October 30, 2015
by Carley Moore
Like many a lady nerd, I am deep into Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy. I recently attended a book party at Brooklyn’s BookCourt to celebrate the release of the fourth and final instalment of the series. The large back room was packed with women of all ages—mostly white, some in cute glasses and sun dresses, shod in low-heeled sandals, Birkenstocks, and the occasional cute lace-up Oxford. There weren’t many men there: a couple of reliably bearded types and the flustered twenty-five-year-old who was in charge of the cash register and looked like he might faint from all of the overly kind requests to buy the The Story of the Lost Child.
I bought two copies—one for me and one for my friend who was running late from the airport—and bolted. I couldn’t quite take the energy in the room. It was a party without its star because Ferrante lives in Italy and is famous for not making appearances. I don’t believe any fan has ever met her. I’m pretty sure I would throw up if I did. It was hot in there and I couldn’t move. We were waiting for a panel of other writers to talk about Ferrante. I didn’t want to talk about her. The third book had ended with a cliffhanger. I finished it two weeks ago, and I’d been wandering around since, desperate to know what had happened to Elena (Lenu), the protagonist and narrator.
At a nearby bar, I ordered a beer, cracked the spine, and started reading. I didn’t even check to see if there was anybody cute sitting next to me.
It’s hard to explain the effect of this series. I’ve had conversations with other readers, mostly super articulate women writers, about Ferrante. Reading her has altered us. We’ve stayed up all night and ignored children, partners, and lovers. Work obligations have slid to the side.
“At eight o’clock, my kids were like, are you ever going to make dinner?” my friend, a poet and academic, told me.
“I’m not going out,” another friend said to me. She’s a single mom, also a poet, and this was the one night during the week that she could see her boyfriend. “I just want to read Book Four.”
I ignored my daughter in the bath as I read on the couch for an hour until she emerged with pruney fingers and toes and said, “Don’t you want to wash my hair?” “Oh, next time,” I said, barely looking up from Book Three.
This is fitting because the book is partially about the pull between domesticity and a creative life. It charts a decades-long friendship set largely in Naples, Italy, between two poor girls—Lenu, who leaves to become a famous writer, and Lila, her clever best friend who stays. The book follows Italian politics, feminism in Italy, student uprisings, marriages, deaths, murders, funerals, births, and affairs. What I love most about the series is how emotional it is. There is no feeling that Ferrante won’t explore and many of them are still taboo. Female jealousy. Passion. Bad choices and the ways that we defend them. Mother-love that is full of both devotion and hate. How we sometimes choose lovers over children. The ways women still suffer for love and give up so much of ourselves to have it, in spite of how smart we are and how much we’ve read.
In a way, reading Ferrante has turned me into the kind of mother I had, one of those ‘70s moms. My mom didn’t play with us that much. She had her own life. She was on the phone or cooking or reading or at work and we were to amuse ourselves. That’s how it used to be.
Buying the book and leaving like a fugitive to be alone with it reminded me of the masturbatory experience I used to have when I was a teenager: ordering an independent cassette from the local record store/arcade/drug den where I spent every day after school, hanging on the wing of the video game Galaga while some skater punk boy I was obsessed with tried to reach high score. I only left when one of my cassettes had come in from England or from the magical land of Sub Pop Records. I remember palming the Cocteau Twins Blue Bell Knoll and running out of the store to catch the bus so that I could get to my room, lock the door, and listen. When The Smiths The Queen is Dead arrived, I grabbed my best friend’s hand and we walked slowly to her apartment imagining out loud what Morrissey would have to say, ignoring her Italian mother’s plea that we please eat something when we came through the door, and then lying on the floor of her bedroom to listen.
Art could break my teenage-boy-watching spell, could turn me from passive little worm, a video game cheerleader into a girl who made choices, had passions, and could leave at any time.
Later, when I started to have sex with boys, I’d learn that you could both listen to a new album and fuck, thereby doubling the pleasure. In college, entire relationships were sustained on the back of an album. Patti Smith’s Horses. Joni Mitchell’s Blue. A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory.
I still have that sensation when I’m on the train and my kid has just gone to her dad’s and I feel free in a way that is still new to me—still teenage, actually. It’s usually Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, or Rihanna who makes me giddy. “We Can’t Stop” and “I’m Feeling Myself” and the hilarious “Bitch Better Have My Money,” which really should be the soundtrack for freelancers and teachers everywhere.
