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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Writing and rewriting feminist and irreverent texts : Poetry, narrative, pedagogy and life 1995

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WRITING AND REWRITING FEMINIST AND IRREVERENT TEXTS: POETRY, NARRATIVE, PEDAGOGY AND LIFE by RENEE ADELLE NORMAN B.Ed., The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1972 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Language Education) We accept t h i s t hesis as conforming to the j/equir^ed ^sjtandard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA January, 1995 © Renee Adelle Norman, 1995 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date CJ>^t^>^i^-^. Zl3 J9-fT DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT This narrative thesis presents a c o l l e c t i o n of creative writing that autobiographically traces a story about coming to writing and transforming through writing. The creative writing i s structured so that the themes are re-worked through additional sections of writing which contribute to the research. This research approach i s adapted from the two-step process of narrative i n t e r p r e t i v e inquiry described by c u r r i c u l a r t h e o r i s t Dr. Ted Aoki. Such a process builds upon a phenomenological r e v i s i t a t i o n of l i v e d experience with a post-structural consideration of the possible meanings within experience as i t i s written and re-written. The inquiry within t h i s thesis i s also framed i n feminist thought, interweaving the writings of French feminists Helene Cixous and J u l i a Kristeva, B r i t i s h writer/feminist V i r g i n i a Woolf, and several North American feminist writers and t h e o r i s t s . Such thought advocates autobiographical and creative l i f e writing and journalizing. Further, the resultant, s t o r i e d texts contribute to our knowledge of the p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s of feminine experience. This knowledge s h i f t s and changes as the signs and s i g n i f i e r s of the texts are d e s t a b i l i z e d i n the i n t e r t e x t u a l relationship between writers, texts and readers. Through the powerful process of writing and storying, the writer comes to examine and understand the selves while simultaneously writing these selves into text. Such learning p a r a l l e l s the recursive nature of writing i n a back and forth movement that emphasizes how we learn to write as we write to learn. Such learning becomes the means to r e f l e c t upon the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the pedagogical selves, bringing a more "thoughtful and t a c t f u l praxis" (van Manen 1990, 124-133) into our teaching, as well as a f u l l e r understanding of the writing and r e f l e c t i n g process f o r students. The approach of t h i s thesis consists not only of writing i n various genres, but s e l e c t i n g them and shaping them into a text. The thesis i d e n t i f i e s and discusses an egocentric story that s p e c i f i e s how a woman writer and teacher became through writing, and how t h i s becoming begins to transform to a s u b j e c t i v i t y which i s decentered i n r e l a t i o n s h i p to other subjects and other texts. The pedagogical implications of t h i s story for curriculum practice are situated within the empowering teaching strategies which encourage the writing and which serve as a model for teaching practice. TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents i v Acknowledgements v i Foreword v i i PRELOG 1 PROLOG Re-germinating 8 Re-tracing 11 Re-legitimizing 14 Re-deciphering 19 Re-defining 23 Re-viewing 31 INTERLOG Re-reading: When You Read My Words 34 POLYLOG Re-awakening 35 Re-joy/sing 52 Re-traversing 65 Re-membering 86 Re-feminizing 106 Re-visioning 120 Re-configuring 133 Re-constructing 143 Re-centering 152 INTERLOG Re-thinking: On Second Thought 163 NONOLOG Re-vealing: A Woman Writer's Diary 166 INTERLOG Re-locating: Doctor, Help! 176 i v DIALOG ONE Re-citing 178 INTERLOG Re-inscribing: Metaphorical Madness 184 ANALOG Re-playing 186 INTERLOG Re-versing: This Is How It's Going 197 DIALOG TWO Re-peating: Women Who Write 200 INTERLOG Re-contextualizing: Deft Detail 208 INTERLOG Re-sisting 211 INTERLOG Re-signifying 213 INTERLOG Re-fusing: Carnival 219 DIALOG THREE Re-poetizing, Re-identifying, Re-theorizing 223 ILLOG Re-assembling: Semiotic Double Text 234 Re-sonating 236 EPILOG Re-capitulating: If I Call Myself 241 WORKS CONSULTED 242 v (ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I wanted to write a thesis that was personal, meaningful, creative and that embodied a kind of research where I could put my selves i n the work. But the following people l i v e i n t h i s thesis, too, and I wish to honor t h e i r contributions: Dr. Wendy Sutton, who for over twenty years has been mentor, teacher, fr i e n d and astute editor. I have been fortunate to work with Wendy as an undergraduate and a graduate student. I value her great s e n s i t i v i t y , perception, generosity and i n t e l l i g e n c e . Dr. Carl Leggo, who named me poet and writer, who encouraged me to seek publication, and whose poetic soul and w r i t e r l y excellence are a continual source of i n s p i r a t i o n . I w i l l always be grateful for the day I met Car l . Fellow poet and writer, humane and emancipated teacher, feminist friend. Dr. Ted Aoki, scholar extraordinaire, innovative and open educator and th e o r i s t , whose goodness and v i s i o n shine through his writings but are even brighter i n person. I have considered i t a p r i v i l e g e to work with Ted, whose philosophy helped me c l a r i f y many of my b e l i e f s . Dr. Syd Butler, whose ground-breaking work on l i f e writing i s a model and a motivation. Syd has been generous with both books and words of support. My husband, Don, who has supported and encouraged my pursuits and who continues to nurture me with love and laughter. My three beautiful daughters, Sara, Rebecca, and Erin, for whom I also write, and who f i l l my l i f e with joy. My parents, Shirley and Joe S i l v e r , my s i b l i n g s , and my i n - laws, who have also loved and supported me throughout my endeavours. Donna Chan and Jacqui Wittman, who are sharing t h i s journey, and whose responses and reassurances have been an invaluable part of the process. The members of the Language Education Department, t r u l y a special group of people and an exceptional department. v i FOREWORD The following poems were published i n English Quarterly, Volume 26 #1, F a l l , 1993, and included i n an essay, Rivers and Tree Roots: Two Writers on a Journey. The essay was co- authored with Dr. Carl Leggo. Journey Song A Lullaby of Voices Stories Not to Live By Warning Metaphorical Madness On Second Thought Awakening Virginia Woolf's Alive and Well and Living in a Co-op in False Creek The following poem and narratives were published i n The Vancouver Sun newspaper: Power Games (August 28, 1993) Conversations with My Children (August 7, 1993) The Politics of Fear (December 18, 1993) and reprinted in Herspectives, Volume 6 #1, April, 1994. Air Supplies (July 16, 1994) Noisy, Noiseless Noise (October 13, 1994) The following poems and narrative were published i n Common Ground: Judgement Day Two Ghosts (September, 1993, Volume 12 #4) In Celebration of Women Firsts and Lasts (August/September, Volume 13 #4, 1994) The following poems were published i n Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature: Shadow (Volume #21, 1993/1994) First Love Oxen on the Roof (Volume #22, 1994) The following poems were published i n Contemporary Verse 2: If I Call Myself (Volume 16 #3, Winter, 1994) This Is How It's Going (Volume 17 #2, Fall, 1994) The following narrative and poems were published i n Inkshed Newsletter, Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning: Knowing Virginia (Volume 12 #2, December, 1993) Toeing In Twirling (Volume 12 #3, February, 1994) Post-modern-What-Did-You-Call-It (Volume 12 #5, June, 1994) v i i Faces was published i n in/versions, Winter, 1994. Crazed Cookies was published i n Writing for Our Lives, Volume 3 #2, Winter, 1995. The following poems are i n press: Everywomen in Northern Woman Journal Language in His Foot Post-modern Feminist Film in Room of One's Own v i i i PRE LOG l This text encompasses a series of logs which work i n a way that d i f f e r s from conventional narrative unity. These logs weave inter t e x t u a l threads between and among the poetry, non-fiction, f i c t i o n , metafiction and drama within them. The Prolog discusses the importance of writing and storying within a narrative, feminist and post-structural framework. The Prolog reviews the work of many the o r i s t s i n order to o f f e r a l i t e r a r y and pedagogical context for the t h e s i s . The Prolog i s layered into six parts, each of which considers d i f f e r e n t facets of feminist, autobiographical and post-modern writing and teaching. The Interlogs which occur throughout the thesis interrupt the logs to remind the reader to re-consider the layers of textual and textural meaning, or to o f f e r strategies and content for alternate readings. These interlogs vary i n nature from poetry to anecdote to f i c t i o n . The l a s t four interlogs i n the thesis play upon the theme of metaphoric writing which i s an i n t e g r a l part of J u l i a Kristeva's theory about poetic text, which Kristeva characterizes as revolutionary, that i s , operating within a p o l i t i c a l , h i s t o r i c a l and c u l t u r a l context (Kristeva 1984). These four interlogs demonstrate how various forms of poetic text can "revolutionize" how we think about writing. The fourth i n t e r l o g , Re-fusing: Carnival, relates the metaphoric and poetic world to the teaching world through the dramatic and l i t e r a r y conception of mask. 2 The Polylog i s the longest log, the varied c o l l e c t i o n of creative writing which explores my l i f e : family, scholarship, curriculum and pedagogy, feminism, the public and the private, truth and f i c t i o n , the writer's s u b j e c t i v i t y and the selves. The Polylog consists of nine sections, which begin with a breaking of silence and continue with a progression of writing voices. These sections r e - v i s i t the experiences of my woman and teacher's l i f e , moving through the transformation to writer and to a less egocentric writing subject. Re-awakening i s about the unravelling of the many layers of i d e n t i t y which have buried the writing selves. The r e a l i z a t i o n that writing practice i s v i t a l occurs through the act of writing and through reading feminist texts. Re-joy/sing i s a celebration of home, family, joy, laughter and women, peppered with love, humour, earthiness and feminist awareness. Re-traversing t r a v e l s former ground but takes a deeper look at motherhood and what i t means to be a woman-mother- writer-teacher . Re-membering r e - c a l l s past pain, sadness and memories, p a r t i c u l a r l y about miscarriage. This section depicts the welling up of pain and sorrow as more layers of the selves are peeled back and re-membered through writing. It i s a longer section to re-produce the d i f f i c u l t y of such an endeavour. The several poems and the scene about miscarriage i l l u s t r a t e how a writer can write about the same event many ways and from 3 d i f f e r e n t angles, working and re-working the themes through writing about them. Re-feminizing i s an angry, hard-edged segment that makes no attempt to hide bitterness or rage or fear, drawing upon the more demanding aspects of being a woman and a teacher. Re-visioning focuses on the i n s p i r a t i o n and influence of V i r g i n i a Woolf, and begins to revolve away from selves- consideration into the realm of other subjects. Re-configuring i s a t r a n s i t i o n a l section whose pieces s h i f t i n and out of egocentricity. This section i s p i v o t a l to the polylog, including the landscape of our selves, our world and the curriculum landscape. Here a l i n k i s made between the writing selves and the teaching selves; between the writing landscape and the teaching landscape. Re-configuring concludes with a poem that gazes outward again by re- connecting to others. Re-constructing considers post-modernism i n l i g h t of education, feminism and writing, coming to terms with some of the contradictions and ambiguities. F i n a l l y , Re-constructing s i g n i f i e s the f i r s t stage of a transformation which i s never complete, another beginning i n a movement towards de-centeredness. The Monolog steps back chronologically, and i n the consolidated voice of the writer, r e - t e l l s parts of the polylog, p a r t i c u l a r l y the story about coming into writing. Dialog One works through some of the themes and features 4 of the Polylog. Here an interview with an "unknown poet" conveys other sides of the selves i n conversation about the writing and about egocentricity. Dialog Two works through some of the feminist aspects of women writers' texts and l i v e s by placing journal entries and poems i n between the words of other women authors. Dialog Three works through some of the c u l t u r a l , poetic and post-modern aspects of text and theory i n a polyphony of voices and texts. The Analog re-counts what i s unsaid i n the poetic language of the thesis by a r t i c u l a t i n g how some of the writing came about. Journal entries and memories and narrative re- writi n g re-constitute some of the emotions and meanings of the polylog. The Illog brings the thesis to a temporary pause through the semiotic and the unconscious, followed by the Epilog, a poem whose dwindling echoes symbolize that the poetic, creative text and the writing and teaching selves who l i v e and r e - l i v e the text are without end. Throughout the logs, the creative textual forms are connected with gerunds that begin with the prefix "re," threading the thesis with a series of s u b t i t l e s which color the i n t e n t i o n a l i t y and meaning i n the layers of words. The use of the pr e f i x "re," followed by a hyphen, i s a deliberate attempt to accent the movement, flux and m u l t i p l i c i t y which characterize the material of t h i s text. 5 The meaning of the p r e f i x "re" s h i f t s throughout the thesis, either suggesting a further exploration of the same elements or evoking an exploration of new material. This process dis/places the meanings of words and emphasizes that what i s s i g n i f i e d i n the writing i s without closure. The "re" s i g n i f i e s a non-linear back and forth movement i n the writing that grows and m u l t i p l i e s with p o s s i b i l i t i e s , producing offshoots of even more p o s s i b i l i t i e s . 6 PROLOG 7 Re-germinating Journey Song Barefoot on the jagged s i l v e r stones and rooted twigs of my landmarked journey curious, unafraid, without a lanterned map I twist and turn following my own inaccurate sense of desolate d i r e c t i o n down a path where present love and laughter l i n e my way I rest i n watery brooks (child-dappled gleams of s t a r l i t bubbles) drinking rainwater drops of innocent uncomplicated nectar which quenches my t h i r s t to be held and regarded with unwavering eyes Then knowing I have stayed too long have hidden i n the soothing sight of small bodies pressed close to my unknown destination must voyage on to other faded signposts I navigate the sidewalk cracks of a daring detour into crossroads I am t e r r i f i e d to t r a v e l that lure me there with the ghosts of other wanderers well-known t r a v e l l e r s whose gaze explained my untold need Now alone i n body skin-dried from unwatered weather I break the b a r r i e r reef of present time and traverse the double highway of a pain-prismed past Barefoot s t i l l I s p l i t and fracture into deadend ditches darting f i r s t to lush landscapes evergreen with murky memories backtracking next to darkened scenery concave with exorcised emotion emerging at l a s t with the bloodsoaked toes of another weary wayfarer unable to continue my fractions dissembled across the miles of rainbowed roaming U n t i l the birdsong of my many voices c a l l s the treasured past to count my present sense of jewelled losses 8 and b r i e f l y sings my journey song into a ghostly ear I conjure up to bodily appear Momentary peace then l u l l s the tempest on my endless journey and f l e e t i n g checks desire that overwhelms my fear Rejuvenated I t r a v e l on from here * * * £1fsst myis.tfstippiny, falliny, pitcttiny doom, down Into ttis. tlaat.nsi.i. ai. IJ wxits andU can't tislp myi-stf fJjuit Izssp falliny down tfzs tlaclz riots,. ^>own, down, past wtisxs c/flias ws.nt. crf-nd yst, and yst. c^-fow can U ts a post wittiout pai.i.ion, wfisn ttiat paiiion Li. ttis paxt oj ms ttiat yiusi xiis. to ttis postxy? c^fow can U iiop fxom fssliny ox xsactiny? c^fow can auoid ttis ts.ni.ion wtisn U did not susn want it ox i-ss. it cominy and it ii. ttis usxy ttiiny ttiat fssdi. my wxitincj ? jj writs my way out oj- ttis ctaoi. of- ttis tsmion and alt ttis smotioni. undsxlyiny ttis tsmion. <^So many woxds D no tonysx told tlzs woxdi. tact. <J^sftsatius, iout-tsaxcliny, xspaixiny, undsxitandiny woxdi.. <zSsaxiny woxdi.. D don't want to oosxwtis.tm witt my woxdi., tut jJ am iomstimsi. in danysx of tsiny ousxwtislmsd myistf. J3y woxdi.: mins, wttiati tpitt out of ms now, aonnsatsd to ttis dzspsit paxti. of ms ttat fsst susxyttiny io ints.ni.sty. ^Woxdi wittout which D am loii, io dspsndsnt am U on ttiois woxdi. to wxits myizlf out of dsi.paix, confusion, unlappinsi-i., psxplsxity. am iomstimsi. in danysx of tsiny ousxwtislmsd ly otfisxi.' woxdi.: woxdi. £1 don t always unds.Xi.tand; woxdi. U txy to placs in my nsw psxi.psctivs ai. a wxitsx; woxdi. U atwayi. taos to fiytt not to mii.intsxp.xst. \\Jts msmoxy of woxdi. fxom tfts past xsionatiny in my innsx sax dssbioyi. any usit'iys of confidsncs in myi.slf. D xstuxn ayain and ayain to ttis woxdi. U wxits; 1st ttism tats ms out of any pain ox ttuxt ox ds.i.pondsncy; 1st ttism ioax out of any jutilation ox joy ox contsntmsnt. ^Zltis woxdi. axs my iotacs and my iouxcs and my stability, £f drown in mg words., too, susn as. IJ s.wim with tfts.ni, and U hnow with csrtaintg, susrg tims ll twin to a frssh, ahsan Ip-ags and scratch ths words. thsrs, that £J haus found loth mg s.aluation and mg sorrow. ^ZJhis words, jiour forth unchschsd, drowning ms, drowning othsrs.. IJhs words, wasl over ms and mg dss-irss. and jilt" ms with Hanging, with s.atisfaction, with hop.s, with s-odnsss., with sscuritg, with contradiction. U rsturn to ths words. U writs as. ifJJhad nsusr alandonsd thsm, as. if thsg had not Lain dormant for gsars. and gsars,, and U s.igh as. jJ writs thsis words., hnowing thsg ars with ms forsusr, hut knowing, too, ait this stxifs and s.tridsnag that thsg can causs, ths jiain as. wsll as^ ths jjilsasxxrs... *** Jlihs ths ocsan, mg writing is. full of wauss., at timss. tos.s.ing tho SS caught in ths moosmsnt of ths watsr, as. whsn a s-hifi jias.sz.s- Org choss. to ths s.hors and hsightsns. ths thrust of ths wauss, for a s-wimmsr. Jlihs ths ocsan, mg writing is. full of lifs forms, in various, stagss, of growth or dscag, hut alt contributing to ths scos.gs.tsm, and nssding to corns to soms latanas in ordsr to sxist. Jlihs ths ocsan, mg writing rssonatss, with ths sound of ths watsr s-lajijiing against jiilss. of roch—somstimss, [oud and jiowsrful, somstimss. gsnths and cjuist, somstimss. so mutsd ons must imagins ths sgmphong of humanitg in ths s.andg watsr. Jlihs ths ocsan, mg writing can rags in a storm, strils out as. if it wsrs ths snd of ths world, thsn s-jisnt, contrits, ths watsr flowing rhgthmicalhg and calm ones mors, hohd ths wisdom of ths world in ths dshris. floating alous ths sxxrfacs of this wauss,. Jlihs ths ocsan, mg writing rs-lp.rsss.nts. humanitg and lifs and all that is. sntailsd in ths living... 10 Re-tracing I am not the inventor of the telephone, nor did I swim across the English channel. I did not discover the Dead Sea S c r o l l s or write the Great Canadian Novel (maybe next year). I did not give b i r t h to quintuplets or qu e l l r i o t s i n an east end high school, rob tr a i n s or marry more than one man at the same time while commuting back and forth between families. There i s no upcoming made-for-TV movie about my time i n j a i l , or my murder of a daughter's schoolmate's mother, and I have never been unjustly accused of a crime, hijacked on an airplane, or detained i n some foreign country (knock on wood). I am r e l a t i v e l y unknown, undistinguished and unremarkable, an ordinary c i t i z e n leading another ordinary l i f e . But something compels me to write of my woman's l i f e . Something c a l l s me to speak of my experiences as a woman, crea t i v e l y , i n the poetic and r e f l e c t i v e and narrative forms that have become a v i t a l part of my l i f e over the l a s t few years. Something burns inside me, smouldering u n t i l i t bursts into a flame of words, the smoke c i r c l i n g my sto r i e s and poems, bleeding them into the a i r , the st o r i e s and poems giving o f f smoke signals I want others to pick up and read and remember. Like Ursula LeGuin who writes of st o r i e s t o l d round the campfire (LeGuin 1981), I want to o f f e r my words up to the flames of the metaphoric f i r e . I want to hear the written hush of a l i s t e n i n g silence f a l l across the f l i c k e r i n g f i r e l i g h t of the p r i n t before my story or poem i s about to begin. I want to o f f e r my words up 11 to t h i s hushed silence, to the i n t e n s i t y of the f i r e , to the blood of the t e l l i n g . . . But by remembering it he had made the story his; and insofar as I have remembered it, it is mine; and now, if you like it, it's yours. In the tale, in the telling, we are all one blood. Take the tale in your teeth, then, and bite t i l l the blood runs, hoping it's not poison; and we will all come to the end together, and even to the beginning: living, as we do, in the middle. (LeGuin 1981, 195) Like C l a r i s s a Estes (1992) who believes i n the power of s t o r i e s and the feminine s p i r i t , the Wild Woman archetype, I want to write the s t o r i e s and poetry of my feminine experience with emotion and i n t e g r i t y . I want to embody the events of the day and the moments of my l i f e . Moments of being, V i r g i n i a Woolf c a l l e d them (Woolf 1976, 87). Those times when we see something f a m i l i a r with such c l a r i t y that the world stands s t i l l ; those times when we notice for the f i r s t time something i n our world that i s heart-rending or wonderfully funny or t e r r i b l y sad or s i l l y or unbelievably b e a u t i f u l . And we write these experiences into words, giving them shape and substance. Giving them an a f t e r l i f e . " J make it real by putting it into words," wrote Virginia Woolf (1976, 72). "It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole..." (72). What drives me to write i s as age-old as the story i t s e l f : a need to reach out and connect; a way to achieve recognition and some immortality; the hope of finding something I suspect may have been l o s t . . . 12 The Wild Woman.carries stories and dreams and words and songs and signs and symbols. (Estes 1992, 12) She encourages humans to remain multilingual; fluent in the languages of dreams, passions, and poetry... She is ideas, feelings, urges, and memory. She has been lost and half forgotten for a long, long time. (Estes 1992, 13) She lives in the place where language is made. She lives on poetry and percussion and singing. (Estes 1992, 14) Dance I s t r a i n my arms upward ha i r blossoming wild i n the wind of your welcome embrace f u l l of bewilderment I l i f t my face eyes c l o s i n g t i g h t i n the dark of our bodies entwisted f u l l of yearning I part my l i p s head moving side to side i n the storm of your cheek rough on mine f u l l of gentle force I am l o s t i n the mist searching my forgotten s e l f c a l l i n g her to forge a path through the abyss urging her to scale the brambles to the peak calming her when she c r i e s she has danced t h i s dance before whispering to her when she hears an i n s i s t e n t knock on the door lamenting with her when she sings bereft because she hides no more arms hair face eyes l i p s head body r i s i n g above the haze of love disappearing f u l l of grace I want to run with the wolves I want to be a wolf again 13 Re-legitimizing V i r g i n i a Woolf wrote that ordinary women must write of t h e i r experiences so we know the d e t a i l s of t h e i r l i v e s : She never writes her own l i f e and scarcely keeps a diary; there are only a handful of her letters in existence. She left no plays or poems by which we can judge her. What one wants.. .is a mass of information; At what age did she marry; how many children had she as a rule; what was her house like; had she a room to herself; did she do the cooking; would she be likely to have a servant? All these facts l i e somewhere.... (Woolf 1992/1929, 58) I am convinced that Carolyn Heilbrun's book, Writing a Woman's Life (1988), takes i t s t i t l e from V i r g i n i a Woolf's writing. Heilbrun p r o f i l e s how many biographic accounts of women writers' l i v e s were constructed and burdened by patr i a r c h a l interpretations imposed upon them. She discusses how many of these biographies, written by men, obscure and d i s t o r t the women's l i v e s , the unacknowledged anger, the d e t a i l s . Heilbrun analyzes how some women writers i n years past revealed only cert a i n parts of t h e i r selves, without reference to the hardships, the pain, the s o c i e t a l expectations (Heilbrun 1988) . In her essay, Curriculum and the Art of Daily Life (1991), Madeleine Grumet celebrates the ordinary, the everyday, the domestic, the home, c a l l i n g upon everyday experience to be included i n the curriculum as a v i t a l source of knowledge, meaning and aesthetics: But here is our dilemma: When these accounts [stories of home] are omitted from our scholarship, when we look elsewhere, anywhere for our sources, our reasons 14 and motives, we perpetuate and exaggerate our exile. (Grumet 1991,84) ...woman's standpoint is one which honors the connection and intimacy between those who share the actual time and space of everyday l i f e . The power of those who bear the babies and nurture them, who order the provision of food, decide what is clean and dirty, who wash the sheets and care for the aged is palpable. (Grumet 1991, 84) Helene Cixous c a l l e d to women: Write yourself (cited in Conley 1991, 52). I can hear William Gass entering t h i s exchange, commenting on autobiography i n an age of narcissism and questioning the many autobiographical t r a c t s which sel f - i n d u l g e n t l y reveal a l l — the a l l being rather d u l l or overdone (Gass 1994). Enough with self-confessional personal h i s t o r i e s that record the color of our new dress or our most recent transgressions or our whining wails about how many times we had the f l u i n any one rainy season, Gass might cry. But Gass' essay i s written from the pat r i a r c h a l point of view of those members of the population who have dominated the l i t e r a r y canon f o r years. Many women, V i r g i n i a Woolf included, might write that those so-called t r i v i a l d e t a i l s about women have been missing from the canon—or miss/represented—for years (Grumet 1991; Heilbrun 1988 & 1991; Showalter 1985; Spender 1989). Marlene Kadar rejects the term "autobiography" and favours " l i f e writing," p r e c i s e l y because the former term has excluded important forms of writing written by women that t e l l of women's l i v e s : d i a r i e s , l e t t e r s , journals (Kadar 1992): 15 . . .life writing is the playground for new relationships both within and without the text...the site of new language and new grammars...the site of the other, and this other is "autobiographical" in one sense, and not at all in another. Autobiography proper requires too much unity of the narrative, and too much "objective" or reasoned thinking, too much author/ity of the author to be as irreverent as l i f e writing can be. (Kadar 1992,153) Carolyn Heilbrun even i l l u s t r a t e s how poetry can write a woman's l i f e (1988, 66). Many feminist l i t e r a r y journals are committed to publishing the l i f e w riting of women i n order to redress the imbalance which e x i s t s i n the l i t e r a r y canon and to feature issues and images central to women's l i v e s : Common Ground , Room o f One's Own, Contemporary V e r s e 2, and others. A l l w r iting i s autobiographical, Donald Murray reminds us (Murray 1991). Helene Cixous would agree (Conley 1991). Yet poet Di Brandt writes i n the preface to her confessional book of poems, Q u e s t i o n s I Asked My Mother: "Some of this is autobiographical and some is not" (Brandt 1987, n.pag.). Is Brandt excusing herself from any of the re s p o n s i b i l i t y ? I don't think so. My own experience at the outset of my own writing adventures confirms that a l l writing i s indeed autobiographical, but that the " l i e s " i n f i c t i o n are truths of t h e i r own and the "truths" i n non-fiction can l i e . . . I noticed my husband, Don, eyeing my papers on the computer desk the other day, curious about t h e i r contents. Then one day I read him a b i t from my "Power Games" piece, the part about his playing basketball. His r i b r e a l l y was broken and we were laughing at a l l the catastrophes which occur at his weekly basketball 16 / game, as regularly as the Thursday comes and goes. I was depressed at M. 's heart attack, he commented, but I never drove a f r i e n d to the emergency ward, he corrected p r e c i s e l y . You have now, I muttered. And of course, I knew when I wrote that l i n e that i t was f i c t i t i o u s . And I understood i n s t a n t l y that preface that Brandt had written, and why, and moreover, I think she i s very astute i n t h i s regard about the way some of us "write a l i f e , " with husbands/wives/partners/lovers/friends/ mothers/fathers/children/hamsters peering over our shoulders, ready to check for accuracy, and who-knows- what-else. (Renee Norman's journal) nothing you will ever do or say, she told me once, can hurt me as much as the writing of that book, questions i asked my mother, i'm so ashamed, i can't go out in public any more, everybody's asking me about it & about you: do you s t i l l love this daughter, why did she write that book? (Brandt 1990, 56-57) letting the poet in me out: the wild, confused, angry, hurt woman child who had so many words swirling around in her head, & none of them her own. it took a long time, digging myself out...holding my l i f e together while the stories exploded around, inside me...discovering women's writing, finding other women writers, finding myself, writing....(Brandt 1990, 54) What we put into words, what we attempt to make " r e a l " and "whole," i n V i r g i n i a Woolf's words, what we chronicle can be viewed and re-viewed. When we turn a r e f l e c t i v e telescope onto our world, what we put into words can have re-verberating ramifications. T e l l i n g the s t o r i e s and poems of our selves and our l i v e s also means that others can take a look through the telescope. The ethics of such writing can be d i f f i c u l t to define. Is anything, any occurrence, there ready and waiting to be plucked off the idea vine and re-worked through the writer's gardening pen? If so, writers don't necessarily make good friends or 17 r e l a t i v e s . Poet Susan Zimmerman writes: "Consider the selfishness of poets/their ruthless naming of lovers/the way they tell the truth..." (cited in Leggo 1989, 105). No fact, no d e t a i l , no anecdote i s beyond the writer's hand and reach. Anything can be laundry for the word-processing wash. Writers take facts and fancy, embroider them, mend them, patch them together, and hang them out i n the midday sun to dry. The f i n a l product's f i c t i o n a l aspects can seem the most natural, and the t r u t h f u l b i t s can appear more bizarre than the red underwear on Great Aunt Fanny's c l o t h e s l i n e . But s t i l l , within that finished product are fragments of something recognizable that r e f l e c t and r e f r a c t b i t s of emotion and experience. And fragments that can border on invasion of privacy. When I f i r s t began writing, I was very naive about the public and the private. Although I was c e r t a i n l y reluctant to share my writing with others, I wrote without considering a l l the ramifications of recording l i v e s i n p r i n t . I'd occasionally read some of my pieces to my family for t h e i r reaction. Mostly they paid l i t t l e attention, the way a busy parent can sometimes d i s t r a c t e d l y comment to a c h i l d , "that's nice, dear," i n reply to the chi l d ' s excited exclamation that the cat i s on top of the cupboard eating that night's dinner. When everyone eventually comes to, a l e r t , s i t s up and takes notice, a l l h e l l breaks loose. When I began seeking publication, i t seemed the natural outgrowth of putting my thoughts and feelings into words. A way 18 to connect and be remembered. But i t i s n ' t easy to have a writer i n the family. Just ask my daughters, whose names and antics have appeared several times i n p r i n t . The f i r s t time one of my daughters saw an a r t i c l e where her name appeared, she commented with c h a r a c t e r i s t i c eight-year-old enthusiasm for my writ i n g endeavour: "That's nice, Mommy." The second time received an "oh." But the t h i r d time. Well, by that time the t h r i l l was d e f i n i t e l y wearing o f f . "Couldn't you be a basketball player?" my daughter asked me sternly. But some things need to, beg to be said and written. Because wr i t i n g about our ordinary l i v e s i s a kind of writing that i s important. Because I believe I should open my own many selves to the sort of scrutiny that writing brings. Because I believe I can attempt to examine my selves through what i s written. Perhaps I can come to interpret my selves and my world a l i t t l e better, a l i t t l e d i f f e r e n t l y , through my eyes and pen, re f l e c t e d back to me i n words. Writing the s t o r i e s — a n d poems— of my l i f e reminds me I am human. Re-deciphering There i s a tension between the feminist desire to retrieve and reveal our l i f e s t o r i e s , and post-modern thought which acknowledges both how we construct these s t o r i e s and how the words within them continually s h i f t and fracture. What can ever be " r e a l " and "whole" i n such a context? What chronicle i s ever completely "authentic"? I cannot resolve t h i s tension, but I 19 have come to believe that perhaps t h i s very tension i s what prevents me from disappearing into a t o t a l i t y which consumes my l i v e d experience as a woman. As a writer and a woman, I seek to write what w i l l resonate with emotion, but I am also aware of the "trap of words" which Helene Cixous locates (cited i n Conley 1991, 133). In writing autobiographically, the writing creates and constructs the autobiography, or as Kadar would say, the l i f e writing. "The woman of accomplishment," Heilbrun writes, "may write her own l i f e in advance of living it, unconsciously, and without recognizing or naming the process" (1988, 11). What we reveal, what we omit, how we choose to reveal...the omissions often say as much (or more) than the revelations. Ted Aoki c a l l s t h i s the said and the unsaid, commenting that t h i s i s where the poets play t h e i r part (Aoki 1994). He said he writes the truth, and I think he also said he i s not a f r a i d of i t . Nor am I a f r a i d of my own truths. But I am not always certain that the truth I am writing about i s the complete story, just small parts of i t revealed momentarily and r e f l e c t e d b r i e f l y , and I worry that t h i s d i s t o r t s the truth. Sometimes the form and language of my words also seem to a l t e r t h i s truth so that i t i s even d i f f i c u l t for me to recognize. Yet i f I were asked to acknowledge that t h i s truth must be mine since i t comes from deep within me, however I have stretched i t out, turned i t upside down, or destroyed i t by c o n f l i c t i n g images, I would accept t h i s truth as mine, w i l l i n g l y . I only hope that some of these truths w i l l at least be forgiven, i f not understood. (Renee Norman's journal) What i s truth? 