mabi, mae'r llong yn mynd i ffwrdd. Si hei lwli mabi, mae'r capten ar y bwrdd. Si hei lwli lwli lws, cysga cysga mabi tlws...

**
Just before my exams, I go to a pub in Oxford where the Cymdeithas meets. I haven't spoken Welsh to another person in years. They ask me what I'm studying: "Hanes a...." I don't know the word for politics. "Gwleidyddiaeth," they supplement. I settle down with a pint, I carry a conversation. Adref, goes my heart. Rydych chi'n adref.

**
I think of Dafydd Iwan's "Cymraeg siarada'r Iesu am yr wyddwn i [Jesus spoke Welsh for all I knew]." For me too, Welsh was the language of capel, Sunday school, the early saints. Dewi and Dwynwen intertwined with the heroes and heroines of the Mabinogion: Branwen, in her Irish prison who spoke to starlings and launched a war; the shapeshifting Ceridwen who turned into a chicken and swallowed Gwion Bach (who had turned into a grain of corn, because of course he had) and gave birth to him again as Taliesin; Arianrhod and her tynged, Seithennyn the drunk gatekeeper of Cantre'r Gwaelod and the bells that still ring underneath the sea. This was my cultural ground, rich and full of dragons and giants. And they all spoke Welsh.

My copy of the Mabinogion is in English now, though I've never been able to bring myself to read it. My bible is the King James rather than the William Morgan. I open a pdf of the Llyfr Taliesin and don't understand a word.

**
That I am writing this in English instead of Welsh is itself a wound. That I can't write poetry in Welsh, the very thing it's made for, is a wound. That I'm studying Old Welsh battle poems and medieval law books and I can't read them in their original language is a wound that re-opens with every page.

But sometimes I dream in it, and my unconscious offers up to me words I never knew I knew. And when I'm drunk I do a really painful rendition of Sosban Fach. And when I'm alone in England where all the words feel spiky I have the language of my childhood to curl up in, always warm and always there. The softness of old words, old songs and stories, an old land with giants buried in it.

my skin is not a safe space

What is fertile in a wound? - Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

I always know what first impression I'll make. I've long stopped taking care to cover my arms, and in summer or in stuffy Oxford rooms, my body is my clearest biography. On my left arm: a Sylvia Plath tattoo, a series of silver-white scars from six years ago. On my right: a mass of scar tissue, so many that the skin seems prematurely wrinkled; higher up, an impulsive stick and poke that reads fire walk with me, and newer scars, still red and violent. I watch the eyes of people I've just met flit from my face to those lines as we speak. The effect isn't always the same: some will treat it as confession, opening up to me and sharing deeply personal parts of their lives, or else seeking advice as if I'm qualified to give it. For some, I assume the role of damaged damsel in distress or fucked up manic pixie dream girl in need of saving. Others pity or condescend. But whatever the particulars, my skin always introduces me.

Seeing my skin recalls violence; you can't look at a scar without imagining the instrument that made it. This initial act of violence against the self is embedded in the skin to be replayed again and again; a memory made physical. An endless loop of wounding and woundedness.

My body is triggering. My body triggers just by existing.


How to care for the injured body, / the kind of body that can't hold / the content it is living? / And where is the safest place when that place must be someplace other than in the body? - Claudia Rankine, Citizen: an American Lyric


For years, I used trigger warnings on my selfies. I knew first hand how triggering it could be to see scars, especially ones which were bigger or more numerous than one's own. I'd relapsed a couple of times after viewing pictures of scars or being around friends with severe scarring. Trigger warnings were something I did without thinking, always wary of hurting someone else. 

When I developed PTSD, I started to think about triggers in more complicated ways. The thought of my body being a threat to another horrified me. I didn't want to trigger warn for my body; to be classified by my capacity to harm rather than by my continued existence in the face of harm.

Skin has such an important role in trauma. The barrier between you and the world. The physical boundary of the self. A boundary which, having been crossed, takes on additional importance. Through violation, skin becomes felt; experienced where before it existed unnoticed. In my trauma memories, details - faces, names - were cloudy, but his hands were crystal clear. I felt every touch like it was burned into my skin.