To have the time to get lost in a book. In a whole album. In just one song. To ignore the world. To pulse with it. To feel. To bleed.
“Wait, ask me if you can fuck me?” I said to him. In a previously published essay, “On Eating,” I called this man, who I’d been in a monogamous relationship with for a year and then an open one for the last six months,“The Man Who is No Good For Me.” Lately, I wasn’t sure what to call him. My best friend. My muse. I didn’t know, but we were trying something new. Not fucking. Me not fucking anyone. For a little while. As a reset. As a curative. For rest.
We sat at the bar of an Italian restaurant in the West Village. I was hungover from a date with a stranger the previous night. I kissed the date on a park bench while a gaggle of teenage boys skated by. “Must be nice!” they called to us. The date walked me to the mouth of the subway and said goodbye. When I got home, I couldn’t sleep. Too much whiskey. Empty post-first date feeling. I haven’t seen him since.
I had PMS, too. I knew it because I got teary on the walk to the restaurant because my neighbourhood felt unbearably WASPY and stupid—full of bankers, women in short white dresses, and gay men carrying bags that were either meant to look like a workman’s tool kit or were a workman’s tool kit.
We’d just finished an heirloom tomato salad and were waiting for our pasta. Later, he’d go on a date with another woman and I’d wander into the Cubby Hole, a lesbian bar, and then chicken out and walk home.
“Will you fuck me?” he asked, playing along.
“I’m so sorry. I can’t,” I said in mock sorrow. “I’m on a dick break,” and then I mimed looking at a fake watch on my wrist.
We both laughed.
“You know, sometimes you can be really funny,” he said.
“I know,” I smirked. We were flirting. It was tricky. I was playing the role of tease.
“Will you please write an essay called ‘Dick Break?’” he asked.
The waiter brought us our pasta. We each took a bite.
“Maybe,” I said.
I’m not sure when I started to believe that a man could solve all of my problems, but I do remember when I first decided that not having a boyfriend or even boys who liked you was the worst possible thing that could happen to a girl. It was the ninth grade, the first year of high school, and probably the most miserable year of my teenage life. I’d gone from a smallish middle school of 200 kids where I had a best friend who was a boy and several other best friends who were girls to a gigantic 1000-plus kids high school. Because of the indifferent cruelties of scheduling, I wound up separated from all of my middle school friends. I did not have a single class or even lunch with Denis or Cynthia or Erica. I was on my own, and I felt it so acutely that I started eating my lunch in a bathroom stall, so that I wouldn’t have to face the cafeteria alone. I came to enjoy these fifteen minutes of solitude where I ate a soggy piece of pizza with my feet up on the walls of the stall and my butt over the lidless toilet. Once I snuck past the cafeteria monitors, I was home free. Friendless, but free.
My high school had a tradition on Valentine’s Day. Maybe it raised money for charity, I don’t know. In retrospect, it seemed designed to humiliate and shame in that ’80s way that inspired so many John Hughes movies. For a dollar, you could send a carnation to anyone, and during homeroom the cheerleaders or the student council or whoever ran the sale delivered the flowers. I remember they could be purchased anonymously or you could sign your name. Some girls—I remember one of the most popular ninth grade girls in our school, a petite cheerleader with an amazing rack and a throaty voice, got an armload of flowers, a Miss America-like bouquet, that made her look both proud and overwhelmed. I hated her, but that wasn’t new. Because of the alphabet, I sat behind her in many classes. Mostly, she ignored me unless she wanted something. An answer on the math quiz. The homework from English. She wasn’t mean to me, but she couldn’t seem to ever quite rest her eyes on me. It pained her to say my name. I felt like a piece of furniture to her—invisible until she needed a place to put a glass or sit down. I watched boys flirt with her. I saw her pass notes. I was wildly jealous.
Other girls got one or two or three. Another had a dozen. A couple of us had none.
The sting was intense. I’d already had a shitty, friendless year and this confirmed it. The girls who got a couple flowers were smart enough to send them to one another, to pay it forward. Not only did I feel incredibly unloved at the time the flowers were distributed, there was also the spectacle of the whole rest of the day. Watching other girls in the hallway carry around their flowers—in bundles, on top of their book piles, shoved into their backpacks and purses. Ah, the luxury of being given so many flowers that you were actually annoyed! Those of us without flowers were marked. Unloved. Unwanted. Invisible. Or at least that’s how I read the whole thing through my teary ninth grade eyes.