20 Breaking the Truth To be true to my s e l f I am learning to t r y to write the truth But there are many truths to unlearn I have t r i e d to learn the truth The truth i s t r y i n g I w i l l t r y to learn true I am encouraged to write my personal truth (But I don't always t e l l i t ) The truth be t o l d the truth t o l d hurts me In truth the t r u t h f u l words written t r u t h f u l l y trounce me I shouldn't just write the truth I should t e l l i t To t e l l the truth the truth t e l l s me there i s truth i n silence, too (I write the truth and regret i t hourly I don't t e l l the truth and regard i t sourly) The truth i s the truth hurts I don't l i k e to face the truth I avoid truth i f i t hurts (Being true to your s e l f can be r e l a t i v e to how much that s e l f r e a l l y wants to face.) The truth i s hard passionate, too Do the l i n e s of truth r e f l e c t back what i s truth t o l d truth f u l l truth un-folded un-truth folded The words of truth flow out of my pencil They f e e l true I re-read the words strong passionate true Is strong and true too hard? Does true passion hurt? The truth i s the truth hurts me Should I stop writing the truth i f others hurt, too? 21 I should remember while truth reveals i t can never be r e c a l l e d I wish the truth I broke didn't always break James C l i f f o r d referred to how any truth can only ever be p a r t i a l (1986). "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open," wrote Muriel Rukeyser (cited in Greene 1978, 223). "Do you know who (among us) was loyal, who was betrayed, who was a traitor, who saw the doors of the sky open? Will this be visible later in our poems? Has the history of truth begun?" asks Helene Cixous in her play Akhmatova (cited in Conley 1991, x v i i i ) . "Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant," advised Emily Dickinson (cited in Moi 1985, 59). The truth i s . . . I write because I must. The truth i s . . . I write because I have a thesis to complete. The truth i s . . . I write to make known my woman's l i f e . The truth i s . . . I write because I have a captive audience. The truth i s . . . i n the writing and the re-writing and i n - between the spaces, words, silences. The truth i s i n the l i f e . Who cares? What's the point? Where's the value? I care. That's the point. There's the value. 22 Re-defining Yet another question beckons. What i s pedagogic about writing a woman's l i f e ? I am, af t e r a l l , a pedagogue. Not only do I teach my own children, but I teach other children i n the public school system. My i n t e r e s t i n writing and feminism intersec t s with my educational concerns, my l i f e as an educator and a parent. Max van Manen eloquently describes our pedagogic undertaking as parents and teachers (1990). Within the phenomenological undertaking of writing and re-writing l i v e d experience, writing serves pedagogy (van Manen 1990, 111). Writing i s a method of thinking and r e f l e c t i n g , a means of understanding the significance of the lif e w o r l d , an exercise of self-consciousness that brings us to a more thoughtful and t a c t f u l praxis (van Manen 1990, 124-33). William Pinar believes that writing autobiographically i s a process that i s highly s i g n i f i c a n t to education. In a lecture delivered at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, Pinar described t h i s process as one which makes us aware of a past that i s influenced by psychological, s o c i a l , r e l i g i o u s and gender forces (1993). Such awareness i s an opportunity to see the world a d i f f e r e n t way, a reconfiguration of ego that a l t e r s our perspective of the world. Pinar believes t h i s a l t e r a t i o n i s important to education since he conceptualizes teaching as an instrument of self-expression that i s highly personal. David Jardine writes how inter p r e t i v e inquiry begins with a sense of the significance of f a m i l i a r instances of our l i v e s , 23 our "being in the world" (Jardine 1992a, 55). These particular instances, these "texts," "must be read and re-read for the possibilities of understanding" that they call forth, a playful process that depends as much on exploration and "happenstance" as on the meanings in these texts (57). Such interpretive inquiry is pedagogic because it involves "the transformation of self-understanding" (60), "understanding who we are differently, more deeply, more richly" (60), or according to Gadamer's philosophy, understanding which "always must be renewed in the effort of our living" (cited in Jardine 1992a, 60). Writing a woman's l i f e i s pedagogic through the transformation that such writing makes possible. I came late to wr i t i n g but l i k e Natalie Goldberg, writing became fo r me "the tool I used to digest my l i f e and to understand" (1993, 19). "Writing became my vehicle for transformation, a way to travel out of...nowhere land...," author Natalie Goldberg explains i n her autobiographical book, Long Quiet Highway (1993, 31). For me, t h i s transformation i s i n e x t r i c a b l y linked to feminist texts by and about women. Like Goldberg, I responded to feminism which s t i r r e d me to write. "Writing is a way to connect with our own minds, to discover what we really think, see, and feel..." (Goldberg 1993, 71). In the e f f o r t of our l i v i n g , we can l i v e by the s t o r i e s (and poems) that we write: past, present, future. "We can only retell and live by the stories we have read or heard. We live our lives through texts," suggests Carolyn Heilbrun (1988, 37). 24 We can also l i v e our l i v e s through our own texts. A million hands stitch, raise hods with bricks. The activity is endless. And to-morrow it begins again; to-morrow we make Saturday. Some take train for France; others ship for India. Some will never come into this room again. One may die to-night. Another will beget a child. From us every sort of building, policy, venture, picture, poem, child, factory, will spring. Life comes; Life goes; we make l i f e . (Woolf 1931, 150) And Helene Cixous writes: "Life becomes text starting out from my body. I am already text" (1991, 52). J u l i a Kristeva suggests that we are produced i n our texts as we produce them (Lechte 1990, 58), an eternal subject-in- process of a text-in-progress. When t h i s text i s a poetic rendering, i t i s f u l l of jouissance, the l i f e and b l i s s and joy and f u l l n e s s of l ' e c r i t u r e feminine, a semiotic writing and a bodily reading whose ma t e r i a l i t y i s re a l i z e d i n the musicality of language. I would add that t h i s jouissance and t h i s music resonate with the darker, stormier sensations and chords, a l l part of a woman's being-in-the-world. I concur with Kristeva, though, that writing produces forgiveness (Lechte 1990, 192). Writing also produces understanding. Writing and re-writing a woman's l i f e i s a pedagogic "being-in-the-world" which generates and re-generates understandings important to the l i v e s of a l l women. In her address about women and f i c t i o n which became part of the book, A Room of One's Own, V i r g i n i a Woolf conjured up an imaginary poet, Shakespeare's s i s t e r , who never wrote a word, who "lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to- 25 night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed" (Woolf 1992/1929, 148). Writing a woman's l i f e brings to l i f e t h i s poet, one of Shakespeare's s i s t e r s , her l y r i c a l and poetic words echoing endlessly and profoundly within the context of many texts. What i s the connection for me between such poetic writing, feminism and the teaching/parenting that I do? In confronting and facing parts of my selves as I write and i n considering what t h i s meeting holds for me, I am once more remembering, as B r i t i s h drama educator Dorothy Heathcote writes i n Of These Seeds Becoming (1978), that the struggle i s the journey. I am once more recognizing not just what i t means to be human, but also what i t means to be a woman. It seems to me t h i s discussion i s something important that a l l teaching and parenting could c e n t r a l l y consider. In Composing a Life, Mary Bateson states that women should l i v e t h e i r l i v e s without daydreaming a l l the time; that i t i s creative pursuits which keep daydreams from becoming overwhelmingly unbearable (1990). Writing p o e t i c a l l y enables us to daydream, recognize the r e a l i t i e s of l i v i n g a l i f e , and construct a woman's l i f e c r e a t i v e l y , courageously. I write them a l l there at Penelope's loom: Carolyn Heilbrun Hamlet's Mother V i r g i n i a Woolf Shakespeare's s i s t e r Mary Daly Dale Spender my husband's cousin who b u i l t an ai r y room for Penelope's loom f i l l e d with shelves of glorious wool 26 and binder books of shared patterns from women a l l over the world and a computer, too and many other women whose creased faces I do not yet recognize or know whose creased s t o r i e s I am just beginning to unfold and mine reading writing designing weaving l i v e s with cosmic heavy metal soft or b r i l l i a n t wool weaving shawls with colors some of which I've seen before some that look very new and d i f f e r e n t some I want to throw away a color I think should dominate the fa b r i c another that should be muted on the border interlaced with r e f l e c t i v e threads of s e l f and joy and pain shawls decorated with story l i v e s to drape upon and warm my inner wall However, int e r p r e t i v e inquiry as Jardine discusses i t en t a i l s dialogue with many others, presumably whole, rea l bodies of others, i n addition to one's r e f l e x i v e process. How can personal and poetic l i f e w r i t i n g — t h e account of some of the instances of one's l i f e — i n v o l v e such conversations? " How can such l i f e w r iting avoid sinking into the mire of self-absorbed s e l f - r e f l e c t i o n and n a r c i s s i s t i c whining? I wish to stretch the boundaries of interp r e t i v e inquiry as Jardine discusses i t i n The Fecundity of the Individual Case: considerations of the pedagogic heart of interpretive work ( 1 9 9 2 ) to include the Kristevan i n t e r t e x t u a l notion that no text exists alone. Rather, each text, each voice, each l i f e , i f you w i l l , swims i n a sea replete with many other voices, texts, l i v e s , a swarming sea of humanity s a l t y with the dialogue of other tongues. Sometimes these tongues have been s i l e n t and s t i l l many leagues beneath t h i s sea. Sometimes these tongues have reverberated loudly as they dominated the turbulent waters. 2 7 Like the waves that l i c k the shore with each new rush of water, these tongues lap at the text of any l i f e written anew. Such in t e r - t e x t u a l inter-weaving invests l i f e writing with the l i v e s of many others. If we open the conversation to these many textual others, the dialogue provides a means of holding up one's own text i n a mirrored sea which r e f l e c t s a l l texts which have come before and a l l those to follow. In t h i s way no text remains i s o l a t e d and alone, one voice i n the wild sea, absorbed only with i t s own murky r e f l e c t i o n i n the water. In t h i s way a text, b u i l d i n g upon a l l other texts, re-forms the way experience i s shaped. No sooner do the words inscribe experience, another experience comes along and re-writes a l i f e , the already written text be/coming a record of words subject to the multi-faceted subject who recorded them, subject to the multi-faceted subject who read them. And always, subject to the multi-faceted texts r e f l e c t e d i n that mirrored sea of texts. Verena Conley's deliberation of Helene Cixous' writing and philosophy captures t h i s " g u i l t " of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y , t h i s re- writing which occurs through re-reading, t h i s re-reading which occurs through re-writing, an inter-textual inter-connectedness which i s never innocent of the words and interpretations of others. Reading then is writing, in an endless movement of giving and receiving: each reading reinscribes something of a text; each reading reconstitutes the web it tries to decipher, but by adding another web. (Conley 1991, 7) A text is always guilty, in an Althusserian sense. A text is a rereading, not only because we must reread in order not to consume but also because it has already been read. We approach it with the memory of other texts, and there is no innocent reading as there is no innocent writing. (Conley 1991, 12) These words, these texts, r e a l i z e what Ted Aoki describes as a two-step process i n narrative i n t e r p r e t i v e inquiry (1994): re/covering the meaning (writing a l i f e ) , and constituting and re-constituting the meanings (re-writing a l i f e ) . This re/covery and re-exploration of meanings can connect us to others on the earth, to other earth-dwellers, another profoundly pedagogic undertaking. For i f , as pedagogues, we do not l i v e deeply and consider t h i s l i v i n g , how do we reach those we teach? those we love? David Smith reminds us of a "narrative phenomenological sensibility," the complexity and the importance of the lived condition, the "attention to l i f e as it is lived..." (1993, 11). I wish to broaden t h i s consideration of l i v e d l i f e (always already i n flux) to embody emotion as well as meaning. Like Ted Aoki, I am an earth-dweller (Aoki 1991). I seek the ground beneath my feet, the smell of fresh s o i l when i t i s damp, put out the t i p of my tongue to catch a drop or two of rainwater before i t f a l l s upon the earth and i s lovi n g l y absorbed. I also hear and see the way the horizon extends far beyond where I dwell, see and hear the distant songs I imagine are sung beyond that horizon. As I am an earth-dweller, I l i v e among other earth- dwellers, and I f e e l that dwelling, f e e l that l i v i n g . I l i v e and f e e l and know through my emotions as well as my i n t e l l e c t , my heart as well as my head, through a f f e c t as well as cognition, my senses as well as my mind, through a r t i s t i c as well as s c i e n t i f i c modes of knowledge. I know that the rainwater which dampens the earth I l i v e upon i s caused by water that i s condensed from the aqueous vapour i n the atmosphere and f a l l s i n drops from the sky to the earth, but i t i s the taste of t h i s rainwater upon my tongue and my hair dripping i n my eyes and the poetic words I 29 attempt to inscribe which give the factual knowledge l i f e and depth and meaning. Emotion has l e f t i t s trace upon my learning, and when I have f e l t i t s absence i n my l i f e , bereft, I have searched for i t anew. We can a l l dwell upon the earth, catch the rainwater upon our tongues, and touch, taste, smell, hear, see, f e e l the earth beneath our feet, the earth extending beyond where we dwell, the earth beyond the horizon. Our tears can replenish us the way the rainwater replenishes the earth, f a l l coursing down our cheeks u n t i l they reach the t i p s of our tongues, and mingling with the rainwater caught there, become one l i q u i d , the earth's e l i x i r , the earth-dweller's potion. I believe the embodiment of emotion and meaning i s important to re-writing subject/object dualism, an overreliance on s c i e n t i f i c empiricism, and the denial of ambiguity, contradiction and multi-vocality. Writing i s a practice for l i v i n g deeply and considering our l i v e s ; re-writing i s a means to explore the ambiguities and contradictions, to play p o e t i c a l l y with the p o s s i b i l i t i e s and so open up our many skins, our many selves and others, to the commingled blood pulsing through our beating hearts: the blood freshly drawn, or seeping i n wounds, or dried i n scars, or congealing on the blank pages of women's time... re-nee i n the poem's pores the poem a breathing space: Cixous' &<xu^£e trace the mythico-poetico-theoretico take a breath i n between the l i n e s etna: to BrEathe re-breathing the space re-producing the re-adings to l i v e i s to write 30 re-born through writing: re-nee r e - i n s c r i b i n g the theory re-forming the poem exhaling short gasps between a i r l e s s words deepening the g i f t : Ce touc^e a hot wind blowing on the neck of my respiratory voice "renee" invoking s i b i l a n t puffs of a i r (renee) bREathing the silences that d r i f t by l i k e cottonwood i n spring asthmatic matter co l l e c t e d on the white page -renee- an inhalator the poem1s pores opened EXPLODING f i r e & a i r r e - f l e c t i n g earth & water suck the l i p s of muted mouths u n t i l they bleed theory shrieking words & silences dripping the poem Re-viewing I occupy and balance many roles: teacher, mother, wife, feminist, scholar, poet and writer. My heart beats strongest when I can write of these many roles, out of these many roles...The song I hear that keeps me writing i s f u l l of the harmonious chords, melodic notes, discordant counterpoint and minor and major keys of my everyday l i f e i n t h i s world. Often I write of my everyday experience t r y i n g to make sense of what I think and f e e l and wonder. I write about past joys and pains, present hopes and concerns, future visions and 31 sorrows. I write about what moves me, s t i r s me, shakes me, makes me cry or laugh, what I see or notice or wish I could change, what i s buried deep inside that has r i s e n to the surface, clamouring to be released and s w i r l i n g upward i n those puffs of smoke c i r c l i n g overhead: d e t a i l s , images, memories, feelings, s t o r i e s . . . Under the blows of love I catch fire, I take to the air, I burst into letters. (Cixous 1991, 44) I once wrote i n my journal that each time something I write i s made public, I f e e l as i f I have just given away some part of me that I s t i l l need. Yet the compulsion to write continues, a t e r r i b l e commitment and obsession. The drive to share that writing continues unabated, as i f I must give away a l l of myself before I can be myself. Woman, as Cixous defines her, is a whole—'whole composed of parts that are wholes'—through which language is born over and over again. (Minh-ha 1989, 38) Writing is born when the writer is no longer. (Minh-ha 1989, 35) Perhaps I seek such o b l i v i o n , re-born, as my own name, Renee, suggests, i n the writing. No longer composed of the same parts I slowly gave up, but missing them, I am an apparition apportioned into poems and s t o r i e s and other written matter: eyes replaced by words, images instead of ears, a nose of metaphors, ink to taste pieces of l i f e - s u s t a i n i n g nurturance, and memories that probe l i k e f i n g e r t i p s . . . In the logs which follow, I f e e l as i f I give away 32 everything and I am re-born i n the writing. Re-born and re- written again and again. But wait. That i s the beginning of no end. Let me begin at the beginning of the beginning. endings of beginnings f i l l me with misgivings leaving me a sense of what i s gone I always hate beginnings — d r e a d the middle when i t ' s ending I cannot seem to cope with some aplomb I think i t must be harder to accept the middle ending when beginnings were so tentative yet tender But I just know that when i t ' s ended and I move to more beginnings I ' l l always f e e l i t ' s part of me that's gone There is no true beginning; writing is always already there, as Derrida said.... (Conley 1991, 8) 33 INTERLOG Re-reading When You Read My Words When you read my words remember they just l i g h t a moment and the feeling's f l e e t i n g When you read my words remember words can l i e and I am playing When you read my words remember memories die and facts are fading When you read my words remember that I measure what you're weighing POLYLOG: Re-awakening Renee's Rhetoric Re-velations 36 Reflections on Writing 37 A Lullaby of Voices 39 I Am a Feminist 40 Revelations about Writing 43 Warning 46 Guyn-ick-ology 47 Stories Not to Live By 49 Awakening 50 Renee's Rhetoric Re-velations Re-call: Was I re-born a f t e r my daughters were born? Renee—re-born—what did my mother know when she named me? Or did I die d r i f t i n g down drugged on noxious nitrous oxide? Renee re-surrected and re-born t h i s re-velation re-vealed i n the rhetoric of r e a l i t y . Re-collect: Running to re-write running to ruin writing about the running the re-writing sometimes ruined by the running. The r e a l i t y of my re-born r h e - t o r i c . Reflections on Writing I r e a l i z e d , as I sat writing the exam a l l alone i n a cold room i n December, my s i x sharpened pencils spread out before me on the table, that I roleplay when I write, digging into my writing i n much the same way that an actor t r i e s to absorb a r o l e — f e e l i n g the part, i d e n t i f y i n g with the characters, imagining a l i f e . As I wrote with the p a r t i c u l a r audience i n mind suggested by my task, my pencil sped across the page. I f e l t as i f I were speeding along some highway, my thoughts only s l i g h t l y ahead of my p e n c i l , and sometimes the pencil overtook my thinking. I had no idea what the writing sounded l i k e and I did not reread at a l l as I wrote. There was not enough time, and t h i s time the penc i l wouldn't l e t me. I also r e a l i z e d that i f I care passionately about a matter, I write with abandon, and roleplay my way into my writing f u l l of emotion. Sometimes I even cry when I write, my f e e l i n g so close to the surface that the tears s p i l l over. It seems so maudlin, but as I have always c r i e d e a s i l y , tears welling i n my eyes at even a thought I f i n d e s p e c i a l l y t r a g i c or upsetting or f i l l e d with joy, I understand i t . This awareness—that I write much the same way as I roleplay, transcending present time and present place to a more temporal plane of existence where a whole new set of circumstances rule—came to me as a c r y s t a l clear piece of s e l f - actualized knowledge r i s i n g up and out of my consciousness as I wrote. I can s t i l l r e c a l l the moment, and perhaps the coldness of the room, the unearthly quiet, the time of night, the clock t i c k i n g by on the wall as I continually checked i t , contributed to the e x i s t e n t i a l , disembodied f e e l i n g that accompanied t h i s knowledge. I f e l t so alone with myself, and while very t i r e d , connected to my head ( f u l l of a l l i t s thoughts) by a l i n e which ran a l l the way to my p e n c i l . Sometimes my writing takes over from the thinking me that begins the process. But I often read, reread, revise, reread, agonize over words or phrases a f t e r the i n i t i a l writing. Writing my f i r s t poem for the graduate writing course was d i f f e r e n t . It was slower. I read and reread often. I crossed out and substituted words, came back to parts much l a t e r . (Although sometimes not by choice, as my three daughters continually interrupted me, u n t i l f i n a l l y , I am ashamed to admit, I jumped up and down screaming tantrum-like—my own fourth c h i l d — f o r everyone to leave me alone, my work was important to me. Then I stared back at six wide l i t t l e eyes, f i r s t amused by my tantrum, next h o r r i f i e d at my upset.) I dreamed much of the poem the night before I wrote i t , but only used some of what I remembered. But the kernel of f e e l i n g was there. I think I write mostly from f e e l i n g — n o t image, or even memory, although they play t h e i r part. I read my f i r s t poem to my daughters—the eldest, Sara, said she thought i t was about my writing. Rebecca said she 37 thought i t meant I was a very caring person. Eri n , the youngest, was s i n g u l a r l y unimpressed, and much more interested i n climbing on my knee for a hug and coming between me and my pe n c i l , as young children are wont to do. I have learned how to write at the kitchen sink and use any f i f t e e n minutes where everybody i s happy and occupied to do snatches of writing (or reading). Snatch-writing. Snatch- reading. Despite the e r r a t i c nature of fi n d i n g time f o r writing, what I l i k e best about i t i s rediscovering myself, independent at least for a while—sometimes as f l e e t i n g l y as f i v e minutes— from wife-mother-teacher. I r e a l l y do have things to say, and say them. I r e a l l y can think about more than what to make for supper that w i l l h i t at least three out of f i v e on the person- to-person l i k e s and d i s l i k e s l i s t , and best of a l l , a d i f f e r e n t me i s developing, d i f f e r e n t from the one who spent the decade of the 70 's working on her career, and the decade of the 80 *s nauseous, breastfeeding or washing clothes. I s t i l l wash clothes, but now I throw them i n the machine quickly between phrases, or stand staring out at the rhododendron bush i n a reverie, t r y i n g to work out some problem, Spray and Wash i n hand. Process-washing. Process-writing. I am watching t h i s me to see how she develops with considerable i n t e r e s t . 38 A Lullaby of Voices Who w i l l l i s t e n to My voices Hoarse as they are Some a mere whisper Silenced as they are Beneath the layers of Wife, mother, teacher, student, woman, me I would shout my words to the ocean If i t li s t e n e d If i t didn't take the words and rake them over barnacles Washing them away l i k e grains of sand Lost Are my voices already lost? Drowned out by the c r i e s of small children Joyous but unrelenting The words spinning round and round inside my head Waiting to be Released Given sanction Unburdened by the constraints of time Time the d r i f t e r Time the excuser Sad the words lay unspoken, unshapen, unbidden, underneath my tongue I would sing those words to the ocean i f i t sang them back to me Who w i l l sing back my words? A l u l l a b y of voices Humming i n my head Rocking me to speak. I Am a Feminist I am a feminist with a husband. I am a feminist with three daughters. I am a feminist who cooks and washes clothes. I am a feminist who hasn't had time to read the feminist t r a c t s . I am a feminist who hasn't attended consciousness-raising sessions i n the 60's. I am a feminist who l e t s her daughters play with Barbies. BUT— My husband encouraged me to return to university and cares for our children while I attend and washes our daughters' hair on Sunday night while I struggle to f i n i s h at the computer. A N D — My oldest daughter, Sara wants to be a doctor and an a r t i s t Rebecca i n the middle wants to be a farmer and write books and E r i n l i t t l e E r i n wants badly to be a white horse galloping i n the wind FURTHERMORE— I am being drawn into the writing world of women the reading world of women Making my way through a journey I should have taken long before t h i s . PLUS— I have never stopped 40 t a l k i n g to other women l i s t e n i n g to t h e i r pain and pleasure trading s t o r i e s now and then between fl o o r s AND BESIDES— Now I share my st o r i e s with our three small women no, Sara, you don't need to marry a r i c h man to get a swimming pool you can get that a l l by yourself yes, Sara, you can do i t together that's a fine way to envision i t . Rebecca, i t i s you again roleplaying the king Superman the monster Peter Pan Rumpelstiltskin you can play any adventure roles you choose and those are some of the ex c i t i n g ones. E r i n yes, I w i l l carry your ten pound Book of Horses up the s t a i r s for you and lay i t across your bed as you sleep turned to the page with the white horse dotted with black stars. SO— when Rebecca sends another Barbie s a i l i n g over the balcony to land with a thud near the front door and Ken i s t i e d up with pink ribbons and when E r i n points to Barbie's chest and asks what are those? when Sara wears my hat and gloves and l i p s t i c k the day I teach and goes to the motorcycle show with Don when on New Year's Eve Don plays the Barbie game (a g i f t I hate from my s i s t e r but haven't the heart to take away) saying instead just remember women aren't that stupid or i n s i p i d and Don wins becomes Prom Queen a l l of us laughing on the l a s t day of the year and when Don and I are stuck to the labels of Barbie's new house laughing and cursing and we throw 45 Barbies into t h e i r new abode covering a l l available f l o o r space and s t e a l t h i l y f i l e away 15 labels that inexplicably are l e f t when I c a l l the psychologist who explains Sara's discomfort at school as nine-year-old hormones sexist and never go back to his o f f i c e again deciding to home school my daydreaming daughter I am a feminist with a husband and three daughters who cooks and washes clothes and l e t s her daughters play with Barbies. 42 Revelations about Writing Knots and Shadows: I was astounded to read what Jane Tompkins has to say about learning to forgive and understand the c r i t i c a l me inside us (Tompkins 1987, 178). I wonder i f I, too, am a woman f i l l e d with anger, and i f so, from where i t emanates. I know that as I began my journey into writing and introspection, I was somewhat taken aback at what was coming out of my p e n c i l , and somewhat reluctant to share i t . I f e e l as i f I am slowly but p a i n f u l l y unravelling myself. It f e e l s r i g h t , but as I turn over and over and the knots are revealed or untied or tightened and I can view them from close-up or from afar, i t i s taking my breath away. Tompkins has taken o f f her s t r a i t j a c k e t (178) i n order to examine her own anger and emotion. I think I am going to take some slow, deep breaths, then plunge on. For the Four F 1s: It w i l l take me a l i f e t i m e to understand For the Etruscans (Duplessis 1990, 1-19). I shut myself i n my room to read i t , only getting interrupted once by my oldest daughter, who poked her head i n to see what I was doing and why I needed to shut the door. I shut the door so I could read, could think, could take i n the words as I think they were probably meant to be r e a d — i n chunks of text that didn't always necessarily seem clear but s t i l l gave a sense of where the author was going, had been, wanted to be... The part I loved the best was near the end where Sara Lennox's words are constantly interposed with Duplessis' words (in the brackets), Duplessis taking much of what she has already said and weaving i t i n and out of t h i s other woman's thoughts, s t r i k i n g l y s i m i l a r . I also f e l t a strong kinship to the two intrusions of r e a l i t y that interrupted the essay? poem? story? One, her c h i l d , complaining that Duplessis never buys what the c h i l d l i k e s to eat. The other, Duplessis, wanting to cook something nice f o r her companion, but also hoping i t would l a s t , so she wouldn't have to cook for a few days. Yes, I thought, t h i s i s true, I have been there, I am there. The female aesthetic brought down to earth by the mundane of everyday l i f e . The c o n f l i c t of ambiguous womanhood— wanting, needing to nurture (nourished ourselves for a while on the words and thoughts), but also wishing that t h i s food of our love could l a s t , spread out, for a l i t t l e longer, so we could take time to b i t e off some more words to chew and digest. Duplessis' writing and the essay? piece? song? interludes? is/are at once both deeply i n t e l l e c t u a l and compellingly complicated, making many references which (as I checked footnote a f t e r footnote) were foreign to me. 43 S t i l l , I think I understand some of what she i s saying. (I have even had some of my babies without fuss between semesters.) That our language, that i s , the female language of our l i v e s and experiences, i s not extinct, but rather, not yet f u l l y formed but forming. And i f we can continually accept that t h i s language breaks many of the old b a r r i e r s , that t h i s language has to f i n d new ways of saying what has yet never been said, because a l l that has not been said needs to be spoken, then as t h i s female language forms, flounders, flourishes (the four f ' s ) , we w i l l , unlike the Etruscans, create a language that l a s t s , however strange i t seems, or however paradoxically i t seems to turn back on i t s e l f . Fields of Feeling, Windows of Wonder: I am beginning to believe that somewhere s c r i p t s of my l i f e e x ist over which I have l i t t l e control, but i n which I somehow play a central role. I am beginning to believe that there i s some sort of c e n t r i f u g a l force which revolves around me i n ever- widening c i r c l e s of experience. I am beginning to believe that I may be s l i g h t l y psychic, but because t h i s i n t u i t i o n has never been f i n e l y tuned or developed—and to be honest, because i t frightens me—such clairvoyance only enters my l i f e i n small, undisturbing clouds of smoke. Once I phoned my next-door-neighbour to inquire a f t e r her mother, who was very i l l and dying. This neighbour took time o f f work to care f o r her mother at home. I had not talked to her for weeks. This was t y p i c a l of both our busy l i v e s and our neighbourly relationship, my days f i l l e d with diapers and part- time dabbling, hers f i l l e d with a f u l l - t i m e career. But that day, inexplicably, I wanted to phone and ask about both her and her mother. How was her mother doing? Was there anything she needed? It must be hard, and so on. We talked, and her mother died not much l a t e r that same day. I know that such occurrences can be common phenomena, but when they occur with alarming r e p e t i t i o n and frequency over the years, they are d i f f i c u l t to shrug away and ignore. When I am at the centre of what i s happening, i t seems so strong and s i g n i f i c a n t . I have always had a v i v i d sense that another f r i e n d and neighbour (with one daughter the same age as my oldest) would one day have another c h i l d . She had been t r y i n g to conceive again for years, beset with various problems that made t h i s apparently next-to-impossible. One day, af t e r walking home from accompanying my daughters to school, I passed her house and r e a l i z e d I had not seen or spoken to her for weeks. I knew with a c l a r i t y and certainty, then, which I could not explain, standing outside her house i n the cool morning a i r , that she must be pregnant. I imagined how she and her family would be planning t h e i r days, since they had wanted t h i s for so long, but had adjusted to l i f e as i t seemed destined so far. As I looked 44 out at her house, I projected a whole scenario through the curtained windows and s o l i d front door. I did not go up to her door. Somehow I didn't f e e l r i ght about intruding p h y s i c a l l y upon the scene that I had just played out f o r them. I phoned her when I arrived home, and she t o l d me (dramatically) that she had something to t e l l me. I f e l t amazed (and a l i t t l e breathless) at her announcement that she was indeed expecting another c h i l d . Just uncomplicated co-incidence, a l l of i t ? Mystical musing on my part? Or i s there a force f i e l d of f e e l i n g which follows me as I make my way through my ordinary l i f e , and into which I sometimes step, somersaulting backwards? Or i s i t just that events unfold as they do, and I f e e l my way into them, sometimes scoring bull's-eye with the dart, sometimes not even landing the dart anywhere near the board. I have f e l t t h i s psychic sense of revolving repercussion with my writing: opening up one l i t t l e advent calendar window aft e r another u n t i l a l l the pictures are displayed and a l l the small candies consumed, mouth agape at i n s t a n t l y recognizing the next picture, the shape of the candy. Writing a l i f e , my l i f e as a writer, the l i f e within my writing, the writing within my l i f e . Another l i t t l e window pops open, i t s l i t t l e shutters just barely touched by me, seeming to open of i t s own accord. L i f e proceeds i n small but s i g n i f i c a n t ways, and back behind me i n that f i e l d of f e e l i n g , or underneath one of those l i t t l e windows, someone or something i s sometimes snickering s o f t l y at my astounded awe. 45 W A R N I N G : I am a chameleon Soaking up whatever color comes my way What color w i l l I be when I am done? The color of a journey never ended. 