What, then, does it mean not only to carry violence in your skin as trauma, but to enact violence through your skin, just by being seen? How could any space be safe when my body was the site of so much unsafety?
The request that people with scars or eating disorders apply trigger warnings to our own bodies can feel like a mirror of what we hear everywhere else: that our bodies are shameful, disgusting, and should be hidden. Even in radical spaces, there is the inescapable idea that our bodies shouldn't be seen. For all attempts to avoid this truth, the notion of a "trigger" is value-laden - what is triggering is bad, upsetting, dangerous. To trigger is to hurt. Worse, there is the idea that by refusing to cover up or to apply trigger warnings, we are deliberately causing harm. Our body positivity is violent.

I want to suggest that living involves a dialogue of violences. Accidental violences, nervous violences, violences of absence (because a wound at its simplest level is the absence of tissue). To move through the world is to wound. For wounded people, this is sometimes even more the case. Our bodies, hypervigilant, make others feel ill at ease. Our speech may be sharp and guarded, faltering at the requirements of harmonious conversational exchange. Our visible wounds, where they exist, disturb and trigger. We send signals that our bodies are not sites of peace or safety.









This is, of course, bound up in a larger conversation about the capacity of traumatised people to traumatise others, perhaps to re-enact the abusive behaviours they endured or to harm others with uncontrollable trauma reactions. There's a line that says it's insulting to imply that survivors can harm others. But this would be to mistake violence for stopped motion, to see an act of violence dying at the body's boundary. It is more meaningful to see violence as living in the skin, kept alive in continual, ever-changing motion. This is the hardest thing about trauma. To carry the violence done to you and to know that you may pass it on, in some diminished or changed form, to someone else, maybe to someone you love.

But it's a truth that has to be lived with in all its complexity. It's possible to understand the pain of survivors whose greatest fear is to harm someone else while also understanding that this isn't a completely groundless worry. To extend empathy without insisting on dichotomies of innocence and evil, where only the latter is ever capable of inflicting harm. To understand that wounds are more than empty space: that they fester or heal, that new tissue grows, that they continue to live and to take on lives of their own.

The limits of destigmatisation: against awareness

This time a year ago, I was trying to educate everyone I could about the illness I'd been diagnosed with several months earlier: borderline personality disorder (BPD). I wrote this blog post, which I think is a useful resource for explaining what happens inside my brain (I still sometimes refer to it when I can't figure out what's going on). But this Mental Health Awareness Month, I've been grappling with the question of whether awareness and destigmatisation are worthwhile goals or whether they have the capacity to hurt more than they help.

Searching for resources to help me cope with my illness, especially its impact on my relationships, always lands me reading some article targeted at the partner of a borderline telling them to run. When someone comes to me having been newly diagnosed, my first advice is always to never google it. I've read so many articles about how we are manipulative, abusive, and incapable of love. Things are changing, slowly: many articles and books emphasise the availability of successful therapies, and BPD is increasingly becoming conceptualised more as a mental illness in the vein of mood disorders than as a fundamental character flaw or a broken personality (I have no doubt that this is about its relative curability compared to other personality disorders). You could trace this through the appearance of sympathetic articles about BPD in Vice, Buzzfeed, even the Telegraph. BPD is the cause célèbre of personality disorders.

Narcissistic and anti-social personality disorders are not benefiting from this process. These disorders, associated with "psychopathy", occupy a particular space in our minds and in culture as states of pure and irredeemable evil. They are always viewed from the corner of the eye, reviled but never understood. Neither "psychopath" nor "sociopath" have fixed meanings; there is no clear delineation between them, no accurate usage. The ease with which these terms are thrown around reveals how hesitant we are to look at their content. Conceptually, this is a black hole: an empty space where we can project all the badness we can't and don't want to understand.