On the same day that I deactivated my OkCupid account, I also bought a DivaCup. If you’re unfamiliar with a DivaCup, please go buy one right now. It’s basically a little latex cup that fits nicely and imperceptibly in your vagina to collect your period blood. Excited? You should be! Because now you don’t have to spend twenty bucks every month on chemical-filled paper products that will destroy your body and the earth with harsh dyes and excess paper waste!
Anyway, it was a shitty day. My daughter was on a vacation with her dad for nine whole days and I was missing her. I’d just returned from a two-day visit with my friend out on Long Island, and I was feeling the return to solitude acutely. I had therapy. I was on a dick break. The semester was starting in less than two weeks and I was woefully unprepared. I shut down my OkCupid account as a final gesture of “Uncle.” I was sick of writing to guys who never wrote back to me and fielding messages that were illegible or prematurely graphic. I was never a prude on that site, and from time to time I was game for some dirty talk with a stranger, but there was too much of it lately. I’d been on a bad date with a guy who insisted on paying for a fancy dinner and then told me I’d earned it. I was annoyed by a first message that read, “Do you have experience with BDSM?” Could we maybe slow it down a little? And I felt wholly incensed when a toothless man (I mean, two front teeth just gone, as if he were my seven-year-old and was waiting for the tooth fairy to show up) asked me out. “Teeth!” I texted my muse, “Are a basic fucking requirement for dating in New York City!” I grew up with my share of toothless upstate New Yorkers. I just couldn’t.
The DivaCup is a bit tricky at first. It sits low in your vagina, not high like a tampon. And so I spent a lot of that day feeling around in my there, trying to get the whole thing, well, situated. The truth is, I hadn’t had my hands in my vagina in a while, and it felt nice. It also reminded me how amazing vaginas are—all the things they can hold. Tampons! Little silicon cups! Dicks! Dildos! Babies! The DivaCup instructions come with some nice reminders about vaginas. They say, “The vagina is an elastic, muscular tube only about 3–4 inches (8–10 centimetres) long.” After you get the cup positioned the right way, you have to turn it 360 degrees to get the cup to open up and suction to your vagina. I couldn’t get the trick of it at first, but when I did, it was like, voilà! Magical suction! The vagina just grabs on and holds it. I imagined this must be what it’s like to put your dick in a vagina. Held. Warm. Tight. Ahhh.
I remembered that I started wanting to use tampons in the ninth grade, in that same shitty year. It was the time of the original high-waisted acid wash mom jeans. Shut up twenty-something women of Bushwick and Williamsburg! You have no idea how uncomfortable the original version of those jeans felt. They were tight and the fabric was too thick and they had no stretch and we were all determined to wear them. They did not work well with a diaper—I mean, a maxi pad. Tampons, according to everybody cool and Seventeen magazine, were a fashion requirement. It took me until tenth grade, when a guy fingered me and broke my hymen—I think I may have used him for that very purpose—to figure out the whole tampon thing. I realize now, as I write this essay, that ever since I realized I could put things in my vagina, I have wanted—no, been desperate to. Tampons. Sure. Fingers. Yes. Dicks. Please.
I have used sex to disassociate from my life, as a salve for wounds I couldn’t name, to claim power, and to stop thought.
In the newest best-friend version of our relationship, my muse and I are going to the movies and eating a lot. Perhaps we should just get married and call it a day.
We saw Diary of a Teenage Girl, which is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Phoebe Gloeckner. I read the book long ago, taught it for a semester or two in my Teenager in American Culture course, and even managed to get Gloeckner to come out and headline a zine conference my students and I cooked up. Gloeckner was lovely to us and beautiful in a way that I think stunned us all into silence. We were comic book nerds after all. I remember an awkward dinner. I remember that I was in awe of her and that I couldn’t really speak because I wanted to write a novel, but at the time I didn’t know how.