46 Guyn-ick-ology A Response to Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly, 1978 Ick. I didn't make t h i s journey. The trouble i s Daly writes some of the book l i k e some men. The trouble i s I couldn't spin. I'm s t i l l not sure I'd ever want to spin. I have very mixed feelings about the book, ranging from: —wanting to duplicate parts of i t to send to a few obstetrician/gynecologists I know —ke e p i n g i t out of my husband's sight — s u g g e s t i n g that i f Daly changed the t i t l e a b i t , edited a tad here and there, she'd have a great pornographic, runaway b e s t s e l l e r — t o admiring Daly's way and play with language. (After a while, the new words s t a r t to make a l o t of sense.) I guess I'm just "numb, dumb and normal," a compromiser (Daly's words), and while I've found many books on the shelves put there by "cemetery l i b r a r i a n s , " and laughed wryly, I am reluctant to put Daly's book on my shelf because I didn't f i n d any room i n her book for me. There I was, s e t t l e d happily i n V i r g i n i a Woolf's room, and pleasurably t r a v e l l i n g down the paths of Oxbridge with her; i d e n t i f y i n g with her anger about exclusion, her great s e n s i t i v i t y ; and thinking about her lapses into madness, her suicide, her husband, Leonard. Then I picked up Daly's book, and the room became a prison, but I wasn't just the prisoner, I was the j a i l e r , too. While Daly's word-making i s b r i l l i a n t , i t seems, to me at least, so stark and devoid of f e e l i n g . Is t h i s intentional? If so, i t l e f t me cold. The book excised (for me) a l l the great core of FEELing from FEEmale (feel/male—a person who fe e l s deeply). If t h i s book was her anger and rage, I didn't FEEL i t . Moreover, I could not f e e l her deep sorrow for the su f f e r i n g she records so widely and c l i n i c a l l y i n these pages. For me, t h i s made the suff e r i n g by women at the hands of men and sometimes women, too, pornographic patriarchy and unmitigated mockery. When I read some of the woman-hating h i s t o r i e s , I could hear the screaming i n my head. Did Daly hear i t when she wrote? As a woman, I squirmed when I read some of the a t r o c i t i e s . Who needs to spend time with this? I gave b i r t h , I miscarried, I'm Jewish, I've v i s i t e d male doctors who I secretly thought were former Nazi perpetrators. If the men Daly castrates i n these pages were to get ahold of these s t o r i e s , what d i f f e r e n t use some of them would make of these annals. I am reminded of a former fr i e n d from my 30's, whose husband owned an expensive, graphic book about the t e r r i b l e t r i a l s and terrors conducted with accused witches. Whatever use 47 he made of the book during his marriage—the mind boggles—he burned my fri e n d at the stake once he graduated from law school, and she was never the same, nor was our friendship. Having said a l l that, I think t h i s book documents for posterity a l l the h i s t o r i c a l and current incidents of misogyny which l i k e the Jews, we women should never forget. There were passages i n the book that I f e l t myself sinking into (quicksand) with my mind firmly fixed on the ideology, on a slow, downward path of discovery, my emotions buried for once beneath the quagmire. But I'd far rather walk down the paths with V i r g i n i a Woolf and follow her into the s i t t i n g room, l i s t e n i n g to her s t i t c h — not a cosmic tapestry with heavy metal threads—but an earthly needlepoint of b r i l l i a n t colors. Daly may be a Revolting Hag, but I couldn't help wondering i f she f e l t some of what she writes about. I'm not saying you have to be burned at the stake to understand, but the qua l i t y of empathy could at least be a gentle r a i n . I ' l l never be the same again. 48 Stories Not to Live By I write i n my sleep I write i n my dreams I have a whole other l i f e that exists underneath the surface of my days A l i f e that gets written mostly i n my head while I wash the mustard o f f a spoon I am l i k e the woman i n a children's novel who my daughter says doesn't exist i n the story but just comes i n as a d e t a i l I am a d e t a i l e x i s t i n g i n my own story only through these d e t a i l s Do you understand that I do not love any of you less for that? Just that a l l our d e t a i l s crowd my dreams (I am ambiguous woman not a s h r i l l and strident just-a-woman's voice) But when I t e l l my story when I t r y to write that otherworldly l i f e do you understand my love i s not diminished but strong Growing Dormant while the d e t a i l s disappear and l i k e a sleepwalker not asleep but neither f u l l y awake I t r a v e l through t h i s world for a while coming i n not as a d e t a i l but the story It i s you who make me strong who give me the story I would not trade our d e t a i l s for any dreams I just want to write the story awake 49 Awakening The poem i s NOT i n the answers to a l l those questions: I-can-find-the-red-shirt-for-you-if-that 1s-what-you-want- to-wear-no-you-probably-can 1 t-wear-your-Little-Mermaid- py jamas-to-Disneyland-1 111-let-you-have-your-pearls-back- if-you-don 1t-throw-them-down-the-stairs-at-me-again- you 1 re-right-I-should-listen-to-your-answer-if-I-asked-but- y o u - c a n 1 t - j u s t - d o - t h e - p i c t u r e s - a l l - t h e - t i m e - t h e r e - i s - nothing-the-matter-with-me-it-was- just-an-automatic-ref lex- t o -close-the-garage-door-and-I 1m-sorry-the-van-door- happened-to-be-in-the-way-and-no-I-don 1 t-know-what-I- changed-in-Setup-but-I-have-screwed-up-completely-the- words-are-spread-eagled-across-a-blue-and-black-screen-and- we 111-have-to-phone-Jim-to-get-me-out-of-this The poem i s DEFINITELY NOT i n the fact that I've been married so long that when I read some poetry I wrote as a young woman I was surprised to remember my parents were against our marriage The poem ISN'T EVEN i n any of that writing I found that I did as a young g i r l and a young woman, not i n the romantic f o o l i s h g i r l i s h dreams of a g i r l I forgot and don't even remember, not i n the saccharine words of a g i r l I don't recognize any more and would ignore i f I saw again, not i n the bad poetry of someone with the same name as me who I'm glad i s gone, not even i n the images of a g i r l to whom I now say yes, I remember you, I knew you once before The poem i s NOT i n the one-word "good" at the bottom of the writing, or even the you-should-try—to-get-something-published written i n such t i n y handwriting that I forgot i t was even there or didn't care or didn't want to see i t or didn't believe i t by then anyway The poem i s NOT i n the c a r e f u l l y couched encouragement to t r y writing since your great s e n s i t i v i t y and perception towards what makes good l i t e r a t u r e prompts me to say i f that's.what you s t i l l want, f u l l of hidden and unwritten maybes and sort ofs and probably not good-enoughs The poem i s NOT i n the English professor who never even mentioned V i r g i n i a Woolf and what she wrote except possibly to i d e n t i f y the t i t l e of the play a t i t l e which Albee took o f f the side of a bathroom wall at some univer s i t y somewhere The poem i s NOT i n a l l the no's I had to say, no, I can't teach a summer course at University of Toronto, no, I can't do that workshop times 100, no, I don't want to be a v i c e - p r i n c i p a l or p r i n c i p a l , no, I can't come to your retirement party, no, I won't come to the s t a f f party, no, I don't want to teach an o f f - campus course i n Squamish, no, I can't do my master's program yet 50 The poem i s NOT i n the Cheerios I intend to serve for supper tonight nor i s i t i n the l o f t window which gives a view of the outside world beyond and the poem i s i n the pictures a l l the time The poem i s NOT i n the words jigsaw-puzzled and spread-eagled across the black and blue computer screen and NOT i n those fa i n t - p r a i s e l i t t l e - h o p e large-doubt comments and ESPECIALLY NOT i n that t e r r i b l e poetry and stupid g i r l i s h n e s s and very bad writing The poem i s NOT EVEN i n a l l the reading and the writing and the r e f l e c t i n g and the t a l k i n g or the journey or the struggle or the women or the discussion The poem i s i n me. The poem i s me. 51 POLYLOG: Re-joy/sing Collections of Home 53 Male Dancers 54 I. Snapshot: Eldest Daughter 55 II. Cameo: Middle Daughter 56 III. Pencil Sketch: Youngest Daughter.... 57 Smart Conversations with My Children about God and Superman 58 Pedagogy 60 Writing for Disneyland 61 Night Sky, Light Sky 62 A Celebration of Women 63 Collections of Home Peeling potatoes aft e r having a f i g h t with my daughter about gloves, the peels p i l i n g up i n the sink and accumulating along with our petty disagreements... Listening to my daughter laugh deeply from her b e l l y at how i n her class she looked and looked for her eraser, which was l y i n g on her s k i r t . . . Hugging my youngest daughter the way she requested, high up, and f e e l i n g the lightness of her l i t t l e body as I swing her up... Listening to my youngest daughter r a i l at me, I-hate-you-you- dummy-you-doe-doe-you-are-so-stupid, and understanding how i t fe e l s to be b e l i t t l e d . . . Running with my daughters to the window to see the eight blue jays they counted i n our season tree i n the creek, and r e a l i z i n g the pleasure and joy I take i n delighting i n the world around us through t h e i r wonder and excitement... Watching my daughter daydream, wondering whether that wandering mind w i l l ever l i g h t upon some hidden v i s t a , and astonished at some nugget of wisdom that f a l l s from her as e a s i l y as a sweater shed on a warm spring day... Looking at my baby sleeping with her curls fanning her fine features, her forefinger (the same finger I sucked as a baby) stuck i n her sucking mouth, and wanting everything to stop soaring by so quickly... Reading and writing side by side with my daughters i n the playroom as the sun streams i n through the window, a l l of us respecting the other's need for solitude and silence, but drawn together i n our work by a mutual purpose... Listening on the monitor to my oldest daughter holding my youngest daughter on her knee, t e l l i n g her a story and singing the same l u l l a b i e s I sang to them, the youngest asking, "Is i t over now?" i n a tone that belie s her words and gives r i s e to her hope (and mine) that the moment never ends... 53 Male Dancers I have danced with a senior administrator of schools who smiled and pinched me. He has now r e t i r e d . I have danced with Evan Marci 1s fr i e n d back from the BBC who said i f I ever t i r e d of you to give him a c a l l . I haven't c a l l e d yet. I have danced with your father's f r i e n d who held my hand too long a f t e r the music ended. He didn't say hello at your parents' f i f t i e t h anniversary party. I was younger then and t h i n My breasts devoid of mother's milk and taut. We used to dance together too. But not one of those male dancers Dancing i n my past For a l l t h e i r slippery sinewy grace and subtle mocking movement Could ever dance l i k e you ...understood my jokes. 54 I. Snapshot: Eldest Daughter the c h i l d i n a woman's body long legs climbing the s l i d e the dress bunched-up then f l i e s down the s l i d e the descent from childhood delayed by delight child-woman me-you you-me blended into one blur generational double exposure a p o s i t i v e picture framed i n perfect playtime pleasure the future s l i d i n g negative of a f i l m about to be developed I finger her photograph over and over bending i t s corners looking at me I I . Cameo: Middle Daughter bent head f u l l one more poem to write the deep thoughtfulness c h i s e l l e d i n words of black ivory the innocence inscribed the wisdom of her inexperience always already the onyx p r o f i l e engraved i n the shadow of her l i g h t r e f l e c t i n g the in-between where she gives everything away i n her features but stays out-of-focus I enter her poem & caress the gem of her face 56 I I I . Pencil Sketch: Youngest Daughter tossed raphaelite cur l s c i r c l e the watercolor of f l e s h drawn upon the pillow case p e n c i l l e d i n by my lead-sharp pointed eyes traces of baby i n the l i n e s and folds I use to f i n i s h the sketch quickly I form the brow, lashes, cherub cheeks as they transform i n the breath of her sigh I cherish each changing pencil stroke etched by timeless motherhood forever my baby Smart Conversations with My Children about God and Superman MOMMY, DID YOU EVER POKE YOURSELF WITH YOUR PENCIL AND THINK YOU WERE GOING TO DIE? No, but I know that f e e l i n g of panic, l i k e when I've done something l i k e swallow the wrong p i l l because I was so t i r e d I didn't read the lab e l properly and picked up another b o t t l e . DID YOU EVER WANT TO RUN DOWN A HILL LIKE AN EAGLE? A l l the time. I want to spread my wings, wear my purplest running shoes, and run, baby, run! SHUT YOUR MOUTH DOWN! Well, a l l rig h t , i t ' s an improvement on shut up, I guess, but the same bad-tempered sniping s t i l l seems to be there i n the words. MY BODY IS REALLY MAD, AND MY HEART, TOO. I can see that. Esp e c i a l l y your heart. Thanks for t e l l i n g me, and I appreciate you not b i t i n g t h i s time. WHEN I DIE, I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT A BLANKET, BECAUSE I'LL HAVE MY THUMB WITH ME. Yes, you w i l l . Your thumb w i l l always be with you. And so w i l l I. I ' l l be there i n your heart, l i s t e n i n g to you suck. DO BUTTERFLIES CRY? I've never seen t h e i r tears, and people believe insects have no feelings, but I think when t h e i r beautiful wings get pulled o f f , they must somehow cry. What do you think? WHAT COLOR ARE TEENAGER GEESE'S BEAKS? Probably darker than the young geese's, but not as dark as the Mom and Dad geese's beaks. DOES GOD HAVE BIRTHDAY PARTIES? No one knows for sure, because we see God a l l around us and we f e e l God i n our hearts and minds, but aren't with God i n the way we l i v e together here on earth. But I think God celebrates a l l our birthdays. What do you think? THESE ARE ADULT PARKS. KID PARKS HAVE SWINGS. 58 You've got a point. Adults have t h e i r own ways of playing. Want to play l i k e me for a while? A l l right, we'll drive to a park with swings. DO FISHES HAVE KNEES? Well, no. WHY NOT? They swim i n the water, so they don't need knees. WHY NOT? Your knees bend as you walk, but f i s h don't walk. WHY NOT? They don't have legs. WHY NOT? Just an evolutionary accident. WHAT? God made them that way, they're water creatures. OH. PHEWF! I'M GLAD TO HEAR I NEED GLASSES. I THOUGHT I WAS LOSING MY SMARTNESS. No chance of that! Kids, nobody's perfect. JUST GOD AND SUPERMAN! 59 Pedagogy blanket c h i l d sleeping warms the home c h i l d question hanging opens the world Writing for Disneyland T e l l daughters how many more days t i l l we leave for Disneyland. Water plants. Find a home for F l u f f y . Wash the clothes. Pack. Ask daughters to pack t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l t o y / a c t i v i t y cases for the t r i p . P rint that l a s t poem off the computer. Dry the clothes. Pack. Calculate for daughters how many more hours t i l l we leave for Disneyland. Phone babysitter to see i f s h e ' l l take F l u f f y . Water those plants. Clean the fridge out. Revise the l a s t l i n e of that l a s t poem printed o f f the computer. Pack. Unpack daughters' toys and a c t i v i t i e s so there w i l l be room for people i n the van. Phone neighbour to see i f s h e ' l l take F l u f f y . Cancel the newspaper for the week. Show daughters on calendar the day we leave. Remember Mom's advice: do not eat at the Jack i n the Box. Remember older s i s t e r ' s advice: phone a doctor i f they get sick. Remember not to get advice from them any more. Remember younger s i s t e r ' s advice: get a n t i b i o t i c samples from your doctor. Check. Enough for 4. Check Disneyland weather on weather channel so you know what to pack. Pretend not to hear questions about whether i t i s time to leave for Disneyland. Add new verse to that poem. Fold that mound of clean clothes. Make daughters t r y on old summer shorts and bathing s u i t s . Phone s i s t e r s again to see i f t h e y ' l l take F l u f f y . Water those damn plants. Think about some creative r e p l i e s for answer to famous vacation question: Are we there yet? Don't forget paper and pencil for my suitcase. Put the clean clothes away and PACK! Try to be less bitchy with daughters who are c a l l i n g you bitchy. Rummage through drawers and f i n d bigger sizes for l i t t l e one, pass on oldest's shorts and bathing s u i t s to middle one, and take oldest to the mall. Who w i l l take F l u f f y ? Write new poem. Pack. 61 Night Sky, Light Sky Rebecca was seated on a Disneyland garbage can, leaning against me, and I was leaning against a r a i l i n g . We were pressed together with our family and the rest of the swarming humanity waiting for Friday night's "Fantasmic" laser l i g h t show to begin. "So, Mommy," Rebecca said to me, running her hands through my hair. "What do you think the world w i l l be l i k e when I'm a grown-up?" No Mickey Mouse questions out of t h i s c h i l d , and I want to t e l l her that i t w i l l be everything she wants i t to be, whatever she wants i t to be, and for however long she wants i t to be that way. But I just comment that we'll probably be able to go out for dinner to Space anytime we l i k e , and Rebecca r e p l i e s that she doesn't l i k e that, she i s a f r a i d of going up to Space, she just wants there to be no earthquakes. The laser l i g h t show begins, and we watch Mickey splash across the night sky i n a display of colored l i g h t s upon water, wondrous, fan t a s t i c , g o l d - s i l v e r streams of g l i t t e r c r i s s c r o s s i n g sky waves of disappearing phantom shapes, up i n space. And for a few moments, as Rebecca and I turn our faces together to the night sky, to the l i g h t sky, the earth quakes, and we hold on to one another. 62 A Celebration of Women from my mother I learned love how i t i s tempered with a r e a l i t y that looks at l i f e with the clear v i s i o n of a b l i n d prophet groping i n the flowers from my s i s t e r s I learned l o y a l t y i t i s strong enough to survive even words that sometimes burn right through the outer skin of inner knowing from my daughters I learned forgiveness saw i t s face smile sweetly and with innocence i n the r e f l e c t e d water of turbulent maternal waves and currents from my aunts I learned remembrance f e l t i t extend a blanket of warmth and comfort even when the q u i l t i s frayed and torn from my women friends I learned devotion and f i n a l l y began to l e t i t s salve be rubbed upon the feste r i n g sores of my eternal sadness from my women colleagues I learned awe watched i t s aura c i r c l e overhead with the l i g h t of p o s s i b i l i t i e s I never l e t myself acknowledge from a l l women everywhere across the underwater r i v e r room of time any color any place 63 any r i v e r any race I learned the loveloyaltyforgivenessremembrancedevotionawe that only comes with womanly Grace POLYLOG: Re-traversing Travel 66 Everywomen 72 Motherhood and Feminism 73 Noisy, Noiseless Noise 75 Prodigal Mother 77 "Bitter Milk" 79 Happy Birthday 81 Afternoon Delight 82 Where Did I Leave Me? 85 Travel It hardly seemed worth a l l the bother, but s t i l l she checked the time when she woke, t i r e d from another night of wakeful, thought-full sleep, and i n s i s t e d that they a l l r i s e , dress appropriately and hurry down to another rushed, cold- cereal breakfast. Rushed so they would be ready i n good time: teeth brushed, hair brushed, lunches i n hand, boots and raincoats donned, umbrellas open, rushing down the driveway past two pe r f e c t l y presentable and working vehicles to walk the path i n a rel e n t l e s s downpour. Hurry up, please, girls! Why don't you wear pants, it's raining heavily? O h , d o w e h a v e t o ? I h a t e w e a r i n g p a n t s . I w a n t t o w e a r a d r e s s . Fine, but you'll have to wear tights. O h , I h a t e p u t t i n g t i g h t s o n ! W i l l y o u d o i t f o r m e ? No, I hate putting tights on, too, and I have to do the baby's. S h e ' s n o t a b a b y a n y m o r e , y o u k n o w . She is to me and so are you. T h e n p u t m y t i g h t s o n , t o o ! Ha! (lever! You can always wear pants like I suggested, you know. See you downstairs in five minutes flat, dressed, please. I d o n ' t k n o w w h y w e h a v e t o w a l k , a n y w a y , n o b o d y e l s e d o e s , i t ' s d u m b , a n d l o o k a t a l l t h a t d u m b r a i n . At f i r s t such protests by the children had been vociferous and r e l e n t l e s s on the wettest days. They were t i r e d , they protested, couldn't they just be driven to school, there wasn't enough time to play before i t was time to leave, and so on... But she persisted, driven by some unconscious need to prove to them that there was another way to t r a v e l , that there was a whole l i f e outside that they would never know about i f they didn't walk i t , see i t close up, f e e l i t i n the wet downpour which threatened to soak them through t h e i r nylon coats and umbrellas. The sunny days were never a problem. It was easier to wake i n the s u n - f i l l e d rooms and the children were eager to s l i p l i g h t shoes on t h e i r feet and bask i n the comforting sunlight which countered even the most b i t i n g cold or wind. Those days they counted themselves lucky to rush past the neighbouring houses on the crescent, up the walkway to the s t a i r s which led to the path i n the woods—with thick, dense forest brush on one side, where bears were sometimes known to come foraging for food, and p o l i t e , clean-looking townhouses uniformly arranged on the other side. Leaving those townhouses f a r behind, they followed the trampled weeds of t h e i r favorite shortcut through the woods, the surrounding brush lush with pussywillows and hot pink salmonberry flowers i n early spring. Through t h i s forest 66 t r a i l they would walk, eventually sc a l i n g a rocky, e a r t h - f i l l e d h i l l which led them to the pedestrian l i g h t across a busy street, continuing up another h i l l where they breathed and coughed and sputtered i n the exhaust fumes of cars speeding by much too fa s t . Then they turned past the corner gas station and car wash—which always halted t h e i r journey i f there was a car being washed. They loved watching the large blue mops s p i t t i n g soap suds and water i n a wet dog-haired spun frenzy. Up the parking l o t of a large apartment building they would continue, where they had to be cautious of the occasional car bursting unseen out of the cave of the underground garage. Then they strode across the church parking l o t where the preschool teacher's maroon van was always parked, up one f i n a l street of newish, pink-stuccoed houses. F i n a l l y , they picked t h e i r way through the g r a v e l - f i l l e d schoolmade walkway between a canopy of overgrown undergrowth and across the top f i e l d of the schoolground to t h e i r ultimate destination. They had discovered much on these foot adventures, which she f e l t c e r t a i n they would have missed i f they joined the others b a r r e l l i n g past (often waving to them or of f e r i n g them a ride which they declined) i n fa m i l i a r , popular cars. They now knew the names of many c o l o r f u l flowers, found earthworms and sna i l s and odd-shaped rocks. They lunged for and fought over lucky pennies, or nickels, and once, a quarter. They had taken home for washing the l o s t bounty of dropped childhood treasures: pretty hair barrettes, small, f l a t p l a s t i c d o l l s once part of some dollhouse or other, a small, red-striped d o l l dress, and other finds. Look, Mommy! I found a lucky penny! That's the third one I've found so far. I'll give it to you, Mommy, for all of us to share, but you keep it in your pocket and don't take it out ever, all right? A little plastic doll! Can I take it home and keep it, please, please? I'll make little clothes for it out of construction paper and a kleenex bed, and can I maybe use a washcloth, too, Mommy? Oh, isn't she sweet? If you look really carefully, you can see she has little eyes under all the dirt. No, you can't have it just because you're the youngest, right, Mommy? I found it. Finders, keepers, losers, weepers. Oh, stop crying, I'll let you have a turn, but not until I have first, okay? So i t began that eventually when they reached t h e i r destination, whether t h e i r journey had been smoothly sun-warmed or i n t r e p i d l y rain-pelted or even b e a u t i f u l l y snow-drifted, they f e l t some inner sense of accomplishment, confirmed by the s a t i s f i e d looks on t h e i r faces, the refusal to even consider some alternative mode of transport, the disappointment when 67 occasional i l l n e s s prevented them from se t t i n g out upon t h e i r d a i l y adventure. One gray mist-enshrouded morning, she woke with a sense of foreboding, a presentiment that no matter what, she should change the rules and not allow any departure by foot, and she quie t l y mentioned t h i s to the children. I think we should consider scrapping our walk today, and just go by car. The noisy protests weakened any resolve a r i s i n g out of her inexplicable fears. T h a t ' s n o t fair! Y o u said w e had t o walk, no matter what the weather. W e want t o do i t , w e ' l l just take umbrellas. Y o u ' r e the o n e who always says not t o back down from things when they seem a little hard. W e like t o walk, it's fun. " A l l r i g h t then," she rep l i e d , defenceless against t h e i r righteous onslaught. "Dress quickly, and come down for breakfast." But as she poured that morning's choice of dry cereal into b r i g h t l y coloured p l a s t i c bowls, she could not shake the f e e l i n g that there was something t e r r i b l y wrong, that she should just i n s i s t they a l l stay home. By the time everyone assembled for t h e i r usual cold- touched, warm-voiced morning meal, she f e l t she was powerless to prevent the day from proceeding as usual, just as she had implemented and structured i t not so long ago, following i n s t i n c t s that at the time had been strong i n her and true. As they trooped up the street to the walkway which led to the forest, chattering happily about the purple and white crocuses, warning each other boisterously to avoid the dog poo, she t r i e d to shake o f f the sense of doom and gloom which was so strong i t was a presence walking nonchalantly right along with her family, sidestepping the dog droppings. Everything seemed normal. It was another rain-encased day, and t h e i r c o l o r f u l , c l o s e l y held array of umbrellas accidentally bumped and brushed the water o f f the hanging branches of cherry blossom trees. The umbrellas seemed l i k e l i t t l e colored parachute-shaped bumper cars d r i v i n g haphazardly up the roadway of plants and flowers that l i n e d t h e i r course. By the time they scaled the walkway s t a i r s and arrived at the foot of the woods, her breathing was quick and panicky, and the force of the ra i n seemed to quicken with each new puff and pant. She scrutinized the woods through the raindrops blinding her view, dripping o f f her glasses. A wind blew up, and they a l l concentrated on holding on to the blowing umbrellas. The pelt of the ra i n i n t e n s i f i e d , and her children giggled, delighting i n being blown along by the wind and rai n . 68 Look, Mommy, my umbrella's turning inside outside and I can hardly hold it any~ A strong gust ca r r i e d the ruined umbrella o f f , and the cr i e s of delight changed to dismay, and tears. Oh, no! Oh, no! It's blowing away! Before she could even bend to console that disappearing umbrella's small owner, or o f f e r the shelter of her own apparatus, the rest of a l l t h e i r umbrellas f l i p p e d t h e i r spokes upward l i k e crazed flowering creatures, and an even stronger gust blew them o f f , one, two, three... Now a l l of the children were crying, and getting very much wetter with the force of the buffeting wind and the pounding downpour. She quickly decided they should turn around and head for home, as they were a l l f a r too drenched to even consider completing the walk to school, and t h i s time there were no noisy protests at her suggestion. But they could not f i n d the walkway s t a i r s , even though they had just entered the woods up those s t a i r s only moments ago. Panicked, she t r i e d to seem calm, so as not to alarm the children, but they immediately sensed her concern and pinpointed i t s cause. Mommy, where's the walkway? It should be here, shouldn't it? It doesn't quite look the same. How will we get home? She quickly allayed t h e i r fears, f i g h t i n g her own r i s i n g sense of dismay, saying that they would simply f i n d another way out of the woods, up by the end of the path toward the pedestrian l i g h t . She turned and guided her small troop towards the d i r e c t i o n of the busy street which si g n a l l e d the end of the footworn path i n the woods. They b r i s k l y quickened t h e i r pace i n an t i c i p a t i o n of the sight of the cars speeding by the road as seen through the spaces i n the overhanging tree branches. They marched on, wet and disheartened by the ceaseless r a i n and wind, the children soaked through and crying loudly now, and she knew that they should have reached that l i g h t by now, were walking on and on far too long, but said nothing, s i l e n t and growing more alarmed. The children's wails grew louder, longer, s i r e n - l i k e , blending into one long sustained minor note whose sound was held by a foot on a loud pedal, an eerie, other-worldly sound i n the pummelling r a i n of the forest. Suddenly the children's forms rose i n the a i r l i k e t h e i r blown-away umbrellas, and coats f l y i n g up l i k e the fa b r i c on the upside-down spokes of those broken umbrellas, t h e i r small bodies d r i f t e d upward. H o r r i f i e d , she stood frozen f o r several seconds, rooted to the ground l i k e one of the old trees of the forest, watching 69 dazed as her children seemed to f l o a t away. A flood of energy surged through her, maternal i n s t i n c t maneuvering her into motion, and she desperately clutched at the l i t t l e feet r i s i n g higher and higher i n the a i r . With that chorus of high-pitched c r i e s ringing unmistakably i n her ears, she clawed at a i r , and her hands s l i c e d through no substance at a l l , the children a hallucinatory v i s i o n of small legs and flapping coats and waving arms, dear l i t t l e balloon faces recognizable from within the centre of each wafting image. As suddenly as t h e i r ascent began, the children's forms (or, what she had believed to be the children) disappeared from view, the caterwauling wails winding down to one l a s t despondent note cut off i n mid-stream. The r a i n stopped abruptly. A great silence punctuated the forest f l o o r with i t s exclamation of p o s s i b i l i t y . The sun shone through the leaves of the dripping tree branches. Puffs of r i s i n g , smoky drying a i r rose from flattened treetrunk stumps scattered here and there throughout the woods. She f e l t warmed by the sun f i l t e r i n g through the f o l i a g e . It was then that she began to understand, and f e e l i n g r e l i e v e d that the children were actually quite safe, warm, and dry, knowing that the ordinary morning ministrations were very l i k e l y being continued right at t h i s very moment somehow, she relaxed somewhat and began to enjoy being by herself i n the woods. Soon her clothes began to f e e l less sopping wet and simply cool and soft upon her skin. She breathed i n the worm-scented, pinecone a i r and closed her eyes, standing quite s t i l l for a few seconds, contemplating. She sensed that her next move when she opened her eyes would bring her to some t r a i l which led out of the woods, but s t a l l i n g , she delayed, and instead, l i f t e d her face, eyes s t i l l closed, to f e e l the warming a i r l i c k her face. When she opened her eyes at l a s t , she was not the least surprised to see the concrete walkway s t a i r s , f u l l of small puddles l e f t o v e r from the downpour. She lingered for a minute longer, secure i n the thought that these sturdy s t a i r s descended to the walkway and eventually would lead her home when she was ready. She perceived that they would be there even i f not i n f u l l view, even i f she chose to descend them l a t e r , even i f she decided to explore on her own some more and s t r o l l i n the forest. Feeling confident, a l i v e , and very much i n control of herself, she walked past the walkway s t a i r s i n another d i r e c t i o n , towards the deepest growth of the forest, eschewing the pedestrian l i g h t and busy street which was at the opposite end of the woods' path. Delighting i n t h i s unexpected turn of events, she continued her t r a v e l , walking, seeing a whole outdoor l i f e close up, f e e l i n g i t with her clearheaded senses, r e l i s h i n g her solitude. She did not even look backwards once at the vanishing walkway, knowing she could f i n d i t again e a s i l y when i t was time, understanding and accepting her own adventure i n time, her e a r l i e r sense of fear and foreboding evaporating as 7 0 h a s t i l y as the r a i n had stopped. In the distance several small umbrellas lay turned inside out, ruined, t h e i r parachute colors streaked with ribbons of s t i l l - w e t material. 71 Everywomen For six months of the year I am I n t e l l e c t u a l Woman Reading/writing/thinking/creating my work. Winter Cycle For another half the year I am Earth Mother Baking cookies, v i s i t i n g parks, devoting a l l my time to my Family. Summer So l s t i c e In winter I resent every moment away from my work. In summer I celebrate every moment away from my work. In winter I am inspired at odd moments i n the bath, i n my bed. In summer I am required at a l l moments from the bath, from the bed. Divided between the women I am or hope to become. What do my daughters make of t h i s matriarchal metamorphosis? This strange s h i f t i n g back and forth. They no longer ask me i f my work i s done but wait, suspended s t i l l b o r n , expecting the b i r t h of a whole mother. 7 2 Motherhood and Feminism I think Mary Catherine Bateson p r o f i l e s mostly mothers, not c h i l d l e s s women, for some very r e a l and reasonable reasons. I do not write t h i s to i n any way b e l i t t l e the choices of (or outcomes for) any c h i l d l e s s woman. I have friends who have no children. (I wish they'd babysit.) I've even been there myself for a while, f i r s t by choice, then not by choice. But I did decide that children were and s t i l l are very important to me as a woman and a person. However, I l o s t parts of my selves during a decade of pregnancy and b i r t h i n g , and no matter how much Bateson lauds improvisational acts juggled between and amongst rea l l i v i n g , i t r e a l l y hurts to lose those parts and i t i s a painful loss. At the same time i t was paradoxically a wonderful decade that brought me the joy of three beautiful children, a l o t of good jokes cracked by my husband, and years which I w i l l always cherish and remember and look back upon with great longing. I made some choices, one of which was that I was not going to be one of those women l i k e my lawyer cousin i n Calgary, who never stopped working except to give b i r t h to her two children and hire the nanny. Besides, my two miscarriages and subsequent d i f f i c u l t i e s affected a l l of my choices. And I didn't want to do i t a l l , not at the same time anyway. I don't care, unlike my cousin, i f my house i s smaller than 5000 square feet, i f I am not a patron of the symphony, and whether my sunroom (oops, sorry, Adelle, solarium) has lovely stained glass windows. In point of fact, my house i s much, much smaller; I buy t i c k e t s and take my children to the symphony; and my sunroom i s a playroom cluttered with too many toys. But for a l l my contentment with the players of those toys, I l o s t a great deal: status self-worth s e l f worth and the continuing development of a woman I am just now t r y i n g to remember, only she's ten years older and d i f f e r e n t . When I was a young teacher, then a consultant, and then a sessional instructor, I laughed d e r i s i v e l y at i n v i t a t i o n s to Tupperware Parties and prided myself on never ever attending one. Who had time or cared? Well, t h i s mother and part-time person now owns some Tupperware, and i f you don't think that's frightening, t r y l i s t e n i n g to one of those Tupperware presentations and playing one of those dumb games with a straight face. I needed the bellshaped cups and the sip l i d s . I did f e e l somewhat less frightened about Tupperware when I returned to part-time teaching when my youngest daughter was six months old, but even that was p a i n f u l . I was breastfeeding and my baby refused a b o t t l e . But the Environment Club was s e l l i n g Tupperware to save the earth: I could buy more bellshaped cups with sip l i d s , and skip the games and 73 presentations. I did have to run home right at 3 to feed a baby who was very, very t h i r s t y . I think a l l of these experiences have contributed to my great admiration of V i r g i n i a Woolf, who i n Room of One's Own, writes that somebody has to have the children, but maybe a few are enough. ( V i r g i n i a , i f I could have arranged pregnancy and labour for my husband, I would have, believe me. With f i v e pregnancies—two miscarriages and three c h i l d r e n — t h e t h r i l l wears o f f quickly.) I think, too, these experiences and these choices made me balk at some of Mary Daly's feminism. It i s d i f f i c u l t for me to read text that questions whether women expel t h e i r babies by spontaneously aborting them. Mary, i f you only knew what I now know that I can pass along to my children: —how to put a p l a s t i c l i n e r i n a Playtex bottle —how to change a c r i b sheet without removing the bumper pad —how to f o l d and pin a diaper — t h e names of a l l the ponies. The l i s t i s endless, but i t i s changing: —how to use TELEREG —how to make the beds and write poetry —how to f i n i s h the l a t e s t book while picking up supper at Mcdonald's... Yes, i t was jo y f u l but painful to experience a decade of s e l f - l o s s and other-gain. I'm ten years older! But I'm hoping the next decade w i l l be r e a l l y i n t e r e s t i n g , too, and possibly even less p a i n f u l . 