Survey of Organized Matter in Two Sections (Feb.10.2021)
I. Ribcage, Larynx, Collarbones
Words settle in my body. I mentioned it in passing, last week, but they settle clearly, with purpose and intent, growing like colonies of lichen or bacteria over bone and muscle.
Stories of Faerieland live in the back of my ribs, right where they meet the spine. A few dare to sink into my sternum, right over my heart. Married to the structure of my flesh. When stories stick, they grow into my skeleton. Poems about monsters are in my throat, tucked into the voicebox. Sing raving hymns, Beowulf says to me. A lot rests in my collarbones. Strong and heavy things.
If you give me a story that sticks, I know where it will go. Hadestown in my scapulae and ankles. Grendel in my hipbones and the space between my collarbones. The podcast Mabel winding up my neck, tangling in my occipital bone. Autobiography of Red in the muscles along my sides.
When I write, it is from my body, too. It hasn’t always been, but I’ve been getting better at it.
Faerieland lives in my ribs, I said. It comes from there too, layers like memories in soil. The Ice-Tower, the Harpy, the Sun-Princess. The Sun. The fig tree in the backyard has dominion of my palms and forearms, and one side of my jaw.
(I pause to say I’m making all this so. Some of it I know already, other bits I’m placing now, as I write, for safe-keeping & storage. The next time I write about the fig tree, it will come from my palms, my forearms. That one side of my jaw. A part of writing & being, for my body, is that saying makes it so. All I have to do is think its truth.)
Slime molds are new, and they like the upper region of my throat, the tensioned place beneath my palette. Perhaps because I’ve spoken for them. Perhaps because I need them there. Why not the world, a body? They are very good at selfhoods—did you know, when it is time for them to reproduce, they call to one another, act a single organism with its many cells, and make a sort of love that ends in corpses? Other-like-selves.
The mycologist’s wife lives inside of me too. I think they are on the top of my ribs, right under my breasts, and in my teeth.
Words growing like moss, ready to turn bone to dirt.
II. Heart, Blood, Sun
This is a story about Faerieland.
Faerie are nothing but Name, and before that, they are nothing at all. They tear themselves free from the substance of Faerieland, define self with Name, make edges. Self and not-self. But that self has no body, no flesh. No sensation, no loss. There is no matter in Faerieland—there is no time for matter to exist in.
There is no decay. No death. Only virulent green, only seemings, only glow, no warmth. No sun.
On the other side, there is the sun-world. This one, time-stepping, matterful, rotting. Nearly everything that is here eats the sun, in one way or another. She fills us up with matter, flesh and blood and bone. And matter exists in time. It is the body that experiences loss, decay. Pleasure. Love.
Faerie can try to love, yes. They are not very good at it—in truth, it is too close to loss for them to grasp it. For faerie, their love is all sweetwords and crystal. Enameled.
There is a story, in Faerieland, about an Heir who left, and could not come back. It had grown too fond of the sun, of the matter of its body. It agrees with Barthes—to lose that loss, to lose that love, those things that only time, only inevitable end, only bodies, can grant—that would be harder to deal with than losing soul, or selfhood. It would give up Name.
One of the things it is trying to find is the selfhood of material beings. It does not lie in the Name, and it does not lie in the heart (it has cast away its heart without losing its self). It is somewhere in the body, because you can lose a social identity, an imagined one, without losing embodiment. Losing that sort of selfhood is more dangerous in Faerieland, where the ground will swallow you up. No matter to back up a misplaced self.
Thinking in Faerieland terms is helpful for me. It keeps me in my body more, I think. My own relationship with Names helps too—having a bunch of them. Knowing where they live. I’m in my own body, and it is hard to get out. It is okay, that it is hard to get out.
All faerie know what they must do, if they linger too long in the sun, and grow tired of their blood, their hearts, their new sensation. They can go home, to Faerieland, and let the hungry soil strip them bare, back down to Name.
I think, all things considered, I'd rather linger here a little longer.
Barthes, Roland. "The Grain of the Voice".
Carson, Anne. Autobiography of Red.
De La Rosa, Becca & Martin, Mabel. Mabel.
Gardner, John. Grendel.
Mitchell, Anaïs. Hadestown.