The movie, which is set in San Francisco in 1976 and is about a fifteen-year-old teenage girl, Minnie, who loses her virginity to and has an affair with the boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård) of her single, swinging mom (Kristen Wiig), made us both cry. Bel Powley plays Minnie perfectly. Gloeckner, Powley, and the director of the film, Marielle Heller, get that Minnie is both simultaneously a child and a totally sexual being who is in full control of what she’s doing. What I’d forgotten that I loved so much about the book, and that is also totally present in the movie, is Minnie’s sexuality—the way she’ll do anything for Monroe, how badly she wants him, in spite of her mother, regardless of any of it. She is, at this stage in her life, all about that particular dick. She and her friend Kimmie blow strangers in a bar bathroom, and Minnie is interested in girls too, but she follows Monroe wherever he allows her to go—his car, his apartment, and the couch in her mother’s house. No matter that this longing is destructive and dangerous, Minnie is unstoppable. I suppose they could have picked a slightly less attractive actor to play Monroe. I remember the book made me feel more creeped out by their affair. Monroe seemed a bit uglier, hairier, and more manly, while Minnie seemed a little more girlish. But I’ve never recovered from my then-married lady crush on Eric in the first two seasons of True Blood, so I am happy to see him here doing, well, anybody.
At the end of the movie, fresh off of her break-up with Monroe after her mother finds out what has happened, and a rough couple of weeks where Minnie runs away and hooks up with a lesbian drug addict, Minnie says: “This is for all the girls who have grown,” and in comparing herself to her mother, who she believes needs a man to be happy, continues, “What if nobody loves me? What if that’s not what it’s about?”
And it was those last three lines that really made me cry, because Minnie gets something at fifteen that I’m still struggling with at forty-three: So what if I am unloved? Isn’t there so much else for me to do here on this planet? Can’t I let this go?
Well, yes and no.
You see, Minnie is actually more powerful than Monroe. When they take acid together, Minnie grows wings and floats above the bed, happy and free. Monroe sobs in a heap on the floor about how much he loves and needs her. In one of the last scenes of the movie, after Monroe is out of their lives and Minnie and her mother have made up, Minnie sells her drawings on the boardwalk and Monroe jogs by. She gives him one. He looks freaked out. He’s a vitamin salesman. They shake hands. That’s it.
I think the skewed power is why some younger women are attracted to older men. I know that was the case for me. When I was nineteen, I fell in love with a guitarist in a semi-famous indie band from my hometown. He was thirty-three. He had money and fame and a house with furniture in it and unlimited pot and I had just been dumped and after some squeamishness on my part about his body, I was totally all in. But the thing was, I always felt that I was the more mature one: the one who was going somewhere, and who was definitely smarter than he was. It was partially youthful arrogance, and eventually sadly true. He died of liver failure at forty-two. The funeral was closed casket. There was a lot of gossip in the parking lot about drug overdoses and gay lovers. I left crying and confused.
Minnie will make it because she’s an artist. She can draw her way out of anything. She can put that blood on the page, stare at it, and publish it. I found this comforting. A reminder for all of us about how to be whole. Make shit. Be a producer. Don’t just consume.
Never mind what I said about the DivaCup. After two days of trying to get it to sit comfortably in my vagina without hurting me when I walked, I gave up and returned to tampons. I was disappointed. I wanted to save money and the environment with my forward-thinking menstruation practices! I failed. I texted my friend, “I think I have a crooked vagina.” She texted back, “Aren’t all vaginas crooked?”
That same friend sent me an article from Vanity Fair by Nancy Jo Sales. For a day I got caught up in the stories from twenty-something investment bankers and sorority sisters about how Tinder is turning dating into a video game, and while this new app has made it easier to find dates, these dates are woefully unsatisfying and the app has turned men into a bunch of “fuckboys.” I sent it to my muse who reminded me that Nancy Jo Sales is a fear-monger, and the next morning, I woke up early before my daughter to work on this essay and found a much better article. In Jesse Singal’s, “Has Tinder Really Sparked a Dating Apocalypse?”,the answer is, not surprisingly, no. Sales, according to Singal, ignored data from researchers showing that millennials are actually having less sex than Generation Xers. Sales also doesn’t interview anyone who has had a positive experience on OkCupid or Tinder. I know a few.