74 Noisy, Noiseless Noise If one of the themes i n feminist writing i s silence, the other must surely be noise. NOISE! Three children t a l k a l l at once: can-I-have-more- apple-juice-please-tell-me-another-story-about-when-you-were-a- little-girl-Mommy-look-at-the-elephant-I-made—in-the-centre-of- my-cheese and I answer: once-when-I-was-a-little-girl-here 1s- your-apple-j uice-piease-don 1t-spread-that-cheese-around-any- more-I-stole-one-doll-shoe-from-my-friend...One husband f i l l i n g my other ear f u l l of penetrating chitchat on the state of the economy and the recent e l e c t i o n and his motorcycle maintenance hobby, a l l delivered into t h i s other ear while the f i r s t ear i s being f i l l e d with the sweet and busy babble of childhood needs and joys. NOISE! The t e l e v i s i o n or a video blare behind me as I s i t at the kitchen table or upstairs at the computer. I hate that t e l e v i s i o n , I am always going around and turning i t o f f . My children don't answer me when i t ' s on and have glazed, unfocused stares when I look at them. Oh, how I am beginning to hate that family on F u l l House. My family l i k e s the TV on while I t a l k to them; t h e i r eyes wander away from mine to the screen unless I turn that t e l e v i s i o n o f f , an abrupt and unloving gesture of f r u s t r a t i o n . NOISE! The whisper of the whisper-quiet dishwasher, the hum of the f r o s t - f r e e fridge defrosting, the whir of the dryer spinning a week's worth of musty towels or juice-stained children's clothes, the s i l e n t noise of our plants begging for water, the muffled snuffles of our dog pleading for food and water, the v i s u a l noise of a whole house f u l l of toys which have stea d i l y been overturned and rotated and c i r c u l a t e d i n ever- widening c i r c l e s of c l u t t e r and disarray. NOISE! Trapped with three children sick with the f l u for two weeks and now they are f i g h t i n g almost constantly between videos, and sometimes during the videos, and increasingly before the videos they choose to watch even begin, so that I am actually looking forward to going to the dentist by the time the babysitter comes. The c a l l for honeynut cheerios for one, wice cwispies for another a half-hour l a t e r , and f i n a l l y , when the all-day mess of the kitchen i s f i n a l l y t i d i e d up and put away, the t h i r d one wants something to eat, too. NOISE! A five-year-old adolescent learning to exert her independence wailing incessantly i n my ears for a half hour, interspersing t h i s s i r e n of sound with I-hate-you's, and dummies, and you-are-so-means. And the noise of another c h i l d sneaking out to the h a l l just outside our bedroom, packing up her bed r o l l and twenty toys and s e t t l i n g down for the night 75 closer to us because she fe e l s someone s i t t i n g on her back and watching her at night. The noise of yet another c h i l d turning on our bathroom l i g h t , peeing, never flushing, and climbing up upon our bed between us, elbowing my ear, h i t t i n g my nose, and complaining because she doesn't have a pillow. The most bittersweet, echoing noise of a l l , the knowledge that one day a l l too soon many of these clamorous sounds w i l l be gone, I can t a l k to myself a l l I want, and I w i l l miss each and every moment of t h i s raucous, cacophonous symphony of sound just as badly as I now crave the silence. 76 Prodigal Mother Sometimes when I drive away A daughter waving smiling sadly from the window The others i n v i s i b l e u n t i l an extra arm or head appear behind beside her Glass gargoyle gazing I remember Suzanne ta l k to me over our restaurant meal Speak about her husband and children i n England s t i l l wondering about the day Suzanne Left just a toothbrush i n her purse She never went back I see Suzanne's sensitive stricken features Soft behind her eyes i n her words They know where I am now If they ever need me If they want to c a l l I was c h i l d l e s s then I didn't understand a l l Suzanne could be She gave b i r t h at 19 too quickly i n a t o i l e t then again a year l a t e r She didn't l i k e her husband When I f i r s t drove away for just an hour I didn't l i k e i t Worried the umbilical cord that t i e d me to my children Unsevered and secure Soon I learned to leave longer times Worried less needed to go Understanding I was not my children We were joined but Separate too These days I drive away f e e l i n g freedom i n my f l i g h t Fear Knowing a l l I've l e f t behind Return Everyone rushes to prodigal mother Returned to the f o l d And I am grateful Relieved I did not bring my toothbrush l i k e Suzanne " B i t t e r Milk" At the end of June every year at our neighbourhood school (a small, primary annex), a special "graduation" ceremony i s held to mark a passage for the Grade 3's, who go on to several d i f f e r e n t schools i n the d i s t r i c t , sometimes leaving s i b l i n g s behind at the annex school. The Grade 3's t r a d i t i o n a l l y write memories which they read aloud into a microphone during an assembly for the whole school and the parents. The event i s sentimental, s t i r r i n g , happy fo r the children, bittersweet f o r the parents. I have c r i e d each time I attended even though I hadn't yet had a c h i l d i n Grade 3. This year on t h i s special graduation day, I am f i l l e d with " b i t t e r milk" about one daughter's school experience. B i t t e r milk: "a mixture of milk and crushed margosa leaves, the same b i t t e r potion that mothers apply to t h e i r nipples when they wish to wean t h e i r babies" (Grumet 1988, x i ) . " B i t t e r milk, f l u i d of contradictions: love and rejec t i o n , sustenance and abstinence, nurturance and denial" ( x i ) . Like Madeleine Grumet, I want school to be a place of intimacy and nurturance for my daughters. I want school to be a place where they learn love and tolerance, not subordination. And so on t h i s special graduation day, I w i l l drive a l l three of my daughters to a beautiful park with trees and swings. There we w i l l run i n the warm wind that blows over the Coquitlam h i l l s i n June, swing i n the swings with freedom, delight, and abandonment, and I w i l l say my f i n a l good-bye to Sara's Grade 3 year. This year Sara w i l l not be among those who read t h e i r memories into the microphone. If she were, she could t e l l how she buried a dead o r i o l e we found on the front porch i n November, how she wrote a eulogy for t h i s b i r d , conducted a funeral for the bird , and read her eulogy aloud to the cold, night a i r , burying her Grade 3 year along with the dead b i r d . . . Standing at the top of the snow-covered hill on top field at the school, our circular sleigh in hand. We have just kissed Rebecca and dropped her off at the schoolroom door. Sara and Erin are both standing by my side, beside the other mothers with their toddlers. Sara wants to slide down the hill with the other young children, and I let her. Erin is too afraid of the hurtling speed, and remains with me, clinging to my coat. Why isn't Sara in school, a mother innocently asks, interest in her voice. Dead silence. Waiting silence. All the other mothers stop what they are doing gloved hands suspended in winter mid-air, freeze frame, watching me, waiting for me to speak, while the children laugh and slide in the background. A moment of pure drama. "The blade sliced through the tense, cold, morning air and--' Because I am home schooling her, I reply simply. Tight. Taut. Tart. (Because she hates school, I want to say. Very vulgar. Vogue. Vague.) Shocked silence from all listening, then, were you not happy, asks this mother, not insensitively either. 79 Sara wasn't happy, I reply ethically. Polite. Proper. Ponderous. Pilfwater. (No, I wasn't happy, I want to say. We cried. Both of us. When Sara began to cry and ran after me when it was time to kiss her goodbye at the classroom door, and this went on for weeks on end, I cried, too, again, this time out loud, long and out loud, out loud and out long at home, I want to say.) Mommy-please-don 't-go-you-know-me-best-I-don 't-feel-comfortable-at-school-I-don 't-really- like-it-just-give-me-school-at-home-please-Mommy. Sara-runs-out-the-door-in-her-ruffled- socks-it-is-pouring-wet-from-aU-the-rain-I-let-the-teacher-pull-her-back-inside-don't-look- back-she-advises-like-Lot's-wife-and-tum-into-a-pillar-of-salt. Don't-look-back-and-I-don't-I- don't-look-back-I-don't-need-to-I-know-Sara-is-crying-feels-Pve-abandoned-her-and-I-have- but-I-don 't-know-it-yet. I-didn 't-look-back-I-didn 't-even-listen-I-couldn 't-believe-it-just- couldn 't-this-can 't-be. Don 't-look-back-she 's-fine-she 'll-stop-as-soon-as-you 're-gone-who-will- stop-me-I-wonder-what-does-it-matter-if-she-stops-if-she-feels-that-way-in-the-first-pfa^ turning-into-a-pillar-of-salt-I-can-feel-it-as-I-walk-away-the-salt-is-melting-into-tears-alL^ their-blacktop. Sara-hear-me-think-this-we-have-to-give-this-a-chance-I-didn't-know- forgive-me-for-I-knew-not-what-did-not-listen-to-the-wisdom-of-little-children-out-of-the- mouths-of-babes-my-baby-I-could-not-protect-you-from-this. Oh, comments the mother who asked. Let's go, say the others to their children. Everyone disperses except Sara and Erin and I who are left standing at the top of the snow- covered hill. Alone with our circular sleigh, and Sara slides down the hill some more, as Erin pleads with us to go. 8 0 Happy Birthday 11m not ready for the b i g black Sony Space Sound radio taking up half her dresser space the c l a s s i c a l tapes returned to the stereo cabinet Red Riding's Hood given away I only just folded the diapers into dustcloths dismantled the c r i b donated small sleepers to the playroom dollhouse I watch her by her radio s t i l l deep i n thought dreaming to the raucous music I see myself by the screen door tears pouring down my eyes I gaze out at p r a i r i e sunset blood red dulled by summer haze chequered i n the ti n y squares of front door lookout my mother's radio playing songs that make me cry apron t i e d she dances round our kitchen making dinner I want to hide that radio i n her room cover i t paint i t white unplug i t smash i t s speakers glue the buttons down give i t away But I won't i t ' s me there by the radio the sunset's c a l l i n g i t once spoke to me I ' l l play her radio dance around her room put clothes away tuned to a c l a s s i c a l song I l i k e wish i t wasn't there Afternoon Delight (Note: This story i s e s p e c i a l l y designed for the hearing impaired.) Do you have a poem i n your head? Sara asks as I s i t down to do my work. We have just begun an imposed Afternoon Silence Time (which, as you can t e l l , we both forget about i f the question i s compelling enough). This time i s sacred to me, and Sara respects i t with an unusual maturity for a ten-year-old. But then, she i s l i k e that, one of the world's wise old souls inhabiting a c h i l d ' s body. E r i n has succumbed unwillingly but necessarily to afternoon naptime, t h i s time screaming a l l the way to her bed over having to leave Muffin, the neighbour's cat, then snuggling g r a t e f u l l y under her soft bedcovers, s t i l l howling about her removal. Ambiguous Womanhood begins early. Sara c a l l s her an immature woman. Afternoon Silence Time i s my time to r e f l e c t or read or write, the time when the demands of motherhood ease somewhat fo r one hour f i f t y minutes. Four-year-old chatterbox i s s a f e / s i l e n t f o r t h i s s p e l l , e i g h t - y e a r - o l d wildwoman i s prospecting/adventuring outdoors, ten-year-old dreamer i s procrastinating/pondering her way through the remainder of her day. Forty-four-year-old husband has escaped to work. This i s the time, several days a week, when I can t a l k to myself, instead of t r y i n g to focus on other people's questions. (The peanut butter i s so i n the fridge. Yes, we bought food for Tux. No, i t ' s not your birthday yet. There are no sharks i n C a l i f o r n i a Disneyland. In an earthquake you stand under the door frame. Yes, I l e t them buy the apples and i f one's rotten, just throw i t out. No, I can't park the van any better, your four motorcycles were i n the way. You'll have to wash that s h i r t separately i n cold water. Yes, I see you jumping o f f the s t a i r , that's wonderful.) No, I don't have a poem i n my head today. There's no room, i t ' s so f u l l of a l l the answers to a l l those questions. How did Sara know that's what sometimes drives me to write, poems i n my head. No, today I want to t a l k to myself some more. Renee, I say, you are an i n t e l l i g e n t , wonderful person, you are doing a great job, you are so patient and understanding and capable. Thank you, Renee, thank you. A Hallmark Greeting card thank you to you from you. Well, that sounds stupid enough, doesn't i t ? Let me t r y again. Renee, l i s t e n , l e t me give you a word of advice from someone who has been watching you for a long time. Relax a l i t t l e , l e t the l i t t l e things wash right over you, l i v e a l i t t l e , quit complaining, you're l u c k i e r than most, and for God's sakes, get off his back! Who l e t him i n t h i s conversation? Get out! You are not welcome here. Women only. Is he gone? 82 Good. A l l r i g h t . Renee, darling, you must understand, you are not doing anyone any favour when you lose your temper at Eaton's because the clerk treated you l i k e what you a r e — a 43-year-old matron with three demanding l i t t l e brats hanging onto your arm f i l l e d with parcels to return. And since when do you know more than the doctor? Doctors are Gods. Also, i t ' s a wonder you are s t i l l married considering the way you ta l k . And I've been meaning to t e l l you, I found out about the time you and your s i s t e r s neglected to t e l l me about the break-in. But I wasn't fooled, you know. I've just been waiting to t e l l you how hurt I am that you don't t r u s t me. Mom. I love you, but I'm supposed to be t a l k i n g to myself, and I'm not w i l l i n g to pay long-distance rates i n t h i s story. Hang up, I ' l l c a l l next week, and believe me when I t e l l you there was no break-in. Renee, Renee, Renee, there was so a break-in, how can you l i e l i k e that? How can you hang up on your mother? How can you ignore her advice? Remember the time you hurt her so badly when you said what you r e a l l y thought. Shut up and eat your words, Renee, when you tal k to your mother, you're making i t hard f o r the rest of us, and she deserves some respect, she's 67 years old. Oh, please, not my conscience, t h i s i s just too banal now. This reads l i k e a sit-com (a lit-com?), an episode of Roseanne, a r e a l l y bad novel by Danielle Steele. I'm supposed to be t a l k i n g to myself, but a l l the rest of you keep i n t e r f e r i n g . And i t ' s making me over-dramatize everything, which i s r i d i c u l o u s . I'm a happily married, heterosexual woman with three lovely children, and a mother who i s the wisest, most loving woman I know. Why do you just write the parts that you think sound so dramatic, Renee? It's so, so, what's the word, so—POST-MODERN, so s e l f - r e f l e x i v e l y c y n i c a l , so ambiguously gratuitous, so s e l f i s h l y self-absorbed. Why don't you ever write the parts that you are thinking but never, ever put into words? Or the parts that make you look l i k e an i d i o t ? Why do you exaggerate just to make i t sound amusing or wry or poignant? Why not write about— HEY! That's enough! Some things are private, and I'm not writing or t a l k i n g about them, not even to myself. There are some things that I w i l l never write about, understand, Renee? Understand? Good. Now, l e t ' s just f i n i s h t h i s t a l k and then you can go back and f i n d out i f Er i n i s awake yet, and what Sara and Rebecca are up to. I hear a l o t of happy humming, but you can bet the entire playroom has been turned inside-out while you've been t a l k i n g to yourself, Renee. It r e a l l y wouldn't have k i l l e d you to check on them once during Silence Time, and do you t r u t h f u l l y think you've used t h i s time wisely? You could have fin i s h e d reading Theory i n the Classroom, or t r i e d to get a poem i n your head. You could have baked bran muffins. You see, there you go again, stretching the truth just so 83 the writing sounds the way you want i t to come across. You know pe r f e c t l y well you baked bran muffins t h i s morning between questions, and someone i s probably reading t h i s story right now, getting the impression that you didn't bake bran muffins, couldn't bake bran muffins, and wouldn't bake bran muffins. Now you're stuck i n t h i s tone of voice which i s nowhere near the dreamy, r e f l e c t i v e writing with which you began t h i s story. Serves you ri g h t , Renee, serves you WRITE, for t a l k i n g to yourself when you write. 84 Where Did I Leave Me? making my bed I smooth p l a s t i c undersheet protect adult mattress from leaky child-urine and regurgitated c h i l d - s i z e dinners remove the dangle bracelet and Barbie boots underneath folds of q u i l t t r i p on purple-haired c l e a r p l a s t i c see-through pink pony l y i n g on the f l o o r drop-kick kinky-haired white stuffed dog down the h a l l f i r s t freeing i t from f i e r c e bed wheels clear ten videotapes with Disney-tale t i t l e s o f f tarnished s i l v e r dresser set sweep red and yellow e l a s t i c s into chipped china container rearrange p i l e of new children's l i t e r a t u r e awaiting bedtime storytime add another small torn spring s k i r t to sewing basket s t i l l holding waiting winterwear wearing out glance i n mirror at wild knotted hair and old cotton nightgown rush by with hands f u l l of yesterday's underwear 85 POLYLOG: Re-membering October Sadness 87 Facing the Music 88 Ms. Carriage Tries to Save the Baby...89 Faces 92 Miscarriage of Justice 93 Two Ghosts 94 Giving Birth 96 Lasts and Firsts 97 Shadow 99 Oxen on the Roof 100 Passage 103 First Love 104 Herbal Remedy 105 October Sadness October leaves me turning colours i n dry edges spread underneath the trees October c h i l l s me f i l l i n g corners with moist drops staunched by mid-air freeze October darkens me tearing daylight from early evenings memorized with painful ease Facing the Music I combed the l i b r a r y shelves fo r s e l f - h e l p books that helped Coping with Miscarriage holding empty sleepers and r e f o l d i n g them p e r f e c t l y into f l a t sleeveless dreams when the wrenching wracks of fullte r m motherhood radiated v i o l e n t l y through my unreliable body the coursing wetness f i n a l l y slipped e a s i l y out of me once again s t i l l I would wait expectantly for the bad news the t r a g i c end the empty space of u n f u l f i l l e d f e e l i n g checked my baby's breathing hourly always rocked her down to sleep i f she c r i e d i n case she died how could I pause the chords on the instrument of that rhythmic wailing with me there outside the discordant door of devotion divided every rending r i s i n g crescendo cry would sever me and soar playing my love with staccato pieces didn't anybody know i t was me there mourning musically behind that door? and now I've found another source i n which to seek my returning sorrow emotional s t o r i e s of those who grieve and misbore too but as always when I f i n d some small s o l i d note of wordless comfort o, babies I wish there was a page there which worded you 88 Ms. Carriage Tries to Save the Baby — a scene— (A woman l i e s on the f l o o r of the stage, dressed i n a green hospital gown, and covered only by a thi n sheet which doesn't quite cover her bare feet. A bedpan has been placed by her side, stage front. A green cl o t h backdrop i s the only stage scenery i n the background, suspended by a pole which runs the length and width of the stage, l i k e the curtain which separates hospital beds i n non-private rooms. The woman speaks her monologue from t h i s position.) Woman: Blood. Just a small, teardrop-shaped smear of blood. That was what I noticed f i r s t , and I thought, wait a minute. This i s n ' t what's supposed to happen, t h i s i s n ' t Cinderella pushing d o l l s i n carriages i n my basement playroom on Sunday morning. They never t o l d me about t h i s , that's what was c r y s t a l c l e a r i n my mind. I have been l y i n g here now for a day and a half, waiting for the gynecologist, Godot, my arm green bruises from the IV the student nurse t r i e d to s t i c k i n my vessels at least f i v e times unsuccessfully. They won't l e t me eat or drink or get up, just i n case I have to be rushed to surgery, i t was explained, i n case I begin hemorrhaging at any moment. And of course, I must l i e s t i l l to t r y to save the baby. I know there's no baby i n my body any longer. I saw the great globs of red tissue i n the t o i l e t and I t o l d them, but around here, your i n t e l l i g e n c e and powers of observation are d i r e c t l y related to the function of your bodily parts, and my body parts are d e f i n i t e l y screwing up right now. They were rather annoyed I had gotten up to go to the bathroom. She's gone. A l l the dreams I allowed myself for nine weeks gone, too. How stupid. I forgot about r e t r i b u t i o n . I'm sorry. Sorry about the time I said I didn't want children because you couldn't shut them i n the basement l i k e the dog. Sorry about the morning I phoned the doctor for the morning a f t e r p i l l , nervous anything might i n t e r f e r e with my blossoming career. Sorry that I waited and waited, expecting everything to f a l l into place. Read the thermometer, temperature right, time right , name the time, name the date, name the baby. Talking about gender, a room, furniture, daycare, part-time, happy, excited, anticipating, B O O M ! I've been l y i n g here for a day and a half waiting for the hospital gynecologist to come and examine me, so he can then scrape me out and I can go home. It's Sunday, and he's probably out with his children, I can't expect him to come quickly just 89 because I want to get t h i s over with. But I'm developing a d e f i n i t e d i s l i k e for the man. Shouldn't they examine me quickly i f they r e a l l y thought there was a chance to save the baby? She's not there anymore, I know. She's f l o a t i n g i n the sewer system, flushed away and condemned to d i s s o l v i n g messy b i t by b i t among a l l the other guck. Good- bye seed, v e s i c l e , embryo, fetus, baby. I'm sorry. So sorry. Baby daughter human being l i t t l e soul. Did you hear the Beethoven I played for you? Did you know you were expected on my father's birthday? Did you know I wanted to take you everywhere, teach you everything? I'm t i r e d of waiting here i n t h i s room. The other women are kind. The two Gall Bladders passed me some kleenex. They know she's gone, too, despite what the nurses say. The Teenaged Mother had her baby, but she won't get out of bed. The nurses make her walk around. She doesn't want to see the baby and the Gall Bladders think i t ' s strange that no one has v i s i t e d her yet. The emergency ward was a nightmare. Never miscarry on Hallowe'en Night. They were so busy, witches and mice and pumpkins coming i n a steady stream of accidents and mishaps. The worst was the g i r l i n the car accident. They couldn't get ahold of her parents (I guess) and she lay i n the next cubicle screaming and screaming i n pain, while I writhed and i n agony, gave b i r t h to my miscarriage, her screams shrieking i n my consciousness as each new pain of abortive labour coursed through my body, rendering me too shocked to even c a l l out. I refused the Demoral, refusing to believe the obvious, the ominous, the opposite, waiting for someone to phone me with the news, l i k e the parents of the g i r l who lay next to me screaming i n pain. My pain, too, a l l of us, a l l the women, screaming i n pain, some of us screaming for the others who simply lay there mute, l e t t i n g each new spasm of pain c i r c u l a t e through a body no longer trusted, no longer strong. Miscarriage. Now there's a word. Interesting that t h i s one word contains the feminine miss. Of course. A woman's body f a i l i n g to carry. F a i l i n g . Carrying. Aborting. Spontaneously aborting. Sending out. I didn't want to send you out. I'm sorry. I f e l t your t i n y l i f e l i k e f l u t t e r s . I saw the f i s h l i k e pictures i n the books as you developed. You f e l t r e a l to me already, not a f i s h , but a l i t t l e person. I'm so sorry. I'm so surprised. No one warned me. No one t o l d me my body might act l i k e t h i s . No one said i t wasn't easy, wasn't smooth-happy-ending. My mother never talked about t h i s , never once. Or my aunts. Or any of the women I know. I never knew anyone who l o s t a baby t h i s way. I never heard a story about i t once i n the years I spent growing up to be a woman. Not once when a l l the women gathered up the plates and put the food away. 90 Not once l i s t e n i n g to my mother t a l k i n g on the phone, using the odd Yiddish word to keep us o f f track, which only made us more a l e r t and curious. Not once when the aunts came together over r i t u a l , b i r t h , death, sickness. Certainly not i n Biology 12 Reproduction. Very common. Why didn't anyone t e l l me? Warn me? T e l l me about the pain, the loss, the dreams d i s s i p a t i n g l i k e the f e t a l tissue as i t spewed from my traitorous body, with a l i f e of i t s own, with a t r a i l of bloody mass s p i l l i n g a l l over the f l o o r of my l i f e . ( A l l the stage l i g h t s go out. In the blackout, a male voice speaks, disgusted.) Male Voice: You've aborted the baby. I'm going to push down hard for a minute. (The l i g h t s go on. The woman i s l y i n g the same way, but on a stretcher with wheels. The bedpan i s gone, and so i s the green curtain, replaced by green walls. The woman i s v i s i b l y shaking from the cold, her teeth chattering audibly. The doctor walks up beside her, taking o f f latex gloves.) Doctor: You know, they used to do D and C s without anaesthetic. I ' l l have you spick and span, clean as a whistle, i n a j i f f y . It only takes 20 minutes and then you're out of here i n no time, no worse for wear. Just a minor procedure, r e a l l y . Nothing to worry about. I ' l l see you i n the operating room. (The doctor e x i t s . The woman l i e s there, s i l e n t , shaking. Nothing happens. She c a l l s out.) Woman: I'm cold. So cold. Hello? Is anyone there? Hello? Could you come and get me now? Hello? I'm freezing. Could I get a blanket or something? Hello? Hello? (The l i g h t s go out.) 91 F a c e s I can't seem to write about my second miscarriage I can't seem to write about the fixed smile on my face when I accepted congratulations a f t e r returning to the table from the bathroom where I found blood again the grimace on my doctor's face the sad grin on my husband's face the g r i s l y f e e l i n g i t was a l l my f a u l t the focused look on my face as I waited at the front entrance for 45 minutes watching a l l the new mothers c a r e f u l l y carry t h e i r new babies to the waiting carseat which the new fathers struggled with the gripping fear on both our faces that i t would go on and on the s l y face of the nurse who tr i c k e d me into giving her a l l my money and valuables u n t i l the head nurse said that i s n ' t necessary here and returned everything except $10 92 Miscarriage of Justice presently grieving a second miscarriage of the past not ever knowing I was sad or accepting g r i e f - s t r i c k e n or grateful I am writing writing peeling back present layers examining immediate past and t h i s event remains unresolved unforgotten future (three beautiful daughters' loving faces s t i l l two babies never erases) body betrayal mind manipulation l i f e changes g u i l t induces me to ask: who am I to sorrow no schedule can be s a t i s f a c t o r i l y planned no career i s worth a l l that ambition I am a woman no more burdens, please to be c a r r i e d by me to be miscarried by me miscarriage of j u s t i c e : I w i l l s a c r i f i c e parts of myself for greater good mother of miscarriage: I want to rock that second miscarried baby to slumber l e t her sleep peacefully cry myself to rest with her and forgive myself for everything 93 Two Ghosts Two F a i l e d Pregnancies ... l i n e d up behind me by department store registers laughing d e r i s i v e l y at my indulgent choice of babysoft rainbow blanket "You won't need that," they hissed i n my ear ...breathed what-a-waste-of-time and panted see-he-knows-it's-useless with me at classes while my husband yawned mightily and looked at his watch ...sat beside me i n the doctor's waiting room waiting, whispering "Just wait, wait and see, wait and see" Two F a i l e d Pregnancies ...marked the motherhood-baby-nursing-infant-titled books on my shelves with bent-cornered pages whose margins held i n v i s i b l e c l i c h e d remarks l i k e "Try again next time" and "If at f i r s t you don't succeed..." and "Third time lucky" . . . s p i t i n the hundredth glass of blue-tinged skim milk poured out i n an eight-ounce glass and g r a t e f u l l y breathed i n the smoke from my mother-in-law's cigarettes ...warned me constantly not to allow myself to hope, dream, plan or think ahead posting signs i n my head "Dreaming and Desiring i s Damnably Dumb and Disastrously Destructive" ...laughed knowingly when the c r i b was set up joking about wobbly wombs and tenacious babies and s a r c a s t i c a l l y reminding me about c r i b death convulsions choking f a l l i n g Two F a i l e d Pregnancies . . . f e l l s i l e n t , watching when the nurses brought my f i r s t b o r n to me and placed her i n my outstretched arms ...remained s t i l l , ever watchful when my f i r s t b o r n looked up at me with wisebaby innocent eyes f u l l of day-old old-world s o u l f u l gleams of newborn knowledge . . . s i l e n t l y witnessed the eventful normal bi r t h s of two more babies but buzzed petulant persistent malicious memoirs i n my ears "Remember us, remember, won't you when you least expect i t what can happen" Two F a i l e d Pregnancies . . . f i n a l l y faded from view but f a i l e d to disappear sometimes s t i l l l i n i n g up behind me s t i l l breathing and whispering s t i l l laughing and warning s t i l l s p i t t i n g and buzzing never s t i l l and s i l e n t for long always waiting always wanting Giving B i r t h beginning the end of myself once known the end of the beginning of myself I have come to be forever changed forever forever blood frightens me my body blood blood leaked and mixed with the blood of my memories underground waves of pain course down me longer waves wilder, pounding, pummelling coursing c r u i s i n g carrying me on top of pain mind above my body cheering me on watching me keel over voices c a l l i n g me forever forever Lasts and F i r s t s The f i n a l day of preschool approached with alarming speed. The very l a s t day f o r me. Youngest daughter about to enter Kindergarten i n the f a l l , I picked up my daughter by her elephant nametag i n the cloakroom, waited for her to don her outdoor shoes, and packed her indoor runners i n her knapsack f o r summer usage. The two of us walked together to the car, holding one more preschool painting. I have made t h i s passage two times already, with two other daughters, and each time I cried, my baby about to enter the public school system, t r y her s t i l l - s m a l l wings and f l y , hopefully without too many fa l s e s t a r t s . &*ui me, mat£e% (Untt, 6oveni*ty This time the passage c a r r i e d special poignancy, because i t r e a l l y and t r u l y s i g n i f i e d that a l l of my children have l e f t babyhood. The busy baby years of breastfeeding, diapers, chewable books, booster seats, and t r i c y c l e s have irrevocably come to an end. Again l i f e i s s h i f t i n g and changing, l i k e the sand every time a wave l i c k s the shore. A*tdme: o«epmtpuitefrd£0*tcme pneeio<i4> time ta mtfoefy t&at urtte 6e netuntteet ta me: t&nee fronte yUevout fan, t&o&e tweet utteo*KfdieeUed 6&6y eUufA o£ mot&eT4> miMb, cewUaye cva£&4, <u*tcM &*Ut wueatetA. uetvionK faey 6at&, anct <&o£t. wiafi-AaineeC ttec&&. I should have taken more photographs when I could have. (With a t h i r d c h i l d , the number of photos decrease i n number, and those that make i t to the darkroom are crowded with several faces.) I should have taken more time to savour every moment, treasure every event, gather a catalogue of memories to draw upon i n l a t e r years. I should have mentally recorded more " f i r s t s " — t e e t h , words, steps, t o i l e t s , suns i n drawings, strings of l e t t e r s across the page. And oh, those " l a s t s " . When my youngest daughter s p i t out my breast for what we both thought was the l a s t time, I clung to her i n my arms, the bond between us unbreakable, but no longer bodily connected, and I f e l t bereft. This was the l a s t time I would nurse a baby. A week l a t e r she c r i e d to be breastfed every night for seven more days: creation; a week i n which the world was born. I savoured that extra unexpected week of mammary memory, every draw and suck a t a c t i l e photograph to trace with far-reaching f i n g e r t i p s when I needed to remember. If only we always received an extra week when we wanted i t or needed i t . I am a f r a i d that I missed something else that I w i l l l a t e r regret because of my own goals, my own hopes, desires, ambitions. I do not want to wake up one day, f i l l e d with the sense that I should have done more with my children when they were young, that the days which sped by l i k e the pages i n a f l i p book have blurred the colors for a l l of us. AMCC me. «mo*t&, eantiev, yteefcdhf, teCfatf t&e teacAei: 76i& i& my (oat fineac&oot TKot&en,'^ "Day Ie*. A^U» i» teant, <z& one mone 6<x6q ttepa out a*te etoox, <zttd etttena* tutot&en,. 97 A second severance from the body of our mothers, a character i n V i r g i n i a Woolf's novel Waves says of a c h i l d going away to school. When I explain to Er i n following her Kindergarten orientation v i s i t that she w i l l attend school f i v e afternoons a week i n the f a l l , she t e l l s me: I can't do that. I w i l l miss you too much. But already t h i s second severance has begun, set i n motion as inexorably as the winter winds that blow every l a s t leaf off the autumn trees, the leaves spinning and f l y i n g upside-down, sideways, over and over. Aid»te. Auqyutf Sri* too- tiy&t. £o>i o*te (oat fa&te o£ &z6y, cOuvuup euvay frio*K ffieac&ool fan t6e uenq, loot time, deatitty witA, my MMt &utd a£ tevenOMce.. Now cherishing every c h a t t e r - f i l l e d day. Now cherishing every extra request for a push on the swing. Now looking around the corner with bittersweet c u r i o s i t y for more f i r s t days that turn to l a s t days, too, a f e r r i s wheel to ride upon. "I love you, Mommy," Eri n says. "Give me another hug." This at least i s constant. Atd die cu6e itt me au&iidea. 