The Mind website lists BPD separately from other personality disorders, reflecting its increasing assimilation into the popular understanding of mental illness.
Mass murder, abuse and other acts of immense violence are frequently explained (and explained away) by mental illness. The treatment of white murderers and terrorists by the Western media are the clearest example of this. In the wake of massacres at Isla Vista, Charleston and San Bernardino, mental illness was immediately on everyone's lips. Throughout the US primaries, Donald Trump has been repeatedly assessed as a "sociopath" and "diagnosed" with narcissistic personality disorder by real psychiatrists who have never spent a minute with him. On Twitter, he is assessed by those less familiar with diagnostic models as having dissociative identity disorder or schizophrenia. These, among others, are the mental illnesses commonly referred to as highly stigmatised or scary, because they are in particular associated with violence, horror and threat to the social order.

Labelling fascists, murderers and anyone thought to be evil with these diagnoses does the dual injustice of hurting real mentally ill people (in very literal ways - people with these diagnoses are often subject to forced medication, hospitalisation and psychiatric abuse) and allowing us not to think too closely about problems. Madness allows ideology to get away scot-free. It allows us to explain abuse without looking at the social conditions which produce abusers. It allows us to see the most horrible violence as anomalous and exceptional: the result of a broken brain, not something which can exist in ourselves and in the people we love and trust most. Distancing oneself from evil is one of the oldest and most important ways of dealing with the horror that humans are capable of doing to each other. It's not going to go away.

Most mental health awareness activism works by normalising mental illness. The mad are "just like you". We're 1 in 4. But as more people are assimilated into the new normal, as depression and anxiety and other illnesses become understood and empathised with, the place of fear remains. Destigmatisation functions, necessarily, by shifting the stigma to someone else. How many times have you heard "I'm not crazy" or "I'm not a psycho" from a mentally ill person? This saying retains the negative associations of "crazy" and holds it at a distance. It says pick on them instead.

An important part of this is that certain symptoms can be understood more easily than others. One may not understand depression without lived experience, but a vague grasp of it can be extrapolated from experience of the low moods that everyone occasionally experiences. These symptoms don't vastly threaten one's understanding of what it is to be human. Psychosis, personality disorders, dissociative identity disorder, all entail symptoms which are so far beyond the realm of neurotypical experience as to be incomprehensible. They are the Other, the horrifying inversions of the lies our societies are structured around. Real liberation for people with these illnesses would mean more than assimilating them into the neurotypical world; it would mean deconstructing the notion that humans are fundamentally rational, logical and objective. Normalising these illnesses will never work because they are not normal.

I wonder if raising awareness about this sort of illness does the opposite of what it intends, bringing us greater violence and mistreatment as more people learn about our disorders. Because no matter how many statistics you spout about how mentally ill people are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence, there will always be the role of the disturbed, axe-murdering psycho lurking in the imagination. That role is central to us being able to move through the world without being overcome by the horror of it all, the capacity for horror we carry inside ourselves. Somebody has to fill it. And in a belief system which privileges rationality, the scapegoats will always be those for whom irrationality is a constant companion.

A solution to this problem is scarcely imaginable, requiring the overturning of Western political thought stretching back to Ancient Greece. Methodologies which threaten the hegemony of rationality are barely taken seriously even when forwarded by respected academics with huge stores of cultural capital. Meanwhile, the impulse to destigmatise, to explain over and over again that you're not violent, dangerous and abusive is understandable, and has implications for day-to-day and long-term survival. Awareness gives us pressure on policy-makers to fund services and research. Awareness makes it easier for us to be open about our mental health at school, university or work, giving us access to vital accommodations. But crucially, this work should always be accompanied by an understanding that normalising mental illness will not destroy stigma. Talking about depression or anxiety and eating disorders or even personality disorders will not make things better for all mentally ill people. There will always be someone scarier. There will always be experiences which destabilise and disturb the foundational cultural beliefs which govern our lives. And most of the time, by normalising our illnesses and symptoms we are shifting the worst stigma onto the most vulnerable people, people who perhaps don't have the power to fight their own corners.

in defence of not caring about anything

I'm writing this from within a mild panic attack, which with beta blockers I'm keeping at bay. The trigger was a book. Assigned reading for university about social movements; specifically, why people drop out of them.