I’m not on Tinder. I have long known that the swipe format is not for me. I actually like to read profiles. It tells me a lot about the person. My experiences on OkCupid are mixed, but they are probably better than what I would have done in a bar or through friend set-ups like we used to have to do in the ’90s. I met the muse, who I fell in love with and then we broke up and then we got back together and, well, I don’t know. But no matter what he’s a pretty good friend. I met a couple of scary guys—the over-medicated one who stared too much at my face, the sad unemployed guy who wouldn’t stop texting me for a month—and I’ve met guys who don’t really have time to date because of their crazy jobs and their responsibilities to their exes and their kids. The dads of OkCupid—and I’m speaking of the three or four I’ve dated—are doing too much, frankly. They are mostly still supporting their exes (through alimony or mortgage payments or health insurance) who have not managed to find full-time work, and they are seeing their children whenever they can (mostly weekends and one night a week), and they are working very demanding jobs and they are exercising. They think they have time to date, but they don’t. So although I’m very drawn to the idea of dating a dad, I think if I go back to OkCupid, I’ll stick with non-dads. They just have more time. If anything, I think capitalism—trying to make it in America—is what makes dating impossible. Everyone is too busy trying to survive in New York to truly take the time to get to know someone and fall in love. It’s no surprise that the investment bankers in their twenties that Sales spoke to treat dating like the stock market. Volume. Margin. Yield.
Honestly, the main reason I miss being in a family unit is the illusion of financial security I used to have. I no longer have a husband to save me or take care of me. I never really had that anyway, but the idea of it was comforting.
In my favourite sketch from the show Portlandia, “Put a Bird on It,” Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein play a hipster couple who transform a home décor boutique by putting stencils of birds on everything. The sketch reaches a kind of fever pitch of birding—on tote bags, lamps, t-shirts, and pillows—until real birds fly into the store and destroy everything. The bird is the cure-all to the ennui of late capitalism. It makes the silly object somehow more natural, and the twee a little less cloying. The sketch also effectively broke my desire for anything ever with a bird on it, which is a good thing for a middle-aged woman who is drawn to artisanal pickles, stencilled pillows, and Mary Jane shoes. Still, the sketch is really about our desire to put something good on top of anything bad to make it tolerable.
Like those silly hipsters who put birds on shit, I have long put dicks on top of problems to make them go away or to lessen the pain they cause me. Bad teaching day? Put a dick on it! Feel like a failure as a writer? Put a dick on that! Horrible, boring, bad-mom feeling. Dicks will help! I have used dicks for comfort, solace, loneliness, and anger. Orgasms are calming. They release endorphins. Dicks can help with orgasms. Of course, many of these dicks were attached to men I love, but some were just dicks.
So what is a dick break, then? I suppose it is a time for actually feeling the boredom, pain, loneliness, and anger. Sigh. When I was in group therapy, I admired the men who said they felt nothing, who were comfortably numb. Feelings are hard. They hurt. I’ve always had way too many of them. Remember ninth grade? Ugh. I’m still writing about it. Maybe that’s why I love working with teenagers. They feel a lot, and that’s always made sense to me.
A week into the dick break, I bought The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch and read it in a night. The cover is red with the black outline of a girl’s body falling. The book is about an American woman writer who becomes obsessed with an Eastern European girl she sees in a photograph. This photo of a girl emerging out of the bomb wreckage that kills her entire family is what sets the story in motion. The sex scenes in this book are powerful and primal. Real, hot, and a little bit scary. Blood. Guts. Dicks. Pussy. They remind me of the way sex and art can exist outside of commerce. Most art doesn’t make a dime, but we do it anyway. Because.
We insist on our own tiny productions—fucking, shitting, and coming. We love the traffic and noise of it because we are underground animals. We need small moments when we refuse to be upright, good consumers. These acts go nowhere and yet they matter. Pure pleasure and absolute release. How rare.
Sometimes sex is the thing we do best. Our most animal selves. Often cum, shit, and blood are all we can leave behind.
The book made me want to end my dick break. The book made me want to curl up next to my kid and smell her salty neck. The book made me want to keep making messy things. Art. The book with its girl, who paints in blood, and in an early scene watches a wolf eat off its own leg to free itself from a trap, reminded me of some of Kiki Smith’s sculptures.
In “Tale,” a brown, muddy figure is on all fours, ass bloodied, a long umbilical red tail extended out behind her for several feet. In “Rapture,” a woman cast in bronze steps out of the cut-open belly of a wolf. Emerging. The woman is always emerging, figuring out how to be in the world, and how to set herself apart by what she makes. Ferrante gets this. Gloekner and Yuknavitch too. What emerges out of the woman is animal and blood, shit and entrails. I wonder what I’ve given birth to—my daughter of course, but what else? Desire. Knowledge. I’ve helped some of my students give birth to new thoughts, essays they didn’t think they could write, a voice. But what is birthing me? My mother once did, but ours is a messy relationship. I have felt like her mother too often. I am birthed out of the things I make—novels, poems, and essays. Sometimes this makes me feel like entrails. Pure shit.