98 Shadow t h i s shadow does not go i n and out with me i s not mine does not shrink or grow with the passage of the day t h i s shadow always the same follows me dogs me haunts me chases me around the corner of my confidence no matter what I say t h i s shadow black l i k e an unending nighttime road darkens my daylight l i g h t s my insides squeezes my throat t r i e s to ride on my back I shun t h i s shadow a f r a i d of i t s consuming depth cautious of i t s burning touch aware of i t s admiring envious gaze I want no such shadow stepping on my outline I want clear colours not black but once I thought I saw that shadow's inner tear f e l t i t s black fingers clutch my shoulders fast from fear and turning looked into a broken shadow mirror so s o f t l y , gently I drew that shadow fragment near embraced i t with arms outstretched and placed the broken shadow pieces here by my side, held together a shadow shape from yesteryear Oxen On the Roof under the glass a faded sepia photograph of my grandfather Aaron i s preserved a r e f l e c t i o n of a Jewish Czechoslovakian man r i d i n g a b i c y c l e smiling i n the foreground behind him an ox upon the roof trapped i n picture memory time upon a Yastrap v i l l a g e house underneath my coffeetable glass my grandfather (Zeda) on the bic y c l e rides f r e e l y year a f t e r year protected from the dust of another generation viewing the oxen helpless on the roof my grandfather helpless on the roof the oxen helpless on the bed my grandfather helpless on the bed my mother maneuvres the spoon to Zeda's drycaked l i p s a rhythm i n her feeding frenzy r i f e with long-forgotten spoonfed strokes his old mouth i n v o l u n t a r i l y opens to receive masticated sustenance upon a cotsize bed mushy l i f e - g i v i n g motion delivered on the silverware of daughterly devotion I l i s t e n focus on the r i v u l e t s of spoonfed s p i t t l e and dripping streams of soft oatmeal-colored mush disgustingly displayed my grandfather 1s countenance a mask of helpless hopeless painted streaks of food l i f e l e s s eyes staring through the foodframed face an old baby tableturned i n the mirror to a mothering daughter Do you remember Renee, Dad? She's home for the summer Come to see you Open wide That's good He eats well, you know It's what keeps him going All these years We cried, all of us There you go When we sat in the office We couldn't do it any more It wasn't fair to Rose Just a few more spoonfuls Rose and I take turns Coming to feed him They haven't the patience here that we do Don't give it back to me, Dad, that's better Although they're very good Lucille comes once in a while You know your aunt Cec is somewhat better I know Irene will help When they've moved Now you're finished, wasn't that good? Not all the grandchildren come to visit I think it's terrible i n the presence of my mother's daughterly s p i r i t myself a daughter to her motherly magic I cast a s p e l l of backward time upon that dear old foodstained face clean i t with a c l o t h of memory place i t upright upon a couch i n my livingroom past watch i t s mouth s p i l l i n g spellbinding s t o r i e s of other countries o f f i c e r s and wars and ships that s a i l e d away from our ancestral destruction I'll tell you since you ask, Reevkala We lived in a little village Yastrap It exists no more I knew another war was coming I was twice already an officer for the Germans I speak seven languages, shena medelah And I thought, no more, too many times I could see what was coming 101 Max and I came over first It took us five years to save the money for the others Your mother was a baby when I left A few days old The youngest of seven Although one other baby died A more beautiful baby than your mother I have never seen Max is the oldest I brought him with me He turned bad A black sheep as it happens He broke your grandmother Sarah's heart Sarah, God rest her soul Would not speak of him Even when she was dying Even when I was dying Even when I was the oxen on the bed Even when I was the oxen on the roof underneath the glass my grandfather Aaron s t i l l rides his b i c y c l e past the oxen on the roof 1 0 2 ^Pasiays zSomsttlny ii happening to me. c/ft niytit (J fall ai.ta.Ep extauited pom the day fexjexi down lunatei mads, dlitei alothsi atildxen put away. Sut alwayi watte memoilei playing through my head pait xeeli. op people placei feellngi woxdi xewlnd play xewlnd play fS cannot yst the taps to itop rewinding tract through twenty-o dd op almoit-wai and could-have-teen and if-- fJhad one moxe dxlnt U'd— wanted to till you when £J xead— loot, at the xeaatlon uou qot the XE— they xeally notlazd you IIE iald— Ll tnow you wanted ttiat too ai much ai- you mean gxow old togsthsx lout. am writing thli alonz havE cjulstly itolen out of lad In tean io the icxatah of the penal cannot ts heard ly anyone, tut ms and itopi the videotape of tts pait pom fait forwarding my yean. 103 F i r s t Love my open words once so f u l l of innocent, unaffected 1 sweet with youthful abandon and promises I should not keep were silenced by young male embarrassment: shouldn't women be mysterious? you ask (instead of deep) and I grew cautious then and never loved so well again for those l o s t words of love (not you) I weep Herbal Remedy the woman's tea brewed mint the color of a l i g h t tan not quite long enough i n the sun held up to brownberry l i p s warmed the a i r between them could be a watchful gesture when the silence wrapped them i n i t s awkwardness the smoke of lapsed time r i s i n g i n misty c i r c l e s that broke as e a s i l y as blown bubbles when the words f i l l e d them with regret the half-mask that covers a l l excuses the woman's tea herbal mixture would treat his words the cure would not corrode her insides: black holes muscles held together round broken tender pieces of other people's memories no tea leaves to f o r e t e l l the future just peppermint sharp i n her n o s t r i l s the scent of daydreams impossible to remember 105 POLYLOG: Re-feminizing Judgement Day 107 Matron in the Mirror 108 Crazed Cookies 109 Moodpiece 110 Language in His Foot 112 Playhouse Reality 113 Woman in the Mirror 115 Toeing In 116 Excuses, Excuses, Excuses 117 The Politics of Fear 118 106 Judgement Day Dear Cousin Adelle, Congratulations on your appointment as a judge! What a well-deserved honour. I know you w i l l be both judicious and wise. And since you w i l l soon hold the gavel, I want you to know: I am g u i l t y of bad temper impatience knotted hair being moody hard to please and I swear I say one thing but write another I'm c r i t i c a l , a n a l y t i c a l and a lousy mother I want too much I ask for more I'm never content I'm hurt and sore I'm ambiguous, ambivalent an abstracted, obstructive wife just convict me of gross womanhood and sentence me to l i f e Love, Renee 107 Matron in the Mirror I look i n the mirror day before my 43rd birthday a new l i n e appears l e f t of my upper l i p a subtle droop lopsided one-sided sadness reminding me I am changing d a i l y once vibrant a l i v e with wisdom each l i n e just a path towards a new adventure etched upon the matron i n the mirror s t i l l shops for clothes i n the Junior Department wants young clerks to stop c a l l i n g her ma'am so many times i n one transaction a new l i n e pointing downward to the aging body of a middle-class middle-aged mother f u l l of tinny feminist t r u t h f u l t r a c t s you o f f to play war games with your friends you could have stayed here with me played war games with the matron i n the mirror 108 Crazed Cookies my mother expecting death baked sesame twist cookies a l l morning waiting for the phone to r i n g answering machine turned to o f f my mother recognizing death i n the hospital waiting room went home and f e e l i n g nervous worked i n her blue kitchen where she knew the phone would r i n g as surely as the t u l i p s l o s t t h e i r petals to the wind every springtime my mother foreshadowing death f i l l e d her freezer with those cookies rows of twisted dough corpses packed i n shoebox c o f f i n s defrosting them only two days l a t e r my mother no stranger, she said, to death served those cookies cleared the plates that held them vacuumed sesame seeds from rug corners and said, prepare yourself but don't l e t i t make you crazy Moodpiece I ' m bitchy. Almost a l l the time. Fortyish woman just f i n i s h e d t o t i n g Jerry Packs with babies, not quite fi n i s h e d with and able to f o l d the s t r o l l e r (which i s permanently stained with pee and apple juice) one l a s t time and place i t out at the bottom of the driveway on garbage day. I walk by male teachers l i n i n g up the boys and the g i r l s and c a l l out, ever heard of gender equity? When the male teacher quips, the l i n e s are equal, I respond with perfect pr e c i s i o n shooting, designed to reverberate for days (he prides himself on his newly l i t e r a t e teaching), verrry old school, and walk on by. Bitchy. I smile benignly upon hearing that a lovely, sweet young thing was hired to teach a course I once taught. (Her f i e l d i s another d i s c i p l i n e e n t i r e l y and she thinks the leading scholars are completely wrong.) That's f i n e , I smile to myself, bitchy, just wait u n t i l she has to mark papers while she's throwing up i n the bathroom, or plan the four hours while she's l y i n g on the bed breastfeeding a baby, s t i l l not dressed. Go for i t , advises the closet-sexist-psychologist who I consult only three times about one of my children. He has turned the conversation to me, probably implying that I'm the biggest problem. You could r e a l l y make a difference, he claims. His name i s Wally Cleaver and my husband and I think I am going to t a l k to the Beave's brother. No, Wally, I already went for i t , and i t r e a l l y didn't make a l l that much difference. He needs to leave TV Land f o r a while. You see, bitchy. It's report card time and I'm crabby, confesses Ann to me at the xerox machine. I'm always crabby now, I reply to Ann. I'm just one even long l i n e of crabbiness, snaking my way around the corners of the h a l l s . I don't need to wear a warning l a b e l , i t ' s palpable crabbiness. You can touch i t , pick i t up, i t ' s red hot, toss i t down, i t never breaks. At recess Ann reveals she once attended a workshop I gave i n the d i s t r i c t . You were young and starry-eyed, Ann says, you made us s i t on the f l o o r ; I didn't l i k e that. I nod, and Evelyn, school secretary (the backbone of our l i t t l e annex) comments, you're not smiling, Renee. But I do smile, s t i l l bitchy, when Sam walks by the a c t i v i t y room and comes to say he l l o . A person from my past, he c a l l s out. And mine. I think: He's bald, no longer st u t t e r s , promoted to an administrative position. I'm f a t , I don't care what I say anymore, working one day a week exhausts me. I went to a l l the f e l t pen and chart paper committee meetings that Sam ran, rushed down the polished glow-back h a l l s of the school board o f f i c e past him, saw him dancing at the deadly retirement send-off p a r t i e s . (People die quickly a f t e r 110 one of those.) He was c a l l e d the Golden Boy back then. He's probably dumped his wife and l e f t his children, l i k e everyone else, I think, but don't dare to ask. Not that bitchy! Renee has three daughters now, the v i c e - p r i n c i p a l who has joined us, adds. Sam shakes his head. He remembers, too. Says a mutual fr i e n d of ours has two daughters now; he comments that she used to say she hated children. (We a l l hated children back then, but I don't say t h i s aloud.) Instead I respond, she s t i l l does. Bitchy. Sam smiles wryly. Golden Boy's halo shines b r i g h t l y and i s r e f l e c t e d on the bald spot, illuminated by the i n s t i t u t i o n a l l i g h t s outside the a c t i v i t y room where we are standing. My next class enters, the three of us disperse, and I begin teaching the way the sweet young thing considers f o l d e r o l . At home I drop pans and my daughters check to see i f I'm angry. No, I just dropped the p a n — r e a l l y ! I'm clumsy today, but my daughters aren't fooled. They f e e l the bitchy heat waves emanating from where I stand at the stove. You do bang things when you're mad, my daughters t e l l me, and I do, but I also drop things. In my memory, L i s a f l i c k s her daughter Sophia's foot away from her face, angry, bitchy, t i r e d of the sniping jealousy Sophia d i r e c t s to Lisa's cheek. L i s a once taught. Now she raises her f i v e children. I am humbled, L i s a says to me on the phone long-distance when we trade l i v e s once again a f t e r a prolonged silence. She says t h i s with one twin on her lap, interrupting our conversation to d i r e c t someone else to another, larger window for looking out (??), hacking from her bronchitis, her Greek husband, having survived an emergency appendectomy, busy at the restaurant they own. (I handle these things f i n e , L i s a says. I count what I have before I stand to lose something.) No, Li s a , I am humbled by you, I t e l l her, my bitchiness temporarily put aside, as one of my three rushes into the bedroom to ask about where the ham i s , rushing right past my husband who i s s i t t i n g i n the kitchen. L i s a laughs with me about the ham—we are both Jewish, married to non-Jewish men, and I say something bitchy about being the Keeper of the Ham. At night my mother doesn't laugh at my jokes on the telephone—there's just a great, lengthy, hesitant silence when I quip. Long-distance bitchiness grating i n my ears, she asks my father, why don't you turn the TV up even louder? (Her ears are not the same as they used to be.) Maybe she doesn't hear my wisecracks. Maybe I'm not so funny anymore. Maybe she knows I'm bitchy, too, so she doesn't laugh. Oh, well. At least I was born, as Anton says i n "A L i t e r a r y History of Anton" by Matt Cohen (1992). It sounds bitchy when I say i t , though, doesn't i t ? I l l Language i n His Foot (Or Why Can't A Man Be More Like a Woman) Upon the confirmation of my f i r s t of two miscarriages: You aborted the baby. Upon my refusal to be x-rayed at eight months pregnant: All women think their baby is so precious. Upon the six-week check-up af t e r the b i r t h of my t h i r d c h i l d : You'll have to work on that (body). Upon the chaos of getting f i v e people (three of them children) packed for a t r i p : You sound just like a, drill sergeant. Upon the mention of my choice of p o l i t i c a l party: If you're going to voice an opinion, it had better be right. Upon sounding my middle-child voice loudly and resoundingly: Bohunk. Upon sounding my professional voice strongly and passionately: Bitch. Upon sounding my woman's voice strongly and passionately: Man-hater. Upon sounding my woman's voice longingly and emotionally: Insensitive, offensive man-hater. Upon sounding my woman's voice q u i e t l y and c a r e f u l l y : Insensitive bitch. sounding my aborted woman's voice (working on being right) the words d r i l l through my body I am Sergeant Bitch I am Sergeant Bohunk no longer longing to be quiet or careful the language i s i n his foot my memory of the words of men 112 Playhouse Reality he i s ironing industriously handmade wooden iron s l i c k i n g back and forth upon a glossy wooden board l i k e a skater turning figures i n the ice distr a c t e d he turns continues s t i r r i n g pots and moving dishes small face intense with the concentration of his make-believe and the hard work of j o y f u l play p l a s t i c Fisher-Price toy kitchen receiving small ministrations of yet another player I s i t on a hope chest too t a l l to stand i n the playhouse enter into the l i f e of the play: he looks busy is he cooking now? yes and cleaning too he informs me seriously accepting my interest and intrusion is he a father? yes with six no twenty children there by me on the hope chest all twenty upside down in a basket twenty I exclaim impressed, with this participant new-age father and parent-in-role sharing the burden of household responsibility a new model for the times socialized equality in the kindergarten with f i v e year old suddenness abrupt a change of scene he dons a red helmet and announces he i s o f f for a ride t e s t i n g I enquire but what about the twenty children you look a f t e r them he responds quickly resonating authority there I s i t beside twenty children upside down i n a basket thinking: t h i s i s my l i f e husband o f f r i d i n g motorcycles uncanny how that play episode echoed l i f e Woman i n the Mirror Women1s l o t : share, don't dare meet, but be discrete be a f r i e n d behind that subtle l i n e but disappear decline i f the l i n e ' s unclear and never, never step outside the boundaries of that mirror 115 Toeing In tip t o e i n g t r i p p i n g treading l i g h t l y traversing through the narrow university walls of the men's club (where women too close the silver-knobbed blue-painted doors of academia) women with beige-white legs well-cut matching flowered s u i t s and immaculate impotent hair doors opening and clos i n g between the men and the doctoral boys conversing i n the h a l l s l i n g e r i n g by those doors exchanging well-known names and pleasantries that r e a l l y a l l say c l e a r l y just who belongs to the club we'll just l e t you i n the threshold of the door i f you're b r i e f i f you don't disagree with the a r t i c l e i f you stop r e l y i n g on that i n t u i t i o n which paralyses the tolerance of the men and the PhD boys who claim they admire wit and wisdom and i n t e l l i g e n c e as long as i t doesn't obstruct the men's club i s hushed docile s t i l l and stays where i t belongs not behind any more blue doors for ecru legs not i n the carpeted h a l l s of blustery camaraderie not coupled with that i n t u i t i o n and mind and body reading but i n the safe distant faraway place of part-time home-bound mother-hooded non-academic woman dabbler 1 1 6 Excuses, Excuses, Excuses I'm not a feminist, b u t — did you notice that the author used the she pronoun only when he re f e r r e d to poor parenting? I'm not a feminist, b u t — I believe i n humanity, humanism, a l l of us working together i n equ a l i t y and with equal opportunity. I'm not a feminist, b u t — I c e r t a i n l y don't l i k e i t when the boys are l i n e d up separately from the g i r l s . I'm not a feminist, b u t — do you think you could just l e t me f i n i s h one sentence without being interrupted? I'm not a feminist, a nd— do you r e a l l y think you'd want a man you could push around l i k e that? I'm not a feminist, a nd— I r e a l l y think mothers should stay at home with t h e i r c h i l d r e n when they're young. I'm not a feminist, a nd— I wondered how a man would f e e l when he read that. I'm not a feminist, a n d — I just get my way by manipulating the s i t u a t i o n without him even knowing i t . I'm not a feminist, s o — I don't worry about things any more. I'm not a feminist, s o — I can't be included as part of the problem. I'm not a feminist, s o — I don't have to say I'm a feminist, a nd— I am not seen as a feminist, b u t — I am a woman, b u t — that's not the same as a feminist, because— I am a mother, a n d — I do want things d i f f e r e n t f o r my ch i l d r e n , s o — I may be a feminist, b u t — I can't say I'm a feminist, because— i f she's a feminist I'm not l i k e that kind of feminist, not r e a l l y — i f I ever s a i d that there would be h e l l to p a y — how can you be a woman and a mother and not be a f e m i n i s t — how can you say you're not a feminist b u t — a n d — s o — 117 The P o l i t i c s of Fear I am a woman. I am also a writer. I am a wife, a mother, a student, a teacher. I am a feminist, too. Lately, I have been f e e l i n g a f r a i d to even say I am a feminist, to be seen to be involved or associated with issues and b a t t l e s that are exploding a l l around me. "It's a war zone out there," my husband says to me, and he worries about me. We discuss and discuss and discuss and no matter how far apart we f e e l on any issue, I f e e l secure i n the knowledge that we can and do arri v e at a place of understanding and mutual respect. But t h i s i s the private arena. In the public arena, I have been f e e l i n g burned. I get notes back from journal editors who write: you have an at y p i c a l perspective (translation: you're a woman). Responses to some of my published feminist writing have included the accusation that I hate husbands and men, or that I have f a i l e d to connect to the l i v e s of women. And now, I am currently enrolled i n a university course where I have had to l i s t e n to jokes about whether one should t e s t to check i f research subjects are male or female; where, i n response to my paper on male ta l k dominance i n the mixed-sex classroom, I have been singled out by a male professor and chastised i n front of the entire class. I am not humourless. I don't think I'm r a d i c a l , although one would hope that today t h i s would not brand a person. I walk my daughters to school, I cook meals, I drive on school f i e l d t r i p s , I ta l k on the phone every week to my mother who l i v e s i n another c i t y . I cry when I'm hurt. I also write poetry and f i c t i o n and narrative, about my family, about what i t i s l i k e to be a woman, about my many experiences as a woman. I t r y to write t r u t h f u l l y , I often use humour, and I spend a great deal of time r e f l e c t i n g upon my words. And I read. I read books by and about women, women writers, about writing. And every book I read, every word I have written, opens up a myriad p o s s i b i l i t i e s for me: that women have voices and should use them; that i t i s not constructive or healthy to be trapped i n silence; that we share many common experiences despite our differences, and our differences should be celebrated; that women's ways of knowing are important; that i n order to envision a future that has a place for women and men l i v i n g together harmoniously, we must engage i n important discussions. These p o s s i b i l i t i e s spur me on to further reading, further writing. In the newspaper these days I read about women writers who receive anonymous hate l e t t e r s , university professors suspended f o r sexual harassment of women, and entire u n i v e r s i t y departments embroiled i n problems of sexism. I read headlines that blame feminists f or a p o l i t i c a l party's poor e l e c t i o n showing, and l e t t e r s that accuse editors of providing a forum 118 for r a d i c a l feminism. And so I f e e l a f r a i d , because as I continue to read and write and step into the public domain, as I continue with my abiding i n t e r e s t i n feminism and a l l the p o s s i b i l i t i e s available to me, I f e e l I might somehow be made to pay dearly for a l l of t h i s , have already as a r e s u l t of some of my endeavours, experienced some hatred and sexism. It takes courage to write what you believe when you know the words cause s t r i f e and stridency, and I am t i r e d . Tired and a f r a i d . I am reluctant to be drawn into battles I didn't s t a r t or want. I am losing my courage these days. I have f i n a l l y found my voice, but i t may be dangerous to use i t . In the book, Language i n Her Eye, Canadian playwright Margaret Hollingsworth writes: "Every time a woman puts pen to paper i t i s a p o l i t i c a l act" (1990, 142). I am t i r e d of p o l i t i c a l acts. I want to be a woman—writer, wife, mother, student, teacher, feminist—and I want to write as a woman, fr e e l y , without f e e l i n g a f r a i d . But I know that at t h i s moment as I put pen to paper, as I once again engage i n another p o l i t i c a l act, I am r i s k i n g a great deal. I look deep into the innocent, t r u s t i n g eyes of my daughters i n order to summon a l l my remaining reserves of courage. For myself and for them. So I w i l l not f e e l a f r a i d . So I can sing out of the silence i n a voice f i l l e d with strength and conviction: I am a feminist. 119 POLYLOG: R«-visioning Yes, Renee, There is a Virginia Woolf 121 Power Games 123 Voices, Past and Present 125 Knowing Virginia 128 Against the Grain 130 Repeated in Threes 131 Virginia Woolf's Alive and Well and Living in a Co-op in False Creek....132 120 Yes, Renee, There i s a V i r g i n i a Woolf when my high school teacher caressed my arm eyes gleaming power and authority i n chalkdust classrooms when my uncle held me too close behind shoebox rows i n warehouse o f f i c e s when I walked down dark streets alone elbow jo s t l e d t i l l I ran to restaurant phones c a l l i n g t a x i saviours no one t o l d me said you were waiting I used to read a book a night somehow missed the W's was I r e a l l y l i s t e n i n g born under a rosebush dreaming my way through 40 years of l i f e or did someone just forget to t e l l me mention by the way did you hear about V i r g i n i a know she was waiting would s t i r me to write the ache welling up and s p i l l i n g on the poetry on a l l the psychic children who hid that row of W books from me? I ate 6 Austen novels and a 7th completed for a woman's magazine inhaled the Brontes waited for Godot searched for the author with those 6 characters v i s i t e d that absurd zoo howled with A l l e n was a f r a i d of George's big bad Woolf spent time i n the children's hour but I never found the W's for 40 years a l i f e t i m e to catch up on catch my breath from catch on to yes, Renee, there i s a V i r g i n i a Woolf she l i v e s i n a l l your severed parts doing dishes between lectures putting phantom children to bed a trace of tears on a l l Shakespeare's s i s t e r s ' cheeks walking down autumn Oxbridge paths to a i r l e s s rooms f i l l e d with f o l d i n g walls wide windows curtainless against the summer glare or hammerpelt of r a i n w riting l i v e s a penny a piece buried under children's s t o r i e s 3 l i t t l e pigs and b ig bad Albeean wolves I walked past an o f f i c e door one day saw V i r g i n i a hanging on the wall and knew she was i n my l i f e Power Gaines V i r g i n i a Woolf— Did Leonard ever do the dishes? Did he leave the dishwasher wash cycle for the next morning because someone could squeeze i n one more cup and anyway, he'd be gone i n the morning, he had an early meeting? Did he f o l d towels? Did he wash them f i r s t , d u t i f u l l y gathering a l l the towels from t h e i r various hiding places around the house (except never mine hanging behind the bathroom door, I've only been hanging i t there for 20 years)? Did he throw those washed towels into the dryer and forget them there? He didn't r e a l i z e he hadn't turned the dryer on, right? Did he buy groceries? Did he use the l a s t b i t of milk f o r his coffee and cereal and place the empty milk container c a r e f u l l y back i n i t s exact place i n the fridge and leave for work, s i l e n t l y so as not to wake anyone? Did he read bedtime st o r i e s to the children? Did he hate Amelia Bedelia and refuse to read that again, he just read i t l a s t month, and did he say no, he couldn't read Pippi Longstocking either, she was a loud-mouthed, aggressive l i t t l e b itch, was there a good book around here to read that's short? Did he take the children on outings? Did he o f f e r to take the children out so I could get some work done and have some solitude and silence for a change? Was he going to catch frogs because they'd been wanting to do that for a long time? Did he sound surprised when I mentioned that he forgot the baby? Did he pretend not to see my school tea thermos which needed r i n s i n g out when he was doing the dishes because I l e f t him the coffeepot and coffee grains the night before? Did he ever turn the monitor down at night and claim not to have heard anyone crying? Did he wake me up to ask where the clean sheets were when one of the children wet the bed and t h i s time went to his side to t e l l 123 him? Did he turn the heat down as soon as I had gone up the s t a i r s and commiserate when I wondered why the house was so damn cold? Did he forget the drycleaning p i l e d up by the front door which he had to move i n order to exit and the overdue Visa b i l l propped up against his keys, a l l of which he said he'd take care of that morning, don't worry? Was he patient? Did he help the children get t h e i r hats and coats and mitts and scarves and snowpants and umbrellas and knapsacks? Did he y e l l when the boot wouldn't go on, and y e l l louder when i t wouldn't stay on, and y e l l even louder when someone c r i e d once that boot was on? Did he f i n d the old missing sock stuck i n the toe of that boot the next day? Did he take a well-deserved break? Did he play basketball once a week, bruising his finger, breaking a r i b , throwing his back out, d r i v i n g his f r i e n d to the emergency ward, getting depressed over someone else's heart attack, just to relax and get out of the house for a while? He couldn't possibly miss basketball, right? Did he t a l k to me? Did he nod and say hmm, o f f e r i n g an occasional oh, and reply r e a l l y , i s that rig h t , no kidding, you don't say, I agree, could you move a l i t t l e to the right I can't quite see the screen and excuse me, your elbow's on the business section? Did he cry? Did he shout oh, God, i n a t e r r o r - f i l l e d voice just l i k e mine when one of the children h i t the coffeetable too hard? Did he have tears i n his eyes a f t e r I miscarried the second time? Were his expressive eyes f u l l of awe, the f i r s t to hold our f i r s t b o r n at l a s t i n his arms, crooning I love you, l i t t l e baby, i n h is own baby babble? V i r g i n i a , I want to know. If Leonard ever did the dishes. If he c r i e d when you were gone. 124 Voices, Past and Present ^ZJIZEXE i no douht Ln my mind that U ha<7E found out now io leg in (at 40 J to lay somEthing in my own <joiaE." V i r g i n i a Woolf (Woolf 1975, 47) . I think I discovered another reason why V i r g i n i a Woolf committed suicide. Leonard. (£)/z, hut JJ hauE dons, QUHE VJE.11 SO fax with TOutm o£ Ote'ii. Ouul\..(7^9J- I just read his preface to her diary, selections which he had e s p e c i a l l y compiled and bound i n a volume meant to i l l u s t r a t e the writer, the person, the i n t e l l e c t , and the l i f e , i ncluding the entries written just before her suicide, and keeping i n mind, as Leonard reminds us so aptly, that a diary entry only illuminates and spotlights one mood, a few framed minutes i n a whole l i f e of emotion and f e e l i n g . cJfnd so jJ jiitah&d into my gxEat lahe of melancholy. Jloxd how desj^ it is! ^Mat a loxn msLananolia fj am! (Uhe only way (J IZEEJI afloat ii. ly woxhing. notE fox the iummEX- must tale moxE woxh thdn LJ aan J20ssihly gEt donE. ~d\fo, Id don't hnow what it aomEl fiom. [feixEatfy Ld itofi woxhing U fee.1 that fd am sinhing down, down, c/fnd as. usual LJ fee-l that if 0 sinh fuxtfzEX L3 shall XEaah the txuth. ^3hat is the only mitigation; a hind of nolility. zSolEmnity. fl shall mahe. myself face tliE faat that triEXE is nothing--nothing fox any of us. ^Woxh, xeading, wxiting, axE ait disguisEi; and XElations with ^IEOJIIE. ^\JES, EUEn having ahildiEn would IE USEIESS" (143'J44)• 125 But Leonard, I couldn't f i n d or f e e l one word of your sorrow or regret or sadness at V i r g i n i a ' s death. (And don't you dare, patient reader, dare think between the l i n e s that perhaps that was his way of showing g r i e f , or that perhaps that i s how some people hide from g r i e f , or that perhaps his g r i e f was very private, or that perhaps I haven't yet read the book Leonard wrote that chronicles his devastation at V i r g i n i a ' s death.) I wanted that g r i e f there i n the preface. I wanted to sense Leonard's great sadness that his wife was gone, not read some bookworm's advice on how to read the diary entries and how he managed to decide which entries to include. *£ff £J could, cakali ths, feeling U would; the feeling of the ilnglng of the real wozld, ai one. Li driven hy lonellnea and illence fiom the hahltahLe world; the iente aomei to me of helng hound on an adventure; of helng itn.anga.lij free now, with money and io on, to do anything (148). I wanted to f e e l some of what Leonard must have f e l t when she died. "c/fnd then LJ am 47: yei; and my Inflrmltlei will of aoune Increaie (145). I didn't want a Harlequin Romance Preface, just a preface that paid t r i b u t e emotionally to the woman who also sometimes cooked Leonard's meals ( i t ' s there i n black and white i n one entry); who knew the poetry of Chris t i n a Rossetti was "natural singing power"; who wrote i n a f i n a l entry before her death i n 1941: jJ thlnh Ll wlLL Is, lea verloie here jierhafii—hut what dosi Lt matter, writing too many jiagei. d\fo printer to comider. <^No puhlla ̂ 362^. Not an a r i d wasteland of a preface that took his wife's d i a r i e s and didn't burn them, but instead used them without even saying how much i t hurt him to do that. Leonard didn't even cry p u b l i c a l l y i n that preface. Yet he cr i e d p r i v a t e l y when he read her book, The Years: J2. J2ut down the lait iheet ahout 12 lait night; and could not ipeah. cHe wai In tean. Ll, ai a witness, not only to his emotion hut to his ahsorptlon... ^2"J2j. 126 Poor V i r g i n i a . Ll havE this moment, cvhsn having hath, aona.£,l<Jzd an EntixE naur hooh- iEgua£ to A 7^<xmt o£ 0*e& Ount>~ahout ths isxuaf hips o f wotnEn ^765j. Knowing Virginia I have been both haunted and inspired by V i r g i n i a Woolf. She i s there i n the bibliography of every feminist book I have read so f a r . I have written poems about her, used quotations from some of her books, and I f e e l her presence a l l the more whenever I write my words or encounter her once again i n yet another book. I know she was married to Leonard, had no children, suffered recurring bouts of d e b i l i t a t i n g melancholy, loved other women, declared her feminism even more strongly when she was i n her f i f t i e s , and I know that she walked into a r i v e r i n 1941 and committed suicide. I know, too, that she wrote i n A Room of One's Own that there were many women who would not be l i s t e n i n g to her public lecture (upon which the book i s based) because they were home "doing the dishes or putting the children to bed" (1992/1929, 148) . I know that she admitted that someone has to bear the children, because she wrote such words i n A Room of One's Own, and I know, too, that she advises the women whom she i s addressing that perhaps one or two children are enough. I know that she f e l t , during her d i f f i c u l t times, that even having children would be useless, because she wrote those very words i n her diary. I know that she was nurtured and cared f o r by her husband, Leonard, and that i t i s e n t i r e l y possible that were i t not for his care that many of her great works would never have been written. I know, too, that there are feminist scholars who are quite c r i t i c a l of Leonard; who say that he f a i l e d i n his i n t e l l e c t u a l assessment of some of her work, and i n the manner i n which he treated her i l l n e s s . I know, too, that i n his preface to her d i a r i e s which he edited, he does not mention one word about his great g r i e f or sadness about her suicide and death, nor does he refer to how d i f f i c u l t i t might have been for him to even consider her d i a r i e s for publication. I have read—and am s t i l l reading—books by or about V i r g i n i a Woolf, and I suspect that I w i l l go on reading these books for many years to come, and that there i s s t i l l much I have yet to synthesize. I have charted a l l the feminist books I've read, and somehow a l l the arrows i n my flow chart diagram c i r c l e back to V i r g i n i a . And I wonder about her. I wonder what she was thinking about when she walked into the r i v e r , when she f e l t the f i r s t cold shock of soothing water upon her ankles, upon her knees, when she f e l t her s k i r t s dragged down by the weight of the water, water r i s i n g up to her neck as she walked her way out of our l i f e and into her everlasting words. Words which we s t i l l read, which I see everywhere i n every feminist book I have ever 128 read. What was she thinking i n that underwater room of her own, that cold, wet room r i s i n g over her n o s t r i l s , c l o s i n g her eyes, her hair spreading out above the water l i k e the thin, s k e l e t a l hands of a thousand, thousand threads of time. Holding her hand up out of the r i v e r of her words to reach across to a l l of us who have learned from her. And I wish I could t e l l her: she was never alone, even when she walked into that r i v e r , when she could no longer bear the pain. A l l of us were l i s t e n i n g to her words echo across the water, i n that f i n a l , wet auditorium of time. 129 l i k e carving l i k e scraping l i k e d r i v i n g l i k e s c a l i n g l i k e shouldering people l i k e writing Against the Grain V i r g i n i a : i s t h i s folded f i s t aching t i g h t i n my throat what you f e l t the roast the other way your f i n g e r n a i l across the chalkboard the wrong way down a one-way street up the down escalator your way through a crowd of what you actually think they c r i t i c i z e d your text against the grain Leonard said 130 Repeated i n Threes inside me another hard thing grows hard unmelting formed s t i l l growing a tumour of despondency li&£. Q/iiyinia ^Woolf'i. <J$ioda. inside me t h i s tumour l i v e s repeated i n threes t4e UKU&I to> <* loom, it- t&e <WooCf\ OUZ.% innex tiug.1 of tftoiz atiazaatzu Urui n&<J&% urajz away iOt£.i. £.aak jiay&d itoxy offszs tome, n&vj kt of Life, and isA.in.incj £.aalz ni.ua dztait (jze.a£i tttz ixrate.% ai it dadim ujion tfiz. ikoxs. aui£.i Irirdiony in diaonanas. to liny ujion the. (tads. £.ack lay of amlit cvozdi ujion. tke. (zoUi£. a Cittts. uazi&d imacjg.i. iiiift&d (rut linys.iiny zzjizatzd in tAis&i. another hard thing grows unsheared 131 Virginia Woolfs Alive and Well and Living in a Co-op in False Creek V i r g i n i a Woolf i s n ' t dead she's playing the pink guitar writing for the sexes rewriting women's l i v e s spinning through gynecological time (untouched) not an u n l i k e l y story she's theorizing feminist fandango i n calypso classrooms Edward you're a f r a i d of V i r g i n i a Woolf scrawled on university bathroom walls scrubbed univ e r s a l l y i n bathroom s t a l l V i r g i n i a menstrual minstrel s p i r i t u a l specter death by dying defied Posed and polished on pages of Daring Doctrine caring Daunting Doctrine flaunting Escaped at l a s t from her own round-rugged room the kitchen of t i l e d time V i r g i n i a ' s b u ilding motorcycle memories i n the word workshop composing computer programs of centennial sentences bungee jumping from bookshelf to bookshelf mass murdering male Mensa mainbrains V i r g i n i a i s n ' t dead temporizing temptress temporal-airily temper-rarely temporarily interred 132 POLYLOG: Re-configciring Drumheller Landscape 134 Another Mad Poet Eroding with Words 135 Twirling 136 An Educated Person 138 Curriculum as Dream 139 Are You a Real Teacher When Tomorrow Turns to Today? 