For a long time I felt ridiculous for being literally traumatised by something as innocuous as student politics. I'd barely spoken about it to anyone before I raised it with my therapist as we discussed the issues around my returning to uni. She told me that it wasn't that surprising, considering that I was already dealing with PTSD from the same issue that the situation related to, and because other mental health issues had left me barely surviving (I had already suspended from uni), and because it involved people who I trusted.

Trauma is weird. It takes up the whole body: you sweat it out. It lives in your skin and in the depths of your intestines and between your legs. It shakes and dizzies and bends you double. Trauma can't be compared: it doesn't matter that someone else survived the same thing without a scratch, or that someone is getting by in a different way. Your body has its own rules and you have to follow them. It took me a long time to understand this.

My body's rules were this: run away in the middle of the night. Don't talk to anyone. Unfriend them all on social media. Disengage completely.

I had what might be described as a crisis of faith. Here, in my safe place, the feminist/queer bubble that had nurtured me out of an eating disorder, that had created almost everything I liked about myself, there were suddenly bad people. Dangerous, abusive people. They didn't care who they hurt as long as it didn't hinder their climb to the top of the BNOC (big name on campus) list. The phrase "safe space" was darkly comical.

Initially, I was provocatively problematic. I said callous things to test the reaction -- is your loyalty to me or to this language ("the language of liberation"). Once I was done with that tantrum I lapsed into the state of comfortable disengagement and denial that I've been in since. I ignore major political developments and aside from the occasional burst of anger (like this!), I am blissfully silent.

For a lot of people this is a problem. My silence is complicity. My failure to be fighting ALL THE CAUSES at once means that I don't care (I wish I could afford to care). This demand is unattainable for a lot of people: many disabled people do not have the energy/spoons to be engaged all the time. Any oppressed person gets exhausted spending so much time arguing for their own humanity. And there is no room for traumatised people like me, for whom silence is sometimes survival.

"You need to get out and shout more," a friend told me. No: I need to read and watch films and talk about something, anything, that's not politics (when you're involved in student politics it's every fucking conversation. All your relationships. Every nightclub smoking area. I don't know how anyone keeps it up.)

I'm finally healing (this is the first time PTSD has reared its head in a while, and I successfully sat an exam in Oxford last week) but I'm not done with my silence. I'm enjoying listening to music (something that was painful for ages because I was so overloaded) and watching films about monsters and reading my weird books. I'm excited about my degree -- which, like, is kinda the reason I'm there -- though I'm slightly bitter that my favourite part of the politics course is a massive potential trigger.

Briefly, I guess, this is my request that everyone fuck off. Leave me alone in my book cave and don't ask me to fight when I'm doing enough of that already. And next time someone doesn't comment on an issue, don't assume that they're too entitled to care. Caring is work that not everyone can afford to do.

Hemingway and Bukowski suck

I own more books of poetry by Bukowski than anyone else. The first, given to me by my sister, was The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills. I shouldn't say this, but she told me she used to read this book to lovers, affecting that low rasp of his that I also have recorded on CD. The book is stained and dog-eared and skin-soft. Later, I accumulated Love Is A Dog From Hell and Burning In Water Drowning In Flame. I read Ham on Rye and attempted Women but got too embarrassed reading it on the tube - I was fifteen; it felt inappropriate. But I felt that Bukowski spoke to me - as so many teenage girls and young women do. Something in that twisted misogynistic drink-sodden seedy seeping old man is incredibly relatable to us. In some ways, his strip-her-with-his-eyes way of writing women was a queer awakening, and my teen poetry from that time is all from the perspective of a towering, vulture-like male.