When I’m writing I can’t take the closeness of my own essays. The narcissism of the personal is embarrassing, and still I persist in the belief that I have something to tell myself and maybe you. For years I kept my mouth shut, but I’ve always written. There’s still a voice in my head that says, “Shut up. Ugh. This again?”—but I’ve learned to hear her, take a break, eat something, and keep writing. She’s important, but she’s no longer in charge.
My muse and I met at a dive bar in the East Village that I love. We ordered the special—well whiskey and a can of Budweiser. Later, I followed him home, and we ate chips and guacamole on his couch while watching a new feminist Western on Netflix. Eventually, I took off my dress and he stepped out of his jeans.
I ended my dick break. Just like that. I hadn’t lasted long. I never do.
The next day I reactivated my OkCupid account. The messages were the same, but they didn’t bother me as much. A week later I went out with the dad I’d been seeing before the break. We had fun. He still didn’t have enough time, but I saw that he was trying, and that meant something.
I wrote a first draft of a novel this summer. A friend loaned me her cabin and I took my daughter on a vacation. We went to Coney Island and we rode the Wonder Wheel. I published two essays that took six months to write. People responded positively. I was happy with the things I’d done and made.
The summer was over. I knew that in less than one week I’d be standing in front of the classroom, and telling my students to arrange their desks in a circle, every day, no matter what.
I was hoping to achieve some monk-like clarity. I wanted to train myself to be alone. To not use skin and touch as comfort and men’s bodies to make me feel powerful. Oh well, I failed at that. I fail at a lot of the things I do.
I have learned to see my failures as productive. I’ve taken on Jack Halberstam’s idea of The Queer Art of Failure. Failure as punk. Failure as queer. Failure as anti-capitalist. Failure as knowledge. Halberstam borrows a sentence from Quentin Crisp as an epigraph: “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.” Later, he writes:
Renton, Johnny Rotten, Ginger, Dory, and Babe, like those athletes who finish fourth remind us that there is something powerful in being wrong, in losing, in failing, and that all of our failures combined might just be enough, if we practice them well, to bring down the winner. Let’s leave success and its achievements to the Republicans, to the corporate managers of the world, to the winners of reality TV shows, to married couples, to SUV drivers (120).
Failure, for Halberstam, is about detour and distraction—and if done collectively, it can become a political tool.
According to the website for the famous pregnancy book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, “around week 39 of pregnancy, you may notice “bloody show” — a stringy mucus discharge that’s tinged pink or brown with blood. It’s a sign that your cervix is opening up, a definite signal that you’re well on your way toward labor and delivery.”
I played with the title for this essay—changed it every day—as I revised and wrote parts of it. First, it was “Dick Break,” then “Put a Dick on It,” and lastly, I changed it to “The Bloody Show.” I Googled the etymology of this phrase and found nothing. I went into my NYU account and checked the Oxford English Dictionary and found no results. I loved the phrase. I imagined an English midwife coining it. It reminded me of John Graunt’s Bills of Mortality published in 1662: the first statistics on how the English were dying. I’ve taught this text for years to teachers because I’ve loved the poetry of the causalities next to the statistics themselves. Graunt achieved an early interdisciplinarity. Death by: Lunatique, Burned and Scalded, Falling Sickness, Murthured, Hanged Themselves, Rising of the Lights, Smothered, and Bloody-Flux.
I wanted to believe that “The Bloody Show” comes out of this same moment in history—a time when the first statistics met with the utter mystery of death. These moments are when we most need poetry or even just an image. An image makes the unknown stick. It’s the writer’s smallest unit, her tiniest tool. Image is what I teach my students first.
Bodies are a kind of bloody show, especially women’s bodies. For half of our lives we bleed every month. Some of us look at the blood and some of us don’t. The cervix unplugs so that the baby can come out. Labour is a drama. We are in it—as mother and child—or we watch it happen as partner, as lover, or as friend.
But the bloody show is also life in its most day-to-day way. The mess of entrails and genitals and fucking and feelings reminds us that we are still animals, stumbling along, and trying to survive.
Carley Moore is a poet, essayist, and novelist who lives in New York. Find more of her work at www.carleymoorewrites.com or follow her on Twitter @carleymoore2
Image: Samuel Ferri
Samuel Ferri is a cartoonist and a practicing human living in Brooklyn, New York.