140 An/other Return 142 Drumheller Lands parched earth s t o n e - f i l l e d paths caked clay d i r t enmeshed with chain-links of the past red-white-black stripped dunes which r i s e i n steppes above the stone-hardened d r i f t s the sun burns my f l e s h into another f o s s i l on a rock and I am awed by a l l that preceded me here another quick gust of wind blows my wide-brimmed sunhat upon the land where once majestic dinosaurs roamed we are a l l one landscape that simply changes shape and color every millennium oi l - p a i n t e d by the eyes of the sky Another Mad Poet Eroding with Words tangled dark curly hair ( l i k e mine) standing far too close for a stranger l i k e a tree wedging roots into rock and causing erosion making i t a r i t u a l he wipes the perspiration o f f his brow a few long cosmic moments before his mad words explode and scatter on our universe causing erosion another damn poet you comment ( l i k e me) 135 Twirling two of my cousins on my mother's side (her brother's daughters) twirled batons for years when they were children entering contests l a t e r judging other s t i c k - t w i r l e r s I would watch the two of them dressed i n l i t t l e scalloped s k i r t s throwing those s i l v e r - t i p p e d batons i n the a i r on a summer afternoon while we sat mesmerized trapped on chairs i n the back yard of yet another child-run exhibition even then s i t t i n g by the pea vines crawling f u l l of pods out of t h e i r d i r t box garden space I would wonder at my cousins' s k i l l dexterity nerve before a crowd allegiance to a s t i c k conviction the baton would return the baton spinning round and round t h e i r routines always when a baton accidentally dropped a cousin would pick i t up as i f nothing had happened and continue t w i r l i n g but I thought I f e l t t h e i r dismay at the way those batons sometimes had a mind of t h e i r own despite the many hours of practice I used to laugh inwardly at t h e i r dedication to a s t i c k but now I t w i r l words the same way enter contests astonished how the words l i k e that baton sometimes have a mind of t h e i r own s p o i l i n g my routines and me a non-believer once laying down my words at the a l t a r of my own addiction a practice of allegiance no d i f f e r e n t than the way my cousins d a i l y threw those batons into the a i r 137 An Educated Person an educated person reads wri tes f ee l s pass ion i n t e n s e l y a f i r e w i t h i n flames burn hotbr ight spewsp i l l scorching others f i r e f e l t not always seen there i s h u m i l i t y here more questions to be asked i n t e r r o g a t e a l l those answers touch the f i r e s trength overr ides pass ion a length of s t e e l upr ight hard to bend g l i n t i n g the shine mesmerizes me a rod s t r i k e s the ground with p r e c i s i o n d e c i s i o n d e r i s i o n put out that f i r e f e e l i n g tempered by fac t prove i t i t can ' t be t rue f i r m course ahead reso lve that uncer ta in ty take the path use the map enter the room use the map begin the journey use the map check that course who's l o s t along the way? add the changes to the map record that journey for the next course the next procedure walk around the f i r e the f i r e s t i l l burns hotbr ight touch the f i r e 138 Curriculum as Dream curriculum i s a dream I teach dreams learn them too days pass f i l l e d with steps bringing me closer closer to the dream never quite there always the dream i s i n front of me i n the distance just a thought away days pass f i l l e d with plans f i l l e d helping others see t h e i r dreams l i k e a f i d d l e r I play on wanting them to hear the music not the pied piper I want them dancing to t h e i r dreams want the caves that imprison them empty alienated and bereft we seek the dream seek the awe and t a s t i n g i t change forever i f curriculum i s a dream I am the dreamer 139 Are You a Real Teacher When Tomorrow Turns to Today? Is tomorrow today? my youngest daughter, Eri n , asks me. I think about t h i s question f o r a while, t r y i n g to view i t from a five-year-old's perspective. A five-year-old attending public school for the f i r s t time, eager for what the next day brings, excited to be going where her older s i s t e r s go, s t i l l attached to home and the f a m i l i a r comfort of parental proximity. Yes, I f i n a l l y reply, tomorrow i s today, i n t u i t i v e l y understanding that my daughter wants to know i f t h i s i s the day she w i l l stay for "a long turn" i n her Kindergarten class, following a week of gradual entry which eased her into school and routines... / am teaching music and drama, two mornings a, week in the lunchroom this year. Enrolment is up and space is at a premium. An old upright piano has been wheeled into the space normally reserved for tables, and all that I need to begin are some small bodies. I walk upstairs to fetch the Kindergarten children for music. This is the first time I have met them. I introduce myself while their teacher escorts several children to the playground to retrieve forgotten coats. Your skirt is beautiful, some remark to me at our circle gathering. And your shoes. (So good for the ego.) I thank them. Are you a real teacher? they ask. (Hmm. Better not think about this question too much.) I tell them: yes. Meanwhile, several children leave the circle and begin to play with puppets, trucks, the playhouse... I'll count to ten and close my eyes, their teacher entreats them when she returns. You surprise me and get ready for music, she adds. While her eyes are closed, two children return to the circle, but two others leave it for the toys. Their teacher gathers the drifters and lines everyone up... I love five-year-olds. They are wacky, so fresh and new, i n t e r p r e t i n g l i f e i n the unique language of young children, a language f i l l e d with t h e i r d e l i g h t f u l d i s t o r t i o n s of a large world inhabited with large people. My daughters love to hear the humourous st o r i e s I have col l e c t e d over the years, adding them to t h e i r storehouse of family f a v o r i t e s . Like the time I c a l l e d , "Freeze!" to a class of five-year-olds. We were moving around the room while I beat a hand drum with varying rhythms, eventually c a l l i n g out a teacher's generic stop s i g n a l : FREEZE! And that's exactly what one l i t t l e g i r l did. She stood i n front of me, hugging herself with her own l i t t l e hands, shaking just enough to suggest she was indeed cold, and uttered: BRRR! BRRR! BRRR! We sing a clapping song and I play the Kindergarten children some music by Beethoven on the piano. So far we have also waited for the Grade 7's who were playing ping-pong to vacate the lunchroom and, lost three small boys to the nether regions of the 140 ) spacious area. I can't seem to keep the twins' names straight even though they are wearing different shirts, and many claim they have to go to the bathroom which is in another building. (A week later I discover two foul-smelling bathroom stalls off a locked door of the lunchroom.) But in their eyes I detect glimmers of delight as they listen to the music; they agree that yes, Beethoven (the dog) would like this music I have played, composed by Beethoven (the man). They want to know where Beethoven (the man) lives, and when I explain that he lived long ago, but is long dead, one child announces: We all die. But not yet. Another child asks of Beethoven's demise: Was there blood? E r i n and I arrive ten minutes early and decide to walk around the schoolground, looking f o r her s i s t e r s . E r i n refuses to hold my hand, and I can t e l l by the way she places her new red knapsack on her shoulders, l i f t s her chin and glances at the other children, she wants to be a big g i r l , independent and free of mother's protective hand. But when I turn to leave once she has donned her indoor shoes i n her own classroom, she runs to me for one more hug and k i s s . . . The "lost" boys scurry back when I declare that I don't tolerate nonsense. More likely, they return to get their turn trying out the piano. Another child climbs on some gym equipment pushed off to the side of the room. I reclaim him and decide that the bathroom better not wait anymore. There is safety in numbers, so we all line up to map the way to the bathroom together. This takes ten minutes. Some are thirsty, too. One boy gulps a prolonged, cool drink at the water fountain, then spits it out in an extended arc which he miraculously aims into the garbage can nearby. Suddenly five others are desperately thirsty, but it's time to go. We proceed up the stairs in a herd, line long since broken... How was your afternoon? I query my daughter. Nice. I made a new friend, she explains. She's French, but speaks English l i k e me. (Some piece of information out-of- k i l t e r here. I make a wild guess.) Do you mean your new fri e n d i s Chinese? I ask. Yes, my daughter r e p l i e s . I list e n e d to music with those r a i l s , she continues. (Ah! Headphones, I translate.) We saw the p r i n c i p a l today, she supplies happily. She's a g i r l . But not a teenager with long hair. (OK. I'm following. The teenager with long hair i s her Kindergarten teacher, a young woman). What else did you do? I inquire. C i r c l e . You gotta do c i r c l e when you come i n and a f t e r you play, E r i n expounds. What did your teacher say at c i r c l e ? I probe. Nice s t u f f , E r i n responds. I smile, think of some more nice s t u f f we can sing when my own next teaching-tomorrow becomes today, and select another bea u t i f u l s k i r t to wear at c i r c l e . A r e a l teacher. 141 An/other Return behind a pole two partners kiss their reunion full of lived love and longing I wait watching luggage spin round and round the ramp pieces of l i v e s zippered away f o r safekeeping transported across a country f i n a l l y claimed and brought to l i f e once again hung out on hangars limp wrinkled fabric blowing in the breeze a clothesline full of flat lifeless colors only f l e s h f i l l s out these garment ghosts s i l e n t with a l l they have just been the suitcase closed on other s t o r i e s the kiss sealed like an envelope the garments s i l e n t l i k e a secret whispered in the wind carried between the wisplwhoosh)rush when clothes are worn again and rub together the threads remembering other l i v e s 142 POLYLOG: Re-constructing Wedding Dance 144 Post-modern WHAT-DID-YOU-CALL-IT 145 Post-modern Life Crisis 146 Post-modern Feminist Film 147 M(other) of the Text 151 Wedding Dance: deCONstructing marriage smash the sound of broken glass destruction of the temple Jewish marriage beginning one glass underfoot under the foot to my l e f t right leg raised & brought down hard **smash** shards of glass neatly c o l l e c t e d i n a clo t h napkin s i g n i f y i n g remembrance (the re-member-dance) that which i s whole can be broken that which walks also tramples that which i s tender can also destroy that which i s a vessel holds nothing at times not even a i r that which f i l t e r s the rea l can be distorted that which begins also ends that which i s happiness & lightness of being can be ruptured with the sound of breakage lessons learned (more than a temple at stake here) I dance barefoot midst the pieces of glass shattered a deCONstruction of the temple san c t i f y i n g love s a n c t i f y i n g attachment sa n c t i f y i n g a marriage I am the temple I am the glass I am the foot smash s(mash) sm(ash) Post-Modern WHAT-DID-YOU-CALL-IT — a response to Postmodern Education by Giroux and Aronowitz— Stanley. Henry. Boys. (I can't seem to pronounce your l a s t names.) This i s not your mother speaking. BUT— Did you learn to write i n the Province of Impenetrable Paragraphs? Were you schooled i n the School of Obscurity? Were you h a l l monitors mouthing multivocal mumbo-jumbo messages to mutants Cruising down the corrugated corridors of crap, Pausing to pee post-modern pomposity upon ponderous portentous poles now polluted by adynamic adversative adverbs neuropsychotic nouns and sexpartite sentences? the voice-the voice-the voice- of-otherness-smothered-and- bordered-and-decentered-in-the- human-subject-of-meaningful- did-you-mean-meaning-full- curriculum-for-students- w h o s e - s o c i a l - p o l i t i c a l - cultural-gender-identity- Oh, r e a l l y ? This r e a l l y cannot possibly mean to be i d e n t i f i e d here by me. Not i n those pauselesspretentiouspanderingparagraphs perused by t h i s p u b l i c a l l y u n i n t e l l e c t u a l teacher-terror. 145 Post-modern L i f e C r i s i s In the post-modern t r a d i t i o n of disruptive discourse I now cast a l l rhyming words from my lexicon of l e t t e r s Note* Is a l l i t e r a t i o n s t i l l allowable? In the post-modern polemic of contradictory contentions I now v a c i l l a t e between p o l a r i t i e s as inconsistently as I can sustain Note* Can inconsistency be sustained? In the post-modern r e a l i z a t i o n of no rea l r e a l i t y I now seek the truth i n text Note* But doesn't i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y texture truth? In the post-modern subversion of confining conventions I now fuse my fondest fantasies with metafictional f r i c t i o n Note* Can a mass of metafiction become confining? In the post-modern c r i t i q u e of dominant c u l t u r a l contexts I now pause ponder with post-modern passion and Note* Repudiate the post-modern mantra. Note* Far too dominant for the cultures that I wish to create. 1 4 6 Post-Modern Feminist Film hands i n blood squeezing e n t r a i l s of blood dripping streams of t h i n blood urine hands splayed and t i e d by a man running running escaped and chased to swarming bees grating voice droning beebuzz voice (here I stumble over feet bolt to bathroom) return to bees s t i l l swarming over Sylv i a Plath's words which run into Barbie mothers and baby d o l l s daughter mourning mother 1s death step away from a t r a i n I l i s t e n watch in t e r e s t caught by the sand (or ashes) s l i p p i n g through the palm of a daughter's hand the i r r i t a t i n g slosh of water never stops grates on my nerves as the c h i l d plays with the Barbie mother and c h i l d grown daughter running running l i k e the t r a i n over the sand water sloshing loud slapsloshslap l a s t few grains of mother ash s l i p out of daughter grasp to j o i n a l l the other grains of sand foreign voice next immigrant mother 147 admits with an accent that she r e l i s h e s free i s not motherly i s not a bad mother mother tongue from another time another culture repeats repeats repeats and bleats the unmother mantra good mother not-good-enough mother t i p of her mother tongue black dressed i n white dress white shoes white t i g h t s white hat covers black body playing i n a grass f i e l d b e a u t i f u l black face image underneath whitetipped top overtop whiteclad longlegged body of black hidden by white words spoken which reveal pain i n school t e l l i n g t a l e s a c h i l d c a l l s her nigger a teacher p r i n t s niggardly on the board a l l black class a l l white teacher just didn't care anymore say beautiful black eyes of pain woman speaks of being bussed 148 and not speaking not saying one sole word a l l year not reading not writing just s i t t i n g a l l C s biggest r a c i s t crime of a l l cheated of her education cheated of a l l those words words that could l i f t them out of pain out of longing into the world out of the f i l m images bleak stark depressing hopeless ends with two women l i v i n g alone on the street apart from family d r i f t i n g c o l l e c t i n g the debris of an a l i e n alienated c i t y breaking into a Kotex machine for two pads and some nickels begging for f i v e d o l l a r s to buy a car part to get her children from the babysitter some man gives her the f i v e d o l l a r s sucked i n by the f i c t i o n one woman stands on that same corner t r y i n g to s e l l a tawdry lamp back i n her bleak almost empty room she watches TV she watches post-modern feminist films of black suffocating despair while people eat hot buttered popcorn and the blood from those inte s t i n e s drips on the screen drips these images of hopeless hapless helpless heathen post-modern women films l i g h t s on curtains r i s e popcorn consumed we return to our painful ( i t seems) existence enriched by the f i f t e e n d o l l a r s we spent on post-modern medicine 150 M(other) of the Text the blank page no tabula rasa t h i s but white space Monique Wittig's workshop to play with sub/text in t e r / t e x t words sounds images voices visions in/scribed upon the blankness even the silence i s a mirror cr(eat)or of page text entered c(entered) dec(entered) a stage a r e e ( a ) l of f i l m a canvas (posit)ion of an in(strum)ent collabor(ate)d i n silence trans(form)ed i n text b(ordered) by margins no c(entre) to the page found w(or)ld between the l i n e s : s e l f i/magined for/gotten re/membered un/known m(other) of the text inter/dependent but separ(ate) too I am a blank page about to turn 151 POLYLOG: Re-centering Air Supplies 153 And Now, Ah-ee 156 I/eye/i/aiii/ah-ee Again 157 Trinh Minh-ha & Me 158 Asian Women: A Tribute 159 Renee's Story 160 Middle Place 161 Healing the Split Subject 162 152 A i r Supplies I'm so sick of myself. I mean selves. The trouble with a l l my post-modern posturing, my c o l l e c t i v e consciousness, my self-absorbed something-or-other, i s that I am becoming so introspective and focused on my i n t e r i o r , that I am beginning to want to give myself (selves) a good swift kick i n the pos t e r i o r ( s ) . So when I recently sat within the c i r c l e of a conference presentation that sought to describe strategies for building a l l i a n c e s between "Women of Color" and "White Women," I attempted to understand my response to the presentation i n l i g h t of my own post-modern angst. I l i s t e n e d to the Women of Color outline t h e i r rules f o r a Mixed Group workshop. I liste n e d to the White Women describe t h e i r feelings of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and c u l p a b i l i t y about racism. I l i s t e n e d to a description of a workshop exercise that involved one person holding her hand to the throat of her partner, cutting o f f her a i r supply, u n t i l the partner broke the hold. Apparently meant to be a graphic symbol of how i t f e l t to be a Woman of Color—gasping for a i r . Excuse me, I thought s i l e n t l y to myself, reacting to such an exercise as a v i o l a t i o n against my body, my rig h t to breathe. I don't want anyone cutting o f f my a i r supply. Even as an exercise. Even i f I decide when to break the hold. I have enough trouble coming up f o r a i r as i t i s . And I think I can learn to relate to other women—any women—with empathy and compassion. Regardless of l i v e d experience. When I f i r s t walked into that conference room, I didn't see Asian Women, Black Women, F i l i p i n o Women, Aboriginal Women and White Women. I saw a roomful of women. Is t h i s undesirable, I wondered. Should we be accentuating our differences t h i s way instead of celebrating what we hold i n common? I f e l t an a f f i n i t y towards a l l the women i n that room, but after the presentation, I had the women a l l neatly compartmentalized i n my mind. And I had immediately noticed the one man i n our midst. Of course. We have l i v e d a l i f e t i m e of noticing the men i n our midst. I f e l t confused. I don't want to homogenize a l l women, or minimize t h e i r l i v e d experiences i n the world as a resul t of race, skin color, h i s t o r i c a l oppression. But I don't want to be l a b e l l e d — a s one teacher f r i e n d t o l d me i s the current p o l i t i c a l l y correct terra—a Woman of Pa l l o r . What an anaemic v i s i o n that t i t l e conjures up, colo r l e s s and i n e f f e c t u a l , a whitewashed, wishy-washy, washed-out paleface. Ugh. And what am I anyway, I wondered at t h i s presentation. I'm Jewish. Where do I f i t ? Woman of In v i s i b l e Color? Jewish White Woman? Curly-haired Woman? Woman with Husband and Three Children? T a l l Woman? Where do we draw the line? Why do we even draw the lines? S i t t i n g i n a restaurant with two women friends, slaphappy and giddy, we rated ourselves on the Oppression Scale. Well, I'm Chinese, and a woman, said one frie n d . I'm highest on the 153 scale, I think. The second f r i e n d r e p l i e d , OK, I admit I'm a White Woman, but I have a c h i l d i n a wheelchair at home. That should give me some Oppression Points. Well, I'm Jewish, I countered. We have a long history of oppression. That should be good fo r a few points. The Queen of England, said one of these friends. What about the Queen? A l l that status, power and p r i v i l e g e . She's not oppressed. Ha! I countered. If she were a King, she wouldn't have to answer for a l l her children's f a i l e d marriages. I want to laugh a l i t t l e b i t . Laugh and hold hands (not throats) and gurgle (not gasp) with the unsuppressed laughter of what i t means to be women together i n t h i s world. Searching for the joy out of the sorrow. Uniting, not subdividing, i n d i v e r s i t y and difference. The truth i s , I need to laugh more. Laugh and be s i l l y . I don't want to always take myself (selves) so seriously. I don't want to pa r t i c i p a t e i n workshop exercises that portray what I should be communicating pointblank or perceiving with h e a r t f e l t empathy. I need to laugh and count those Oppression Points l i k e the b a t t l e scars of l i v i n g that C l a r i s s a Estes says mark her years. Count them and mark them. Together. In one c i r c l e . I don't want to s i t around i n c i r c l e s t a l k i n g i n c i r c l e s about making more inner c i r c l e s . But nothing i s ever that uncomplicated. I knew my confusion about the presentation I attended sig n a l l e d that I needed to investigate further. I knew that my reaction could be considered offensive to groups I had no wish to offend. When I shared my views with others, I was surprised at the d i v e r s i t y of responses I received. Two women said they found my notion of uniting i n joy and laughter u p l i f t i n g . Like me, one woman i s Jewish. Like me, both women are p r i v i l e g e d i n economic and educational terms. One woman (white) also worried about offending other groups who make d i s t i n c t i o n s based on differences. When I approached a feminist f r i e n d f o r a r e a l i t y check, he suggested I had more work to do i n understanding a l l the issues. There can be l i t t l e to laugh about i n other people's experiences. Not content to stop here i n my exploration, I phoned a Woman of Color who had attended the presentation and whose philosophy I respect immensely. I related my confusion to her, my worry about l a b e l l i n g , my wish to celebrate and look f o r some joy. She emphasized the importance of naming who we are and allowing space f o r nonmainstream groups to t a l k about t h e i r d i f f e r e n t l i v e d experiences, i n a confessional way to begin with, and as a step i n coming to terms with pain. In order to break longheld silences. There i s n ' t always that much to celebrate, she added. And she considered the workshop exercise powerful and potent. Did I not notice that the Women of Color 154 who spoke did not smile at a l l or look happy, she enquired. Yes. I noticed. When we walk down the street past the construction crew; when we have to decide upon whether or not to abort or keep the babies; when we watch our ex-husbands ignore our children while they l a v i s h money and attention on t h e i r new families; when we have to c a l l 9-1-1 because our ex-partners broke into our houses; when we s i t with the men and t r y to get a word i n edgewise, hoping against hope that just one of them w i l l care what we do, what we think; when we tal k about poverty and violence and women who are nonentities i n society because of race or class or age or d i s a b i l i t y , there i s n ' t much to laugh about and a i r supplies are cut o f f . Certainly I have more to learn. I'm w i l l i n g to l i s t e n . And I have discovered I can and should learn some of i t by continuing the discussions I began with a variety of others. I have to believe, though, that I must keep i n mind the v a l i d i t y of my own experiences as a woman, regardless of my own p r i v i l e g e . I have to believe that despite the fact that there i s n ' t always a great deal to celebrate, we must also search i n s o l i d a r i t y for some joy and laughter i n a l l t h i s l i v i n g that can elevate us above ourselves, past the post-modern paraphernalia and workshop wizardry. Elevate us and unite us and f i l l us with good, clean, deep breaths of fresh a i r . Breaths of fresh hope and v i s i o n . So I don't have to be so sick of myself. Selves. 155 And Now, Ah-ee ( % ) * i f the s e l f i s a house... echoes i f the s e l f i s a closet... dark silences i f the s e l f i s a bowl of cherries... f r u i t f l e s h i f the s e l f i s a detached stem... severance i f the s e l f i s d e (c) e n t e r e d say I eye i a i i i ah-ee *Hebrew l e t t e r s "yud" and "aleph" with the Hebrew phonetic markings underneath; pronounced [ah-ee], not an actual word 156 I/eye/i/aiii/ah-ee Again I and not-I i n s c r i b i n g difference the meanings endlessly deferred i n Others ah-ee (^X) the 5th ah-ee of my quintuplet selves a pinch (reminding me the f l e d g l i n g i ' s are awake not dreaming) a shout (exclaiming that the action hurt a small pinprick of r e a l l i v i n g a jab at l i f e ) a shout to be touched ah-ee ah-ee in/voluntary guttural keening a shout to be seen (tasting of f l e s h between fingers) the echo of not-I zinging past Others' ears 157 Trinh Minh-ha & Me the same fears the self-same g u i l t the desire for words the l i v i n g at the masters' thresholds the search for the poetic an ethnic feminine elusive i l l u s i v e I-dentity the blood of our pens s P i 1 1 i n g onto the blank pages of Woman Poet Other's time no native I but Jew Jew & not-Jew s t i l l w- o/a- ndering where such I-dentity dis/places me endlessly deferred endlessly deferring the emotional the i n t e l l e c t u a l the v i t a l (Asian philosophy) I—Jew & not-Jew Western woman do not know about the v i t a l i s that why I f e e l so empty 158 Asian Women: A Tribute i f I were an a r t i s t I would draw these women with deep l i n e s of l i s t e n i n g eyes the color of pure attentiveness bea u t i f u l dark hair adorning t h e i r s t o r i e s with l i f e but I am a poet and so I draw these women with words pinning them l i k e b u t t e r f l i e s to a i r Renee 1s Story Anjin's story i s my story, too the love a f f a i r i s with words (be)longing i n a poem a desire so passionate the teacher waters the poems u n t i l they bloom with (e)motion & milady's face w i l t s jealous of the time spent on teaching even i n death the teacher s t i l l watering the wo with Anjin's tears Middle Place (for Ted Aoki) Dwelling with Ted i n the and where the teacher disappears the I's dissolve and i n t h e i r place: a word seen again spun into the a i r l i k e a juggler's plates a s i l e n t face drawn out from the crowd beckoned to meet the stic k i n e s s at the merest breath of movement a voice heard that now echoes endlessly bouncing o f f the wall s p l i t t i n g into atoms a deed honoured & shared hopeful celebration i n already knowing eyes a dissent respected the remnant of a whisper crying an unformed thought encouraged to flounder entered into emptiness an idea recaptured and r e f l e c t e d back hopeful dreaming a v i s i o n cultures f e l t through language people thoughts & laughter and the middle place i s home to a l l Hush for a moment. Do you hear the memory singing? 1 6 1 Healing the S p l i t Subject I see Her waiting purse hanging stupidly round her neck by Her school locker hoping for h i or a smile some sign of recognition evidence of v i s i b i l i t y . . . so-damn-needy-searching-searching-for-seIf-in-someone-else wanting-always-wanting-something-to-fill-the-great-gaping-hole the-emptiness-born-empty-no-one-especially-Her-ever-able-to f ill-the-hole-to-relieve-the-great-enduring-loneliness-always standing-at-lockers-waiting-waiting-for-something-waiting-to-be seen to be seen at times She prayed to be i n v i s i b l e embarrassed missing some protective layer moving through symbolic days peopled w i t h — that p l a i n g i r l by the locker that young woman walking down school board/halls that 40'ish woman climbing university s t a i r s . . . unseen-through-the-missing-1 ay er-one-heart-beating-like-t he broken-wing-of-a-f luttering-bird-the-rhythm-drumming-out-a-beat of-longing-the-wing-broken-but-still-suitable-for-flying f l y i n g back to that g i r l that imaginary c h i l d standing by the locker l i f t the purse from around Her neck gently lead Her from locker sentry plant a kiss firmly on Her forehead whispering words... don't-wait-anymore more f l y i n g broken wing & a l l watch Her walk down a l l the h a l l s head high purse unlocked swinging by Her side not waiting waiting I f l y into Her & weareone 16 INTER LOG Re-thinking On Second Thought Wait a minute! A thesis i s a public document, you say? A copy occupies a space on the l i b r a r y shelf? Just a sec. I have to make a few changes. Let me just take out that l i n e about the senior administrator of schools. I wouldn't want some administrator l e a f i n g through t h i s . And I'11 edit out the l i n e about taut breasts. Too sexual. Well, then, I'd better remove the parts about the male dancers. The Power Games piece. Let me just f i x that up a b i t . I ' l l take out t h i s , t h i s , t h i s , and t h i s . (Wouldn't want my husband to see t h i s . Some of i t i s exaggerated, you r e a l i z e . ) There. V i r g i n i a Woolf, did Leonard ever do the dishes? Short and to the point. Oh, urn, the Prodigal Mother poem. That has to go completely. And Everywomen, and the Happy Birthday to my daughter one. I wouldn't want anyone to get the impression I'm a s e l f i s h , s e l f - s e r v i n g , emasculating b i t c h who r e a l l y wants to abandon her children. Let's see. The response to Mary Daly's book. No, too emotional. I used the word porno at least twice. Just keep the l a s t sentence: " I ' l l never be the same again." That says everything i n one breath. The t i t l e of my scene about the miscarriage. I ' l l change that to U n t i t l e d . And I ' l l add more pain, suffering, loss, tears, and a female doctor. 163 The three poems to my daughters can stay as i s . As well as Collections of Home. Well, on second thought, they're sort of on the l i g h t side just there by themselves. Too l i g h t , maybe? A l l r i g h t . Keep the three daughter poems and Collections but put back the l i n e about taut breasts, OK? Hmmm. Doesn't sound right unless the male dancers dance, so they're back, too. Do you r e a l l y think I can accurately convey a l l the complex aspects of f i l i a l love without including these other mother poems? Put them back. And put back the entire Power Games piece. I had something important to say. The Daly response. Put i t back whole. Put everything back the way i t was before. Maybe I could use a pseudonym. (The names must be changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.) MONOLOQ 165 Re-vealing A Woman W r i t e r ' s Diary EARLY JANUARY: Is t h i s real? The f i r s t night of the second half of my graduate writing course, and i n walks Carl Leggo, the professor who teaches t h i s part of the term: a poet/writer with long hair, earrings, and a sensitive face; a post-modern Lord Byron i n a cream-colored fisherman-knit sweater. My surprise at his appearance—this i s a very conservative, s t a i d u n i v e r s i t y — i s compounded by my astonishment at the major assignment for the term, a p o r t f o l i o of creative writing. Is t h i s a figment of my imagination, or some sarcastic dean's? I am delighted and challenged and astounded. F i n a l l y some time to devote to "real writing," something that seems to beckon to me now almost as i f I had been waiting for t h i s opportunity. Growing up female did not include the p o s s i b i l i t y of writing for me, pa r t l y due to a d i s t i n c t fear of f a i l u r e and pa r t l y due to a d i s t i n c t lack of encouragement i n the past. I do not t r u l y believe I am a "writer" i n any sense of the word. My one and only attempt to take a creative writing course when I f i r s t attended university as a naive young undergraduate was thwarted by the re j e c t i o n of my manuscript. What did a sheltered seventeen-year-old g i r l from the p r a i r i e s have to say anyway? Like so many other women who were born i n the 50's, I became a teacher. But somewhere deep inside my head were dreams and images and words being turned over and over. Turning u n t i l someone said, "Write them!" Turning u n t i l something happened so I would. Despite my insecurity, I have l a t e l y determined that i t i s the w r i t i n g I love i n any graduate work I have done so f a r . I have been f e e l i n g that creative writing i s something I always wanted to do. Carl l a t e r comments that he can f e e l the palpable "fear" i n the room i n reaction to being asked to write c r e a t i v e l y and share t h i s writing, but I do not f e e l a f r a i d tonight. I f e e l exultant, stimulated, excited, somehow relieved that here at l a s t i s the opportunity I seem to have been waiting for, and curiously, I f e e l very emotional about the prospect of getting down to the business of w r i t i n g — a t long l a s t . MID-JANUARY: I write my f i r s t poem for the course, my f i r s t piece of writing, and i t i s a l l about my s i l e n t voices, my hoarse voices, my l o s t voices, my drowned-out voices, my unsanctioned voices, my d r i f t i n g voices, my "unspoken, unshapen, unbidden, underneath my tongue" voices...I ask who w i l l r e a l l y l i s t e n to my voices and sing back my words. I resolve to write what I want to write. But i t f e e l s as i f someone i s s t r i p p i n g away layers of my many outer, protective 166 skins and i t hurts. It i s frightening, i t i s fraught with emotion, and i t i s freeing, too. I write a scene about my f i r s t miscarriage which I have not dealt With for years, but I do not submit t h i s scene just yet. Perhaps next time. We'll just see. And I write more poems about how I write i n my sleep, i n my dreams, i n my head, at the kitchen sink; how I have a whole other l i f e that wants to be written; how I want to write t h i s story awake. I write about my apparent r e b i r t h a f t e r my daughters were born. I write about the feminist writing I begin to read. I write about being a feminist wife with three children, and I write about the present joy i n my l i f e with my family. L i t t l e do I know at t h i s juncture just where t h i s present joy w i l l lead me, or what new skins I w i l l be wearing next with each old (tough, worn-out, mottled) skin that I shed. MID-FEBRUARY: I dream another poem. It is so strong that I have to get up out of bed and write it down. It refers to an incident earlier in my l i f e , and I have no idea why I think of it now, immersed as I have been in writing about the love and laughter and delight and poignancy and wryness involved with my three daughters and family l i f e . I reach for a nearby pencil and paper resting on my nighttable and begin writing the words down, inadvertently waking and startling my sleeping husband, who growls grumpily at me, "WHAT are you doing??" "Nothing," I reply quickly, feeling as if I've been caught doing something illegal and must conceal it. I take my pencil and paper to the bathroom where I close the door and sit on the floor to write the poem, which seems to write itself. It is just as well that I have changed locations. The tears spill down my cheeks unchecked onto the paper and the bathroom floor as I write. I fold up the wet poem into a tiny, thick square of paper and carefully bury it among my school papers for typing, then I return quietly to bed. It is compulsive, this whole writing venture which I have begun. It is addictive. It is erratic and undependable and overwhelming and cathartic and revealing. It is also very lonely, and sometimes, very sad. LATE JANUARY: We have been asked to share some writing with the class tonight. I have my f i r s t submission ready to hand i n to Carl f o r response. When he