Last summer I made a conscious decision to stop reading men. I was in Paris (remember Paris? I want to create an indelible impression of my Paris Era for posterity. I want to be the modern Welsh Jean Rhys). And it was good. I read Chris Kraus, replaced Hemingway's descriptions of sixth and seventh arrondissements (where we lived) with Rhys', read the Handmaid's Tale in snippets at Shakespeare and Co, stole quotes from pages of Gravity and Grace in the basement of a Canadian bookshop, read Virginia Woolf for the first time. Read Anne Sexton, Louise Gluck, Anne Carson out loud to each other: lived in a flat with two other women and we all wrote poetry and read it to each other and one day I met a woman at the Sacre Coeur from Montreal and she stayed with us and it was a beautiful, idyllic summer delusion. It was incredibly bourgeois but I sunk into it as people sometimes do in strange hot cities. It was the most creative period of my life so far, and I don't think anything I've written since has topped what I wrote that summer. I grew a lot and I think that cutting men out of my life (literally, creatively, in all ways) was the main reason for that.

But since then, I've felt more and more caged in by women. I didn't want to read Katherine Mansfield. The Yellow Wallpaper bores and annoys me. I'm reading Kathy Acker now and starting to claw out of that but still, there is that difference: in women, there is fear. Sylvia Plath said it best:

"Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars--to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording--all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night...” - Sylvia Plath

I watched Paris, Texas a few months ago and sat transfixed, amazed by its broad expanses. The enormity of America. The extremes, from temperate rainforest to desert along a single stretch of highway. I read Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles. (I love motels, I love their grainy stinking anonymity and cockroach-sink and spring-beds). I return, again, to my undying love of Kerouac, fucking misogynist. I'm still not reading Bukowski. But I want to because in these men (their words, their bodies) there is a sense of freedom, a lack of judgement that opens a horizon as wide as the American West. And these men are drug addicted, fucked up, locked in, but they can do whatever they want. They move hard and angular through a world that isn't a constant threat. They can drive from coast to coast and fight their way out of a situation and carry a knife without worrying about how easily someone will overpower them and point it back at them.




You know, I want more Road Movies about women. Like Thelma and Louise without the rape. It seems we can't tell a story about a woman or a girl on the open road without it turning tragic - like Hick, which I loved but couldn't watch to the end. Why can't women wander amnesic around the technicolour empty space of Texas? I suppose this goes even more so for LGBTQ+ people - is there a more tragic sort-of-road-movie in existence than Boys Don't Cry? All we want is a bit of Jack-Kerouac-Joy, a bit less death, a bit less fear.

So here I am. Aware that my narratives, that speak to my heart and validate my existence, are narratives of trauma and hurt. Jeanann Verlee, Warsan Shire, Mira Gonzalez, Clementine von Radics, Stacy Cassarino. I think of Lana del Rey in her music video for Ride (yeah, the one with the really bad cultural appropriation, I'm sorry) where she rides with this biker gang and like, how? Hunter S. Thompson couldn't even do that without getting beaten to a pulp. Sometimes I feel like a bad survivor for not going out there, travelling West and sleeping in open fields, PTSD and all. Where is my woman-friendly biker gang? I want to walk into a bar and order a whiskey double and sit by myself at the bar. Why is that so hard?

emptying my pills into my pill box is my favourite part of the week
a rose drop tin, from paris
i love these feminine rituals of self-destruction
a whiskey in a nightdress for breakfast is
a different sort of death than hunter s. thompson's chivas
the blood-stained sheet
the fur the rings the lip-liner 
welcome to female desire
emptiness is our terrain 

I play Lana del Rey on vinyl. I think excessively about Laura Palmer, Effy and Cassie from Skins, Blanche DuBois, Courtney Love, Drew Barrymore, Lindsey Lohan, Nicole Richie, Cat Marnell: my angels of death and destruction. Why can't Courtney join Kurt and the endless list of men who hated themselves, hurt themselves, maybe killed themselves? Why do we call these women shallow while their male counterparts are the founding fathers of Subculture?

"If male self-destruction is seen as opening up meaningful questions about great existential truths—Don’s alcohol binges in “Mad Men,” Walter White’s coming to terms with his own mortality in “Breaking Bad,” female self-destruction is still perceived as self-indulgent. The female depressive is seen as self-involved and attention seeking, empty-headed and silly. Seeking meaning in sex and drugs is seen as morally weighty when a man does it, but when a women grapples with nihilism, it’s still perceived as merely acting out for male attention." - Arielle Bernstein {x}

(I'm going for another cigarette.)