asks me i f I am going to share anything tonight, I answer, "yes, but I don't yet know what," and I don't. I am s t i l l unsure of the group, unsure of myself, unsure of the ins t r u c t o r . At t h i s point, snaring my writing i s l i k e shouting into a wide canyon for me, and I don't want my words to reverberate that loudly. I am having enough trouble l i s t e n i n g to the words with my inner hearing and getting used to that, never mind l e t t i n g near-strangers and classmates who I've only 167 known a few weeks hear my words. Should I read r e f l e c t i o n s on writing or one of my poems? Which poem? Which r e f l e c t i o n on writing? Am I ready to reveal myself and parts of my l i f e to these people? I am usually very private. I am f e e l i n g very self-conscious and agonised, and yet, I want to share some of my writing, too. Shouting my words into that canyon makes the words come a l i v e , gives them a r e a l , pulsing l i f e , and I sense that i f the words remain unexposed and hidden on the paper, never shared with anyone, then they w i l l disappear from my l i f e and I w i l l be bereft. I w i l l have l o s t something forever. Two others share some writing. The f i r s t piece i s funny and touching and well-written, and so i s the second, and everyone responds p o s i t i v e l y . Carl honors each reader with some affirmative comments, including the remark that one poem i s publishable, even. I am f e e l i n g more relaxed, although the l a t t e r remark rocks me somewhat, because I f e e l shaky enough i n confidence to believe that I w i l l never, ever hear such a comment directed to me. But I want to hear i t , I r e a l i z e , and I am surprised at myself, because t h i s desire seems to have welled up suddenly out of nowhere. No, not nowhere, out of a past that bypassed writing i n any serious, very committed manner, and I wonder why my commitment i s beginning to surface now, so l a t e ! I decide to read my feminist poem. I read, but I am a f r a i d to gauge the class response. When I f i n a l l y do look up, I focus on one of my classmates: he i s s i l e n t , speechless, looks shocked to me. There are several such moments of complete silence, during which time I f l i n g myself s u i c i d a l l y into my metaphorical canyon, climbing up rel u c t a n t l y to hang from the edge with trembling fingers, waiting for someone to step on my hands. The shocked-looking student speaks, saying he doesn't want to cloud the r i c h words with any other words. Others discuss the feminist aspects of the poem for a time, e s p e c i a l l y the women. Carl speaks of how important such feminist writing i s , and adds that there are d i f f e r e n t kinds of feminism, too. I hear and accept the p o s i t i v e words of encouragement, but the victim who i s s t i l l hanging o f f the edge of the canyon f l i n c h e s . No one steps on my hands, but oh, the skin f e e l s so red and raw. I am glad I have shouted into the canyon. I am even glad that I have jumped right into the canyon, and I am glad that I have climbed back to the edge to l i s t e n . My words have been entered into the echoes of time and place, and I know they w i l l not vanish now. So why do I wish that these echoes were not ringing i n my ears, and why do I f e e l as i f I have just given something away that I r e a l l y s t i l l needed? At the end of the class I bravely hand i n my f i r s t submission of writing, t r y i n g not to think about a l l the personal, private, revealing aspects of my ordinary l i f e and about my boring s e l f that a near-stranger i s going to read. I am sleepless for the next week. 168 MID-MARCH: I am writing a poem about a woman I knew who died of cancer, and I am writing in the bathroom, of all places, sitting on a closed toilet seat and crying. My husband walks in and sees my paper, my tears, and gives me a look I can only describe as wide-eyed, incredulous, unbelieving, and dismayed. * * * I wake up in the middle of the night again, with a start, and cannot seem to stop thinking about past events stretching back over twenty years or more. I feel like a videotape machine, rewinding and playing my past relentlessly. The present emotion associated with such meditation sends me from my bed, sneaking away to the playroom with pencil and paper where another night poem seems to write itself. Again, I am grateful that I am alone, because I can't seem to stop crying, and I don't understand why I am even thinking such thoughts at this point in my l i f e . This time I immediately steal away by myself to write. Such self-imposed isolation is a facet of my woman writer's l i f e . *** We are travelling to Disneyland and my husband is relaxed, happy to be on vacation. He has been working long, hard hours and has been tense and short-tempered of late. I talk to him about writing, poetry, the writing course I am taking, and what it all means to me. He is receptive to what I am saying and seems to accept and understand all of it. He pats me on the knee in a symbolic show of support. But I feel like a deviant wife and mother who, it is hoped, will soon return to reason and sanity. * * * We are returning from Disneyland. Everyone is tired and grumpy. I am wearing dark sunglasses behind which I am silently grieving two miscarriages which have inexplicably surfaced in my writing and which I am writing about. I say nothing aloud about any of this, nor do I share what I have written. I have carried and lost those babies, but I cannot, cannot share my returning sorrow aloud to my unsuspecting family. I can (and do) write about it. Writing seems to uncover past pain within me, and encourages that pain to resurface among all the other muck. I seem to cry a great deal these days, and often. Not just when I am writing, but when I am reading, too. Certain passages, especially in feminist books, move me to many tears. I am crying an ocean of tears, and if it is true that God counts women's tears, I hope She's using a calculator for mine. 169 EARLY FEBRUARY: Carl returns my f i r s t submission of writing at the beginning of the class. (I am glad I don't have to s i t for two and a half hours staring at the folder on the table i n front of him, wondering about i t . ) I read his comments, immediately noticing that he has indeed sung my words back to me. He has also shared some of himself and his own l i f e as a writer through some of his comments. I e s p e c i a l l y appreciate these personal responses because I have come to writing late i n my l i f e , without a background of experience. As I begin to get a sense of myself i n my writing, the comments act as a sort of sounding board and a means of comparison. These open comments encourage my own ri s k - t a k i n g i n writing because he r i s k s l e t t i n g me begin to know him as a writer and a person. Later when I go to his o f f i c e to borrow a book, he says my writing i s wonderful. I f e e l encouraged, and less wary, but even so, unbelieving. * * * The next time I read a poem aloud i n class I know exactly what I w i l l read, and i t i s a provocative, contentious feminist piece. I am confident only that t h i s i s what I wish to share. I f e e l l i k e I have opened a wound which i s about to bleed a l l over my paper when I f i n i s h reading the poem aloud, and even worse a f t e r the poem i s discussed. I notice those f i r s t few seconds of silence once again, and t h i s time f i l l them myself, nervously, with some anecdote r e l a t i n g to some d e t a i l s i n the poem, f e e l i n g f o o l i s h a f t e r I t e l l the story. I am l e f t with the impression that the poem has caused some acute discomfort, es p e c i a l l y following the f i n a l statement: "You c e r t a i n l y struck a chord." Again, I interpret these fair-enough remarks negatively. Have I gone too far? Have I insulted anyone? Have I presented the issues i n a balanced way? While I am delving into issues that I f e e l are important and true, I am not used to my own strong emerging voice, or the reaction of others. And i t seems to me l i k e I am reading my work as i f I am t r y i n g to j o i n some exclusive men's club, and once again, never quite make i t . I'm cert a i n t h i s impression emanates from my experiences as a woman and a student, but i f I am supposed to be hearing how important feminist writing i s , etc., and how these issues should be opened up, etc., I keep hearing some voice i n the past saying, "Boy, what a b i t c h ! " underneath the surface of i t a l l . I submit the scene I have already written about my f i r s t miscarriage with my second batch of writing. I am beginning to t r u s t my readers—and myself. END OF MARCH: My daughters are playing in the playroom, happily occupied, or so I believe, while I write in my bedroom, immersed. 170 One daughter then enters my room and asks me, "Why do you never spend time with us anymore? What is bothering you?" I am stunned, as we have just returned from a trip to Disneyland where I spent twelve days and nights with them. I discern that this daughter was sent to me as an emissary, obviously the end result of a recent child-run conference. I manage to stutter a few calming (I hope) words, determining to get back to this matter later. When I think about my daughters' adjustment to my immersion into writing, and analyze it, I comprehend that they are jealous, threatened, and feel they are losing me. Just like when a new baby is born. I fight the immediate guilt that threatens to engulf me and wonder why they don't go to their father with their complaints. (He is away more than I am.) I have discovered writing, my new baby, and an identity that goes along with this, and parts of a self formerly buried, and parts of a self now emerging. It means so much to me. My sensitive daughters sense this and the status quo is changing. Later this day I discuss my writing some more with my daughters. I reassure them that I love them unconditionally and unequivocally, but I add that they'll have to get used to me writing. I don't intend to stop writing, I tell them, and some of my time is my own for doing what I feel is important. They seem to understand. We make arrangements to go grocery shopping together but I can't shake my feelings of guilt. When it is time to leave for the store, one daughter opts out and decides to stay home with her father. This makes me feel even worse. M I D — F E B R U A R Y : I f e e l a breakthrough i n my writing t h i s week. I t r y a story based on a bizarre idea that just came to me, another one of those i n s p i r a t i o n s that v i s i t me at the oddest moments, when i n the bath, for instance, or down on the f l o o r wiping up grape juic e . The story seems to write i t s e l f , and I f e e l so pleased with myself when i t i s done. I include some ( t a s t e f u l l y written) sex scenes. At f i r s t , I am shocked that they seem to want to be written i n the story, then embarrassed when I think of anyone else reading them. As I write the words, I f e e l myself struggling to cross some l i n e of self-imposed propriety, and yet I continue. When I f i n i s h writing these scenes I f e e l curiously free and abandoned and even can admit to myself that writing these scenes gives me an incredible sense of control and pleasure. I notice my writing i s beginning to change. I am writing more intimately with less concern about being private and guarded. I e a r l i e r wrote i n one piece: Hey, that's private! There are some things I will never write about. So much for that. 171 But besides writing about more private matters, I have begun to write about more past painful events that I thought were well-forgotten and forever buried. So much for buried past. I am aware of my readers, but t h i s i s not stopping me from writing what I want and seem to need to write. I think I t r u s t them now, writer to writer, writer to reader. Some of the class responses have given me a clear i n d i c a t i o n of the group's i n t e g r i t y , professionalism, sense of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and trustworthiness. Carl c a l l s me a poet and a writer i n some of his recent responses. I have never been c a l l e d either before. I r e a l i z e that I have always wanted someone to name me poet and writer. I have not been able to name myself. I did not have the confidence. I r e a l i z e I want to be a poet and a writer. It means everything to me. L A T E F E B R U A R Y : Tonight I read some of my writing to the class> and again I f e e l so vulnerable and exposed. That bleeding wound opens again. W i l l I ever f e e l comfortable about sharing my work (and myself)? When I read the next set of written responses, Carl writes that he hopes I w i l l seek publication, and o f f e r s to give me advice and addresses. He also writes, along with very encouraging and p o s i t i v e responses, "do you know how good you are?" i n the margin of one of my poems. No, I didn't know. No one has ever r e a l l y t o l d me, not the way he has. And I have probably wasted a l o t of time because I didn't know. Again, I am amazed at how rea d i l y I am embracing an i d e n t i t y as a writer, how addicted I am becoming to writing, how committed I f e e l to seeking publication. I am taking more r i s k s , growing stronger and more fearless i n my writing, and am f e a r f u l l y changing as a person. E N D O F M A R C H : I wrote and submitted an i n c r e d i b l y personal narrative, another very intimate piece of writing which has taken me deeper and deeper into myself. I am astonished that I am even w i l l i n g to l e t anyone read t h i s piece of writing. I am astonished that I wrote i t . I am astonished that I t r u s t readers enough to submit i t . I c r i e d f o r days (again) a f t e r I wrote t h i s piece. I am f e e l i n g l i k e s a l t was poured i n that open wound as a re s u l t of writing the narrative. At times I write and open up my wounds, and i t seems l i k e I am putting myself at other human beings' mercy, praying that the wounds don't get infected. I become angry and annoyed and bitchy and d i s s a t i s f i e d and dissenting and disagreeable t h i s night. I ardently voice my dissent and concern aloud, but I don't understand i t u n t i l much l a t e r . Am I perhaps having some trouble accepting the approach of the end of t h i s w riting 172 course, and being a d r i f t on my own? Is t h i s a f f e c t i n g my perceptions? It takes a great deal of thinking and soul-searching to sort out a l l of my thoughts about t h i s night. I write some bitchy, strong, passionate words. I submit these words for response. SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER THE COURSE ENDS: The writing has been a l i f e l i n e for me, one that extended from my ordinary woman-cloistered existence to another world where thoughts, impressions, images, symbols, ideas, language were a l l churning together i n a tumultuous k e l p - f i l l e d , murky sea. The writing cleared the seawater somewhat, so I could see where I was swimming. The writing parted the waters, too, so I could swim unhindered, at least for a while, u n t i l I knew where I was heading. Sometimes the writing distressed me, uncovering some sharp coral or (to my mind, at least) some beautiful but poisonous sea creature there i n the underwater. Sometimes the writing confused me, muddying the waters where I believed I had cleared them as I swam. I believe my confusion often stemmed from my own perception that I did not know exactly what the words I wrote were t r y i n g to communicate. And I desperately hung on to any responses I received because I was not yet a strong enough swimmer. Carl said that language s l i p s and s l i d e s , that we are never successful i n writing/saying exactly what we mean, but s t i l l , I write and attempt to get close. I think words a l l have layers of history and emotion behind them. Sometimes I f i n d i t d i f f i c u l t to fathom the depth of the ocean I am swimming i n . I was very conscious of a l l the time i t must have taken to read a l l I had written and write back so many words of response, too. Yet I don't think I would have grown as a writer i f I had not been given the time and those words. I c e r t a i n l y might not have grown stronger i n writing conviction and confidence, and I know I am not yet as secure as I could be. As the course drew to a close, I was also conscious of how dependent I could be on others' responses, but how important i t was going to be to learn to write without them, too. Time to swim on my own, with the l i f e l i n e , and hope I don't drown. But t h i s i s more d i f f i c u l t when you learn to swim as late as I have, and are not even cert a i n you tread water well! I am a writer and I write, and although the course has ended, I w i l l keep writing. JANUARY TO MAY: I am making a bed, angry because of some tasks left to me that were supposedly "forgotten." I pull up one of the bedcovers, drop it, and go and write a poem about power games. I am making my bed in our room. Picking up toys, children's books, children's clothes, and rearranging a plastic sheet meant to protect the mattress from their urine. And I stop, write a poem titled "Where Did I Leave Me?" 173 I am sitting at the kitchen table, writing, and my husband asks: "What are you writing about?" I read him a s i l l y limerick with sexual innuendos and he says something ridiculous in return. I can tell by the look on his face that he is uncomfortable about what I wrote. I am sitting at the kitchen table, writing, and my husband asks: "What are you writing about?" I tell him a bit, and he says, cautioning me, "I hope you don't use her real name." I am sitting at the kitchen table, writing, and my husband asks: "What are you writing about?" I tell him it is a narrative that I am sending to the newspaper and I tell him a bit about it. He requests that I don't send it in right away as some of his colleagues might see it and react negatively. (He needn't have worried. It doesn't get published.) I send it in anyway, and I don't wait. I am sitting at the kitchen table, writing, in my nightgown. The dishes are waiting, the beds are waiting, the laundry is waiting, and I have no idea nor do I care about what to serve for supper. My children weave in and out of the kitchen. Somewhere I make them lunch, and add those dishes to the stack on the counter. It is 5 P.M., and finally dressed, I drive everyone to McDonald's. I am checking the mailbox for any word on the writing I have submitted for publication. Nothing. I am checking the mailbox for any word on the writing I have submitted for publication. A postcard (with postage). It states: Your submission was received. You included sufficient postage. Be patient. MID-MAY: My nine-year-old daughter asks to read my story when I show her the five pages I have just printed off the computer. I jokingly refer to the story as my gothic piece. It ends mysteriously and even I don't know what it means. I have the distinct impression that a psychiatrist would have a great deal to say about the story, interpreting it as a woman trying to break out of the confines of her restricted l i f e , or as evidence of a woman's unfulfilled l i f e . Maybe the story symbolizes a woman's internal longing for a day or two all by herself. (I have not had a day to myself for nine years!) I love my daughters dearly, but to be perfectly honest, I also crave some time to myself. Maybe my allegorical story is merely about a woman's instincts gone awry. I mention to my young reader that writers often use what they know from real l i f e and change it, too, but that the story is not actually about us. (I add these last words because the ending could be interpreted quite darkly, too.) My daughter giggles when she reads the dialogue of the children in the story, and it does sound just like her and her sisters. She giggles at the way I describe the wind blowing away their umbrellas, but she falls silent and thoughtful at the ending. 174 When I ask her what she thinks it means—it's surprising how many times my children's responses have been incisive--she asks me, "What happened to the children?" "I don't know myself," I reply, "there are several possibilities." She finally states that she thinks the woman main character is really on a walk all by herself and the rest of it is all a dream. Okay. I'll buy that. APRIL: I f e e l more peaceful and content than I have i n years. But t h i s i s short-lived. I then f e e l at loose ends, uncertain where I am going next on my writing journey. So I write. Some days the writing flows. Some days I throw away what I have written. And some days I cannot write at a l l . I am a f r a i d not to write. I don't want to l e t i t go now that the course has ended. So I write again, and keep writing. I cannot seem to accurately gauge what i s good and what i s not. But I check the mailbox d a i l y , impatient, for r e j e c t i o n or acceptance l e t t e r s . My husband remarks to me: "You are i n your power mode, entering a p o s i t i v e f i e l d . " My children stop asking: "When w i l l you be finished your writing?" I am a writer. I am a writer. 175 INTERLOG Re-locating Doctor, Help! My husband won a cruise for us when I was nine months pregnant with our t h i r d c h i l d , and his parents got to go. The receptionist at my doctor's o f f i c e wants me to bring one c h i l d with a pounding earache i n at 12:45 and the other two who are coughing i n at 3:45. The custodian at the school where I teach opens the door for me i n the morning so I don't drop my boxes of paraphernalia and brings me my mail afterschool. (What a caretaker!) The headline: A COYOTE TRIED TO EAT MY SON leaped out at me from a t a b l o i d by the Safeway checkout, and I'm wondering i f that conservation o f f i c e r l i e d to me. I now write material l i k e t h i s on papers propped up against the back of Cheerio boxes while I'm waiting for the Safeway computers to s t a r t working again. I now often look back to check i f what I already wrote was written by somebody else f i r s t , and I can't believe i t i f I can't f i n d my writing somewhere else, I just keep looking. Like now, I'm sure someone wrote about t h i s i n one of t h e i r a r t i c l e s somewhere (only with a l l i t e r a t i o n ) , i f I could just f i n d i t . People reading t h i s thesis probably know more about me a f t e r reading my writing i n that w r i t e r l y way. They may know more about me than my two s i s t e r s , my husband and my mother. They may, i n fact, know more about me now than I know myself. 176 DIALOG O N E 177 Re-citing Unknown Poet: There i s a strange movement i n the Polylog, l i k e a boulder r o l l i n g down a h i l l , and unearthing other rocks, but the boulder comes to a stop at points. F u l l stop, and transforms, changing shape, color, texture...A c r y s t a l b a l l that r e f l e c t s your world from underneath the glass and the small rocks bounce o f f the domed globe. Renee: That's very poetic. Yes, I guess you could say that. You could say anything. The Polylog represents the past few years of my writing l i f e , of writing about my l i f e , and I look back now to the beginning and I am amazed at how my writ i n g has unfolded. Keep i n mind, too, that I played with the polylog a great deal. Some of i t i s chronologically ordered, l i k e my poems and r e f l e c t i o n s on coming into writing, on breaking silence. More recently, much of the writing bears a metafictional, post-modern flavour. But some of the writing i s positioned i n the Polylog where i t seemed to f i t . For example, the three poems about my daughters (Snapshot; Cameo; Pencil Sketch) are more recently written. They seemed to belong i n the Re-joy/sing section. I'm sure you noticed the reference to Heidegger's term: "always already" i n Cameo, a resu l t of the reading I have been doing about Helene Cixous i n Conley's book, and about post-modernism i n Somer Brodribb's book. The the o r e t i c a l and l i t e r a r y readings I have been engaged i n seep i n to the poetry and narrative, re-nee in the poem's pores, a poem i n the Prolog, attests to that. By the way, I wrote Cameo before reading David Jardine's text: Speaking with a Boneless Tongue (1992b). I was greatly intrigued with how often Jardine uses the term, "always already," throughout his book. It wasn't u n t i l I read Somer Brodribb that I noticed the phrase recurring and repeating i n so many of the books I had been reading. That term was not acknowledged i n many texts, either. I think Conley i s the f i r s t author I read who attributes i t to Heidegger. I've gone o f f on a tangent, I know, but I wanted to i l l u s t r a t e that behind two seemingly simple words i n a poem, there i s a context and history that i s only ever insinuated. Behind the placement of a poem or narrative between other poems and narratives are a r t i s t i c decisions that dis/place the textual signs which appear d i f f e r e n t l y to readers; which, i n fact, a l t e r and d i s t o r t the so-called truth of a text. None of t h i s takes away from the movement you notice i n the Polylog. It complicates that movement with textual and creative considerations that construct the text, and the l i f e written about i n the text. Recall Ted Aoki's comment about the said and the unsaid i n poetry (page 20 i n the Prolog). There i s so much i n any writing that i s unsaid. So much that has to remain unsaid. I l i k e Gary Snyder's discussion of t h i s c i t e d i n Speaking with a Boneless Tongue. He writes that a poem "walks the edge between what can be said and that which cannot be said" (1992b, 115). The Polylog walks the 178 edge between what can be said and that which cannot be said. Words, spaces, silences, meanings, graphics, chronology, order, a l l l i v e on t h i s edge. By the way, you may have noticed Ted Aoki 1s influence i n Cameo, too. The reference to my middle daughter i n these l i n e s i s c e r t a i n l y influenced by Aoki's c u l t u r a l philosophy: " r e f l e c t i n g the in-between/ where she gives everything away i n her features/ but stays out-of-focus." Aoki speaks of l i v i n g i n a middle place of culture, one which i s neither t h i s or that, but t h i s and that, with the egocentric I/eye de-centered (and so the features are out-of-focus). Less I, as Ted would say. My generous middle daughter embraces such a de-centered ego. She i s deeply philosophical for someone so young, considering others before herself, already l i v i n g , I believe, i n Ted's middle place. Unknown Poet: That's a great deal of history and context behind one small poem. I think I am beginning to sense how overwhelming the unsaid can be. As a poet myself, I am conscious of some of my own unsaid, but much of i t does not r i s e up o f f the page to whisper i n my ear. Much of the unsaid remains elusive and buried. The s i l e n t unsaid. Some of t h i s unsaid becomes apparent to me years l a t e r . The revelatory unsaid, slow i n coming. I suppose t h i s i s where we must a l l take care when discussing any writing. We shouldn't attribute too much to the writing i n an e f f o r t to interpret and analyze, to pin words down to meanings. Perhaps some things are best l e f t unsaid, and t h i s silence speaks to us i n a manner heavily endowed with important meanings. Renee: That's very mystical and I agree. There i s a tendency to want to analyze and theorize every aspect of the writing. This i s impossible—the nature of the writer/reader/text rel a t i o n s h i p i s such that the writing changes constantly, as does the writer and reader, f o r that matter. Not only that, such analysis sucks the breath out of the poetry and narrative, leaving f l a t , deflated words. Recently i n a writing course I was taking, we discussed a portion of the text from Touch the Dragon, a Thai Journal. The writing i s breathtaking, f u l l of v i v i d images and d e t a i l s that evoke the earth, the people, the author's b i c y c l e r i d e . I found the language i n the excerpt beautiful and r i c h , evocative and lovely. By the time we had dissected the writing, the writer's intent and the techniques, my i n i t i a l sense of wonder and appreciation had faded. Our analysis spoiled the freshness of the journal excerpt for me, i t s beauty and authenticity. P a r t l y t h i s seemed due to a propensity to f i n d f a u l t , but I wondered at the time i f there should be a careful balance struck between analysis and appreciation, between writing and theorizing. Unknown Poet: Yes, but I think good writing makes us curious, too, about the writing, the writer. On that note, I wanted to get back to something you said e a r l i e r , how your writing has 179 unfolded since you began writing. Could you elaborate on that? Renee: This i s d i f f i c u l t to put into words. When I began to write, I peeled back many layers of skin. I r e f e r to that many times i n the f i r s t section of the Polylog. As I wrote about my l i f e , my experiences, my writing, i t f e l t as i f I were f a l l i n g down a black hole at times, deeper into myself, uncovering past events and emotions. It seemed bottomless. I s p i r a l l e d down and the words s p i l l e d out. Then I reached a point where I could f e e l I was not pi t c h i n g headlong anymore (your metaphorical boulder coming to a stop). The words were slower, more considered. This poem which I wrote i n 19 93 demonstrates the slowing down I f e l t at the time: My Words my words of poetry are slower now considered always just a shade away from inspired always just a tone away from musical always just a minute away from finished always just a stamp away from published always just a word away from what I want to say my words of poetry are slower now a d u l l ache i n the side of the page a margin a hyphen an empty l i n e an unspoken silhouette my words of poetry are slower now slower and slower u n t i l they f i n a l l y stop Of course the poem i s also about the d i f f i c u l t y of putting into words what we hope to express, and of course, my words did not stop. Nor w i l l I l e t them. I had broken through my layers with the writing, to the poet and writer. To an i d e n t i t y as poet and 180 writer, i n addition to a l l my other roles and selves. I read more and more, too, as I wrote, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n feminism and post-modernism. I am s t i l l reading and learning. The writing began as a breaking of silence, a discovery of another i d e n t i t y , assisted by feminist texts such as Room of One's Own and Writing a Woman's Life. The writing then developed as a practice, an addiction, an obsession, a way of l i f e , shaped and formed by the l i f e that I l i v e as a graduate student and scholar, reading and studying (always i n addition to my other i d e n t i t i e s as a woman). I became a poet and writer. I sought and found publication for some of my writing. I send my words out into the world everywhere. This continues to t h i s day. As does the continual c o n f l i c t between scholar and poet/writer, exemplified by t h i s poem: Where the Words Come again I return to these pages words s p i l l i n g from my pen away from works c i t e d quantitative mind games graduate hoops and hurdles can I cope with the struggle I am not Jeremiah I don't have the answers to any of the questions the academic soul feeds supports my creative muse which nurtures the a b i l i t y I know I acknowledge the a b i l i t y I question the desire abandon a l l thoughts: academic goals simply pursue the pages: words someone whispers to my confusion write your way through l i f e ask from where do a l l the words emanate would I just explode and scatter a l l over the universe am I held together 181 by the structure of the i n t e l l e c t would I s t i l l have words substantial anywhere to go or gossamer-lace-film pillow-feathers blowing by my breath short gasps I form no structure for the form disappearing i n the words f a l l i n g down black holes overwhelmed emotionpassionneeddesirepain both halves make a whole courageous only i f the words are backed by deeds that take me from the words u n t i l I run home to the words nothing can wrench me away again courageous only i f I lose myself i n the words only the words always the words the pain/pleasure of the words nothing in-between devoting everything would they mean as much would I have anything to give would I lose my s e l f i n the words I can walk away from everything i f I can keep the words i f the words keep coming I should mention, too, that I reached an autobiographical point 182 where I f e l t sick of my selves, wanting and needing to branch out to other issues, other people. Of course such writing i s autobiographical, too, since regardless of topic, the writing says something of the writer. But I a c t u a l l y f e l t f or a while as i f I had no more s t o r i e s to write about my selves, my l i f e . I f e l t I had reached the end, and I was both reliev e d and h o r r i f i e d . I think poetic and autobiographical writing leads one to focus upon one's selves, e s p e c i a l l y the dark moments. This can get r e l e n t l e s s . At one point I think I recorded every dark moment I ever had i n a new poem, and frankly, I got sick of such indulgence, even i f i t did record the d e t a i l s of my womanly existence. Sick enough to turn a corner. What i n fact happened was that my writing took a new turn. Instead of writing about each and every dark moment, I became more de-centered, looking beyond ego to the world at large, and happier and more content i n my writing for the change. I s t i l l write about my selves (and my dark moments), but I don't f e e l I've reached the end. Rather I f e e l I've widened my autobiographical p o s s i b i l i t i e s . After a l l , there i s a whole world out there to write about. We l i v e i n relationship to everything i n our world. I got past f e e l i n g I had no more to say about my selves by opening up more to the world around me. Perhaps t h i s i s akin to what Ted Aoki means when he discusses overcoming the Western primacy of the I/eye. Or what Trinh Minh-ha means when she writes that "writing i s born when the writer i s no longer" (1989, 35). Beyond the I/eye of our selves, our autobiographical s t o r i e s , we can write a l i f e that i s populated with many I/eye's. 183 INTERLOG Re-inscribing Metaphorical Madness Did you know— — t h a t Pears shampoo residue works best for producing great towers of bubble mountains when you turn on the Jacuzzi jets f u l l s t r e n g t h . units, {J lids, to record moments op pleasure and pain that xise up and out of jetsbieams of livina, sfiillincj huhhles all oust my emotions. — t h a t the best place to be alone and think i s shopping at the mall, i f you leave your family at home. ^Writing fox ms. is. a lonely venture fail of introspection, inspection, xebiospeation, circumspection: sitting in the midst of the tsmjzest. — t h a t r i c e i s easier to pick up off the f l o o r the next day when i t 1 s dry. ^Writing forms damp, words so close to me that D often have to step hack pom them fox a while and Let them solidify. — t h a t the crunch you hear when the chiropractor adjusts your neck i s not bones cracking, but nitrogen, and i f you plug your ears, you can't hear i t . Often Ll view what U have written with trepidation, very apaid of what is coming next, yet unahle to stop the words which whisk right hy my twisted longings. — t h a t the week when everyone was home sick with the f l u was when I f i r s t r e a l i z e d how good i t f e l t for once not to be enslaved by the clock. <Sometimes £! wish writing aould he the cenbie of my lipe pom which all else- flowed and followed. Now you do. 184 fiNfiLOQ 185 Re-playing THE UNSAID: I wrote "If I C a l l Myself" a f t e r I read Elaine Showalter's The New Feminist Criticism. I wrote "Women Who Write" a f t e r I read Sudden Miracles and Language in Her Eye. I wrote "Repeated i n Threes" a f t e r I read Waves. Several people I knew were waiting for news of possible "tumours," and t h i s made me face my own possible "tumours." In Waves V i r g i n i a Woolf interrupts the narratives of the main characters with sections that describe the waves, the birds, and the sun f i l t e r i n g upon the house. These poetic interruptions are repeated throughout the book and each r e p e t i t i o n i s s l i g h t l y d i f f e r e n t , but retains the thread of the waves, the birds, the sun. I wrote "Trinh Minh-ha & Me" afte r I read Native Woman Other. I ended the poem asking: " i s that why I f e e l so empty," and t h i s emptiness i s double-edged. I meant the words to s i g n i f y a bleak, despairing emptiness as well as an emptying out i n order to begin again and f i l l . I wrote my " B i t t e r Milk" a f t e r I read Madeleine Grumet 1s Bitter Milk, during the time I pulled one daughter out of school and homeschooled her for a year. I wrote "Pedagogy" afte r checking on my sleeping daughters late at night. They are always f u l l of questions, and as I frame some answers, some more questions, we write and re-write the world together. I wrote "Judgement Day" af t e r my cousin Adelle was appointed a judge. I wrote "Moodpiece" when I learned a woman colleague was dying. I wrote "Travel" when I wanted to attempt some short f i c t i o n . I wrote "Post-modern Feminist Film" when I wanted to respond to the f i l m produced by a group c a l l e d the "Post-Modern S i s t e r s , " from the San Francisco Bay Area. In perfect post- modern fashion, or so i t seemed, the people s i t t i n g to my l e f t and right at the theatre ate popcorn as the images played across the screen: a juxtaposition of hot, buttered pleasure against the bleak post-modern landscape portrayed through the colors, 186 shapes, images, projected on Deleuze's "white wall" (1987, 17). I wrote "Re-nee"s Rhetoric" when I wanted to play with language. I wrote "Knowing V i r g i n i a " a f t e r l e t t e r s to the editor appeared i n the newspaper, castigating my previously published "Power Games" prose poem. I wrote " V i r g i n i a W o o l f s A l i v e and Well and Liv i n g i n a Co-op i n False Creek" a f t e r I charted a l l the feminist books I had read and r e a l i z e d they a l l c i r c l e d back to V i r g i n i a Woolf. I wrote "This i s How the Writing's Going" a f t e r someone asked me: How's the writing going? I wrote "Passage" a f t e r I dreamed i t . I wrote "Endings of Beginnings" s i t t i n g on a closed t o i l e t seat i n a hotel room bathroom i n Disneyland. I wrote "Shadow" afte r a conversation with one of my s i s t e r s , which i n t e n s i f i e d a complex set of feelings. The words of the poem were i n my head. I simply wrote them down and changed nothing. I wrote "re-nee i n the poem's pores" a f t e r I read about Helene Cixous i n Conley's book and I worked on that poem for days. I wrote "Asian Women" during a summer course I took with Ted Aoki, and the words f e l l into place l i k e the summer rose petals that had f a l l e n on the ground i n our flower garden. I wrote "M(other) of the Text" during a curriculum course and r e f e r r i n g to a conference lecture delivered by Monique Wittig. I shaped and changed the poem many times, the slashes and brackets and dashes speaking t h e i r own poem within the words of the whole poem. I highlighted (eat) and (ate) i n the poem because when I write and the words are entered (centered, decentered), they seem to eat up the space of the page, re- cr(eat)ing many word-space images. There i s motion, f l u i d i t y , speed, m u l t i p l i c i t y , change on the blank page, reminiscent of Deleuze's l i n e of f l i g h t on a white wall (1987, 17-31). The page has a kind of depth perspective that Homi Bhabha discusses (1987), doubled i n the p o s s i b i l i t i e s the blankness o f f e r s . I wrote "This i s the Poem" at Christmas time, r e c a l l i n g my f e e l i n g of strangeness during a family gathering. My Jewishness i s part of the fabri c of my Be/ing and Be/coming. My Jewish I- dentity dis/places me i n the midst of my husband's family. I am a foreigner among family. This strangeness exists at other 187 l e v e l s , too. A l l my l i f e I can r e c a l l moments when I have f e l t an intense, i n t e r n a l a l ienation, a sense that i n the midst of be/longing, I don't belong; a sense that I am not anchored i n any way to my selves; a f e e l i n g of Otherness, deep, i n t e r n a l , and desperate. These moments occur at the oddest times, even surrounded by love, intimacy, family. The reference to l'etranger i n the poem i s my way of making meaning of the strangeness, the i s o l a t i o n within I-dentity and because of I- dentity. This reference i s also an a l l u s i o n to Camus' novel: L'etranger. Kristeva speaks about etrangete, about foreignness, about the other within our selves (Clark & Hulley 1990/91). THE UNSAID: I don't always know what's good, except the odd time when I f e e l very excited about what I have written. Some of my poems and narratives have t r a v e l l e d across the country several times, and I keep a record of t h e i r f l i g h t on the back of the hard copy, the words scribbled there t e l l i n g a story of hope and longing, commitment and obsession, f a i t h and blindness. Sometimes a response to something I have written surprises me, rocks me, shocks me, annoys me, pleases me... Sometimes I have worked on one sentence for an hour, thought a l l night about a word, and written ten pages i n the space of time between emptying the afterschool remains of my children's lunchkits and preparing dinner f o r f i v e . RE-WRITING: As I write myself deeper and deeper into writing, I f e e l myself come closer and closer to my central core. As t h i s core i s newly examined with each word and sentence I write, I come closer and closer to that which has formed me, de/formed me, mis/in/formed me, un/formed me. THE UNSAID: "Renee's Story": I came late to writing and discovered i t was what I have always wanted. A teacher opened my way to words, named me poet and writer, because I could not yet name myself. "Anjin's Story": I w i l l always f e e l a deep connection to my teacher, as I believe Anjin, poet/writer/scholar, f e e l s for her teacher (Aoki 1990). The "death" of a teacher-student rela t i o n s h i p i s a r e - b i r t h , a re-casting of the i n i t i a l r e lationship, leading to a new path. 188 RE-WRITING: Writing has been devoted, d i f f i c u l t , cleansing, amazing, frightening, rewarding, loving. Writing has been fraught with pain, suffering, self-doubt, lack of confidence. Writing has been no re a l substance l i k e the dandelion f l u f f that blows i n the breeze. And writing has been a rock, immovable, s o l i d , slowly eroding. Writing has b i t t e n me, infected me. Writing i s spreading through me un/checked and un/blocked. Un/derlying my days. THE UNSAID: ...these words out of the body of the text, body words, bawdy words, words connected to the body of experience, of femininity, of me...the blank page of woman's time i s being written by many feminist women with a v i s i o n of a l l that has gone before, a l l that i s now i n action, a l l that should come i n time...women thinking, re-thinking, writing, re-writing, countering, re-countering, structuring, re-structuring... I remember writing down my mother's place of birth — Czechoslovakia—on school forms, wondering if I'd spelled it correctly, daydreaming about my mother as an infant travelling to Canada from this foreign, exotic, faraway place. I remember coming home to the smell of freshly baked cookies. I remember my mother beckoning my sisters and me to the bedroom where our dolls lay on our pillows, dressed in new, homemade clothes, lovingly stitched by hand. I remember my father sitting down with me at the kitchen table, taking a paragraph from my Science textbook, and explaining to me how to read it, extract the main points, remember the important details. I remember reading late into the night, so sorry when I reached the last page of a good book, wishing it would go on and on. I remember my first pair of glasses. I remember walking around the yard looking at the Spring flowers which magically blew in the Chinook breeze with clarity, up ten feet (it seemed) above the sidewalk. I remember riding my bicycle all alone down a steep, gravelled h i l l , skidding alongside of a car. I remember the driver rolling down his window to inquire as to whether I was all right. 189 I remember the wind in my hair, singing "Up in the Air, Junior Birdman" at the top of my lungs, pumping my legs furiously, seated on a wooden swing, young, alive, free, no worries in the world except to be home before dark and don't go the the playground until you clean your room. I remember f i l l i n g out a form stating how many minutes it took me to walk home from school, in the event of a nuclear attack, and feeling absolutely terrified and helpless. I never walked home from school again without thinking about that form. T H E U N S A I D : ...I f i n d that when we write and remember, t h i s process i s colored by present moment, and just how much writing and remembering we are doing...memories can be suppressed, forgotten, f i l t e r e d by time into what we want or need at the moment...it takes a great deal of writing and introspection to uncover a "truth".. .writing a memory may only be a t i n y beginning kernel of a "truth," or an untruth waiting to be re- s i f t e d . . . I remember sitting in the junior high school basement lunchroom, eating a tuna sandwich, and the vice- principal announcing over the P. A. system that John Kennedy, president of the United States, had just been assassinated. I can s t i l l remember the lump in my throat from a bite of sandwich. I remember my father driving us home from the hospital where he visited his dying brother, commenting that we hold on to l i f e , no matter what. I remember the silence from my father about the war, about his childhood, about his emotions or hopes or dreams or desires, and the story he told my mother about wanting a bicycle so badly when he was a young boy. I remember waking to my mother's crying, a high- pitched sort of keening. In the living room, a friend's arms were around her as my mother grieved over her mother's passing. I remember my first airplane trip, the plane ascending steeply as I left my childhood home for the first time, my eyes f i l l e d with tears of excitement, regret, anticipation, longing. I remember my first glimpse of ocean, and how I knew 190 instantly that I would never want to leave the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Despite the prairie in my heart, I belonged to the waters. THE UNSAID: ...writing brings my emotion close to the surface... but i t calms me to get the words out, s p i l l i n g out of my pen, out of me...I fin d when I am f e e l i n g emotional and tender that I write from " f i r s t thought" as Natalie Goldberg c a l l s i t . . . t h a t i s also when my writing seems to come out of me straight from my heart to the paper, as i f the pen i s writing a l l by i t s e l f , and i t i s only my job to hold the instrument upright so the words can appear upon the paper...when I write the poem, i t i s another one of my writing times when the poem i s i n me and the words r i s e up out of me and jump on the paper, whole...I have not had one of these "dream poem" experiences for a while and I was beginning to wonder i f these experiences were to be temporary... I didn't sleep a l l night...this has put me i n touch with my insides, and they are tender, but t h i s i s the place where much of my deepest (I think) poetry comes from...I wish there were more times to bring back those tender, inside places and more time for writing out of that place... I remember standing behind a crowd of other university students in a lounge in one of the student residences, craning my neck to see a launch into space, my heart soaring as the countdown began. I remember the first classroom I could call my own, reaching out of the darkness in the hall to flick on a light, screaming at the mice crisscrossing the floor, probably just as frightened as I was. I remember how I had to hold the class register up in front of my face for a few minutes so that I could collect myself, following Show and Tell, which on that morning included Daphne's description of how her father pushed her mother out of a moving car during their fight. I remember how the Grade Three's turned the room into a small village, moving chairs around, speaking to one another in-role, taking over our dramatic play so that I only had to stretch their thinking with my questions, never once reminding someone about rules, behaviour, courtesy, consideration. I remember the hug I got when Joel, soaking wet from his recess in the rain, threw his arms around me just because he saw me in the hall. 191 I remember packing a pair of running shoes in the car one day when I left the house to drive to the school where I teach. A precaution in case I ever had to walk home after an earthquake. I remember wondering what would even be left of the old school where I taught in a room stocked with the emergency water supply. THE UNSAID: ...I wrote pages and pages of words, f i r s t i n a voice of joy and wonder and s e l f - r e f l e c t i o n , then i n a voice of pain and bitchiness and introspection, and now, i n many d i f f e r e n t voices that take turns taking over and speaking, l i k e the multiple p e r s o n a l i t i e s of some disordered psychiatric patient...as I found my way into writing and allowed my voices to be heard, I l e t the words flow...I am adjusting to the ups (few) and the many downs...I w i l l go on...I w i l l write and I w i l l continue to write and I w i l l send my words everywhere and I w i l l endure...I w i l l write my s t o r i e s and my poems and the words that come out of my heart and my creative i m a g i n a t i o n . I w i l l not leave the words buried again underneath a l l the voices...I w i l l sing my words into the a i r of doubtful, c r i t i c a l assessment, and I w i l l hold on to those words as my l i g h t , the l i g h t that writes me into a creative existence... I w i l l write and I w i l l sing what I write and I w i l l endure... I remember all the blood, lying flat on the hard cot in the emergency room, waiting for some intern to tell me what I already knew about my unborn baby. I remember a young girl beyond the curtain screaming and screaming in pain until they finally reached her parents. I remember the way my firstborn child looked up at me when I first put her to my breast, as if to say, so this is what you look like. I remember all the old- world knowledge in those soulful, newborn eyes. I remember holding my youngest daughter in my arms in the rocking chair, breastfeeding her for the very last time, and memorizing the sensory feelings, the warmth of baby against me, the steady sucking sound, so I would have a lasting lithograph in my mind to recall when I needed to remember. I remember picking up one of my daughters on the last day of preschool in June, tears streaming down my face as my daughter asked why on earth was I crying. Driving away from her preschool years. 192 I remember how terrible I felt when I walked through the first house we ever bought, and saw the empty rooms, the faded rug, the stained walls. I remember how I knew exactly what words to ask for on the engraving for a medallion, a present for my husband on our twentieth anniversary. THE UNSAID: ...my poem i s the tree... the hope that I added i s the broken branch, once a part of me, but not l i v i n g inside of me on Friday, breaking off and dying...I w i l l need to grow another new branch of hope... perhaps when I added that hope to the poem I was t r y i n g to grow that new branch... I remember standing in front of the main library at UBC, twenty years later than the last time I had stood underneath the bell tower, this time holding books and babies, and harbouring dreams that were s t i l l waiting to be realized. ...language: forms us, l i e s to us, interprets us, mis/re- presents us. Language: guides us, sometimes down paths we'd rather not venture, sometimes i n ways we can't control...I want language to be free, f l u i d , ever-changing, female, p l a y f u l , inventive, emotional, personal, obsessional, confessional...I don't want language to be constantly defined and judged by the dominant culture, in v a r i a b l y clear-cut and understandable, perpetually obscure and hidden. I want language to be interpretable. Language: emotion behind the words, words i n front of thoughts, thoughts made into e x p l i c i t impressions, impressions turned into c o n v i c t i o n s — j u s t a moment i n time captured... I remember opening the self-stamped envelope addressed in my own handwriting, steeling myself for yet another rejection slip, and realizing one of my poems was about to be published, and I could finally call myself a poet without feeling like an imposter. ... I am touched and moved by the response of the women i n the audience... they cry, and I know at that instant that my words can reach other women, and that moment li n k s me to a l l women everywhere i n time...women's tears...they could wash f l o o r s , move whole c i t i e s , f i l l swimming pools, baptize babies, create stepping stone puddles to walk on the way to nowhere...women's tears...wet, b i t t e r , j o y f u l , f i l l e d with the memories of a thousand d e t a i l s and a hundred dreams... tears to grow on, tears to remember, tears to hope with, tears to rage against, tears to t e l l our many s t o r i e s . . . tears f i l l i n g oceans, 193 f i l l i n g those empty spaces, stopping the b l e e d i n g . a n d I f e e l the presence of V i r g i n i a Woolf a l l the more...Virginia, I f e e l you here i n the room with me, can you hear me? do you ever watch me? do you hear me read my words, inspired by you?... ...I write from selves that I have found again, that I am forming anew, that I am watching develop...nurturing others does not have to mean negating self...Helene Cixous writes: "And woman? Woman, for me, i s she who k i l l s no one i n herself, she who gives (herself) her own l i v e s : woman i s always i n a c e r t a i n way "mother" for herself and for the other" (1991, 50). I love my daughters more openly and more dearly because I have other selves from mother (selves who write)...Anne Tyler writes: " I t seems to me that since I've had children, I've grown ri c h e r and deeper. They may have slowed down my writing f o r a while, but when I did write, I had more of a s e l f to speak from" (1980,9). The bonded mother-daughter connection grounds me, centers me, allows me to think, write, be... I remember all I have to remember, and my heart is full of the many memories of this remembrance, the pain and the joy of it, each new day adding another frame to the movie, another page to the book, another line to the poem. RE-WRITING: Writing at the kitchen sink (thinking the words down). Writing at the kitchen table i n the middle of the chaos (getting the words down). Writing at the kitchen f l o o r (hunting for the elusive words I want for a p a r t i c u l a r section and mopping up the grape juice, too) . Writing as the kitchen darkens (re-reading and r e - s c r u t i n i z i n g what I've got). RE-WRITING: Home i n Calgary t h i s summer, place of childhood love and hurt, pleasure and pain, security and repression, growth and regression, I walked through the f a m i l i a r rooms, l a i d on the bed beside my mother, looked at my fading graduation picture on the wall, and I wondered how such a normal, warm environment could have produced a l l the dissonance and despair sometimes i n me; wondered where my poetic passion originates. Not i n my parents' ordinary down-to-earth love and philosophy. Not i n the white paint peeling off the fence that surrounds our sturdy family home. Not i n my father's surprised look when he hears I want to see the f i l m , Orlando. Not i n my mother's sincere question about my f i r s t poem about to be published: Do you get paid for i t ? Perhaps my poetic passion commenced f a r back i n time, from some Czechoslovakian or Romanian ancestor, a woman i n a long 194 dress, who stood alone on a h i l l above some v i l l a g e , and wondered about the meaning of i t a l l , pondered her future, dreamt what l i f e would hold for her children and her children's children. RE-WRITING: I've reclaimed the " g i r l within" (Hancock 1989), the "authentic i d e n t i t y . . . embodied as a g i r l . . . t h e inner g i r l , l o s t and reclaimed..." (4): the ten-year-old g i r l who sent a story to a magazine a l l those years ago and proudly c o l l e c t e d her f i r s t r e j e c t i o n s l i p . How strange that I have only recently remembered t h i s episode, since I believe i t indicates my pre- adolescent desires which were diverted and thwarted i n the process of learning to be female. How very mysteriously the threads are interlaced and knotted, and how remarkable i t i s when each thread seems to be connected to another thread, a l l the threads woven together i n a story that emerges of i t s own making, with me, one of the main characters, always glancing at the pattern, musing about how i t f i t s , how i t seems to come together so neatly and p e r f e c t l y . Almost as i f someone i s sewing and lacin g my story, a few stit c h e s ahead of me, and then I l i v e i n the motif we both create. RE-WRITING: Like Natalie Goldberg, I am a f r a i d not to write. Writing i s the act that keeps me from sorrow, keeps me from giving up on a creative existence and merely marking my way through l i f e by the meals I prepare, the number of loads of laundry I wash, or the days I r i s e up out of my bed and return to i t (exhausted) each night. RE-WRITING: I worry constantly about not writing. Then I r e a l i z e that I am always writing: when I look out the window at the f l a t heat of the p r a i r i e ; when I remember through the busy years of not writing (on paper); when I place the towels i n the dryer; when I think of the next poem or a r t i c l e . Not writing, the words spin i n my head, l i k e the wheel of fortune, f i n a l l y landing on paper. Writing, the words appear almost by themselves on the page, imprinted forever i n my mind's eye. RE-WRITING: Natalie Goldberg says to shut up and write (1986). I have shut up and written, I w i l l shout out and write, I w i l l not shut down and not write, I w i l l not shut down when I write. Shutting up and writing i s the single, loudest act that I have ever engaged i n , and t h i s quiet, s i l e n t , lonely placing of words on paper i s the n o i s i e s t , most pressing thing I have probably ever done, 195 apart from giving b i r t h . RE-WRITING: Somer Brodribb writes that an "essential part of feminist strategy" i s to be aware that "not a l l thought i s male" and that "knowing t h i s i s . . . a s i g n i f i c a n t feminist a c t i v i t y " (1992, xxix). Writing i s the most r a d i c a l , most threatening feminist a c t i v i t y that I have ever undertaken. RE-WRITING: It hurts. A l l of i t . The hate l e t t e r s . The tension i t causes. The way the tension eats into any sense of security or peace or the rhythm of a day. The loud words invoked i n the heat of a mis/understood, mis/perceived, mis/directed moment. It hurts, and the s a l t of those l e t t e r s and words burn. RE-WRITING: I am learning to take r i s k s , get kicked as a r e s u l t , f e e l absolutely t e r r i b l e about i t , write i t a l l out, use the feelings for my writing, and use the writing to sort out my world and then carry on. I just wish I didn't f e e l that kick, everyone's feet i n my feelings, and I wonder i f I have to keep walking around l i k e t h i s , a whole world of feet i n my face. RE-WRITING: I accomplished something i n my writing t h i s week, something small but recognizable, something I had wanted to do for a long time but hadn't yet done, something that would be a public, everlasting token of my l o v e — i n words. RE-WRITING: I am f i l l e d with a growing contentment but also a kind of pain about what one very close family f r i e n d of my parents said to them: I had no idea that Renee could write l i k e that. Neither did I. Neither did I. RE-WRITING Random acts of writing. Senseless acts of sentiment. Dreams and dustclouds. Philosophic feminizing. A rainbow of writing. Rainbow: any b r i g h t l y multi-colored arrangement or display; a wide variety or gamut. "The 're' at work" (Aoki 1994). 196 INTERLOG Re-versing This i s How It's Going 1 How's the writing going? 2 You're an ass for putting that much work into i t 3 He looked at me l i k e I was from outer space 4 Do you have a poem i n your head? 5 I wrote i t af t e r sex 6 And don't write that i n one of your poems 7 You're probably p r a c t i s i n g 8 I'd r e a l l y l i k e to read your poetry 9 What do you need him for? 10 Just duplicate them a l l and send them to me to read 11 Are you working? 12 That's very funny 13 Why did you say that? 14 I hope you didn't use her name 15 What are you working on? 16 It sounds l i k e you're dying 17 Why did you phone him? 18 Maybe you shouldn't be writing then 19 Are you s t i l l w r iting poems? 20 I did not drive someone to the emergency ward 21 How i s he reacting to i t ? 22 You never tuck us i n any more 23 You sent i t to the NEWSPAPER??? 24 I l i k e the part about the pink ribbons 25 Are you drugged? 26 You'll probably go home and write a poem about t h i s now 27 Why don't you want to spend time with us anymore? 28 A regular Pauline Johnson 29 What i s bothering you? How's the writing going? You're an ass for putting that much work into i t Work into i t (Repeat l i n e s 3 to 28) What i s bothering you? How's the writing going? You're an ass for putting that much work into i t He looked at me l i k e I was from outer space Space (Omit l i n e s 3 to 28) What i s bothering you? How's the writing going? (Go over l i n e s 2 to 5) And don't write that i n one of your poems One of Your Poems 197 You're probably p r a c t i s i n g (Practise l i n e s 8 to 24) Are you drugged? You'll probably go home and write a poem about t h i s now A poem about t h i s now (What about l i n e s 27 and 28 now?) What i s bothering you? How's the writing going? (Skip the next 2 lines) Do you have a poem i n your head? poem i n my drugged a f t e r sex head p r a c t i s i n g to duplicate your poetry you're an ass dying poems to the emergency ward bothering Pauline Johnson to spend time reacting to the pink ribbons funny you phone the NEWSPAPER to tuck us i n from outer space Space Repeat verse 198 DIALOG T W O 199 Re-peating Women Who Write It i s only recently i n my l i f e that I have found my voice as a writer, an i d e n t i t y as a writer, and t h i s a f t e r some years of silence. It took me many months to even give myself the right to c a l l myself a writer, a f t e r several others named me. My voices and the words of those voices f i r s t s p i l l e d out of me once I broke my silence, and I could be anywhere doing anything and f e e l the urge—no, the n e c e s s i t y — t o stop what I was doing and write. My various voices rose to the surface from beneath a l l the layers of my woman's l i f e and threatened to choke me unless I gave them a l i f e i n words. When I began to write I was 45 years old and had had a great deal of all sorts of experience... British writer Winifred Holtby called us the "interrupted sex." Was that the reason I attempted no creative work, which needs blocks of continuous time, until I was 45? Helen Weinzweig (Weinzweig 1990, 297-301) Silence. Which is what every woman shatters when she realizes/knows herself a feminist, when she puts that name to the language of her thinking. From then on, the language of her writing can never be the same...When a woman declares herself a feminist, she becomes part of a tradition, a continuum, and a history, a powerful cacophony of voices and words. She breaks silence.... Aritha Van Herk (Van Herk 1990, 272) Realizing one of my poems was about to be published, I could f i n a l l y c a l l myself a poet without f e e l i n g l i k e an imposter. A poet who has discovered her voices and her opinions and i s t i r e d of holding them back, keeping them to herself, defending them always, over and over. A poet who doesn't want to be s i l e n t anymore, but doesn't want any more of the anger and tension that accompanies the breaking of that silence. I have been s i l e n t so long. I have been s i l e n t too long. A question never asked. A thought never put into words, never spoken aloud. A poem never written. Listening, l i s t e n i n g , l i s t e n i n g , the thoughts f i g h t i n g for space inside my head, stored there f or years, and f i n a l l y , f i n a l l y , s p i l l i n g out through my many words, s p i r a l s of words, c i r c l i n g round and round memories, emotions, desires, hopes... I am sometimes f i l l e d with pain and anger. And I sometimes wonder what I, who am so lucky and fortunate, have to be so angry about. The anger that feminist writers write about: our 2 0 0 c o l l e c t i v e rage. I f e e l too self-absorbed, too s e l f - p i t y i n g . I want to break my silence once and for a l l , and move past the rage. But I can't, I can't. I am sometimes trapped i n the pain and I can't get out. We read writing by women...we were curious about the lives of these women. How had they managed it? We knew about the problems; we wanted to know there were solutions. For instance, could you be a woman writer and happily married, with children, as well? It did not seem likely...It seemed likely that the husband's demands and those of the art would clash...combining marriage and art was a risky business. You could not be an empty vessel for two.... Margaret Atwood (Atwood 1990, 17) I am very imperfect i n a hundred ways. I should probably be l i v i n g a l l alone. I am d i f f i c u l t and stormy and bitchy and s u p e r - c r i t i c a l and a hundred other t e r r i b l e things. But I have my own thoughts and I want to think them, voice them, hold onto them i f I want, even i f I am emotional or dead-wrong or absolutely r i d i c u l o u s . Feminism has done many good things for women writers, but surely the most important has been the permission to say the unsaid, to encourage women to claim their full humanity, which means acknowledging the shadows as well as the lights. Margaret Atwood (Atwood 1990, 24) Last night I cr i e d and cr i e d about—what? About my empty places that w i l l never be f i l l e d . About those sweet and innocent faces curled up against me, those small, warm, warming bodies i n f l a t i n g me with joy and love, the helium of hope, a i r - l i f t e d to the empty places, but never f i l l i n g them completely. Or i s i t that I know t h i s a i r i s impermanent, and so I f e e l emptiness even when f i l l e d with love? I cri e d about—what? I would give a great deal to have what I had before. I would never again want what I had before. I am a mass of contradictions. The month comes and goes, I r i s e each morning, teach or go to university or walk my daughters to school, and each day follows the next and sustains me at the same time that i t f i l l s me with dread. Each word, each sentence, each discussion reminds me that I am alone i n the midst of a crowd. Each drawn breath hurts. I continue to breathe and I continue to hurt and that i s why I sometimes cry. Why the anger and the pain well up and r i s e out of me i n a t i d a l wave of g r i e f . I am f u l l of hate for t h i s self-absorbed r e f l e c t i o n . But I have temporarily l o s t the joy, I am blinded by the pain, I am overwhelmed with emotion and stark, unadorned fear. 201 t h i s broken branch of a large l i v i n g tree hanging straight down to the wild grass below f i l l e d with poisonous inedible cherry-red berries green-veined leaves spreading out to catch the l i g h t of the morning sun i n the cloud's clutch the occasional yellow leaf spread with brown lo s i n g colour the tear of the limb a wound upon the tree i n opposition to the unfolding patterns of green-prismed pinpoints i s at times me I crave that elusive morning l i g h t watch the clouds keep i t close or give some away a supplicant It's been said that poetry is a response to silence...John Berger wrote: to break the silence of events, to speak of experience however bitter or lacerating, to put into words, is to discover the hope that these words may be heard, and that when heard, the events will be judged... Language casts a wide net; you capture something only by pulling up a lot of dross with it; the shell s t i l l entangled with seaweed. A "truth" is always mired in personal context, the way weather inhabits a room.... Anne Michaels (Michaels 1991, 177-179) Perhaps I am just overwrought from a l l the emotion of the past month and a half since my contentious V i r g i n i a Woolf piece f i r s t appeared. Or overtired from another too-long, too-loud discussion. Or angry about the overreactions. Or maybe i t ' s just "October sadness" again, the change of the seasons which f i l l s me with such regret, such a sense of loss, such a f e e l i n g of wasted years and unlived l i f e . I look at my daughters and I know I am loved and I love them a l l so much. Erin, with her funny four-year-old words, l i k e "I can hardly wait to grow up, so I can be b e a u t i f u l . " She i s so beautiful now. And her "writing," emergent scribbles graphically arranged close together l i k e the print-out of some l i e detector t e s t . Rebecca, who lovingly runs her chubby hands through my hair and t e l l s her 202 friend, "you can t a l k to me i f you have a problem, 1 1 and c r i e s when i t i s too late at night for her and she cannot f i n d her fa v o r i t e parrot. Sara, basking i n her newfound happiness and independence at school. Making lunch for everyone when Don i s out gardening and I am out walking, and then refusing to brush Erin's teeth for me because she worked so hard a l l day. There. I have written myself out of the tiredness and the pain and the sadness into some calm and peace. I wrote my way out like some dog burrowing after a bone she knows she buried... somewhere...I think I became a writer out of nostalgia, an attempt to reclaim the inner l i f e that guided childhood. Ann Ireland (Ireland 1990, 158) Wonderful bears that walked my room all night,/.. .When did I lose you? Whose have you become? Adrienne Rich (Rich 1990, 118) Where are my bears? Large black shadows that I hid from i n the dark of c h i l d i s h night, the covers over my n o s t r i l s and up to my t e r r o r - s t r i c k e n eyes. Not i n my room at night. My bears l i v e i n my mind and memory, l i v i n g testament to my woman's l i f e , now taking shape i n words on paper. And me? I f i n a l l y claimed my words i n a loud, strong voice. My name. My thoughts and opinions and b e l i e f s . And I have been paying the price ever since. I have broken out of the mould and the silence and I have l e t my voice sing into that silence, and I w i l l not l e t anyone t e l l me that the songs cannot, should not be sung, that the songs are not worth singing, that the songs must be sung to a certain, prescribed- by-others tune. I want to trouble the reader—to upset, annoy, confuse...I want to explode writing as prescription...1 want to make trouble...Do I consider myself a feminist? Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, despite all the difficulties. Feminism is a dirty word...Feminism as a great glittering heaped-up pile of possibilities. Aritha Van Herk (Van Herk 1990, 276) The book...had been a first step out of the shadows, and suddenly I could see this was the moment to claim the voice and to stand behind my own words with my own woman's body. Susan Crean (Crean 1990, 87) ...I have to go back to my work, to the poetry that tells my hidden stories no matter who insists I stop. I have to take the risk of offending, angering some of my readers. I have to name the 203 places that, for me, have gone unnamed too long. Find the words. Speak the flesh. Kiss and tell with anger, grace, humour, and sometimes, love. Lorna Crozier (Crozier 1990, 94) A fr i e n d asked me i f I had thought about why I use humour, a r h e t o r i c a l device, and what, or who, was the humour for? Why do I use humour? Sometimes I f e e l funny, that's why. Funny and wild and free and witty and unfettered and f u l l of amusement at something someone has said or done, or about myself who can see the other (laughable) side of l i f e and nature. Do I use humour to hurt? I hope not. To stab with l i t t l e jabs of pain that seek revenge? I don't mean to. I think humour sometimes covers a great deal of pain. Or i s a way to seek the truth, by looking at l i f e with a measure of irony and self-amusement because we are a l l human with f o i b l e s , me at the top of the l i s t . And humour reveals hurt, but i n a manner that attempts to make i t bearable, because i f we laugh, then we won't cry. If we poke fun, then we can also have some fun. If we turn l i f e into what i s funny/humorous/amusing, i t becomes more bearable. If we don't always take ourselves too seriously, we w i l l see other q u a l i t i e s i n other people, the other side even to the dark underside. And then we can carry on, despite and i n spite of everything. And i f we laugh, e s p e c i a l l y at ourselves or the events i n our own l i v e s , we w i l l heal the r i f t s , seal the love, mend the hurt, b u i l d the t r u s t , and l e t the laughter r i n g i n our ears, longer and much louder than any of the c r u e l l e s t words that can be spoken. As a writer whose principal literary device is comedy, I am often asked if the kind of humour I employ in my writing could be called "feminist"...the much-vaunted "laughter of recognition" is elicited by the character in order to preclude the recognition of pain. Erika Ritter (Ritter 1990, 221-223) Nothing of mine published i n the newspaper for ages. Publish my Collections one. Publish my Santa one. Publish my P o l i t i c s of Fear one. Publish me, oh, publish me. I need the support, the l i f t , the f i x , my words i n p r i n t , holding me together as I f a l l apart inside, my words staring back at me as I look out at my world spinning recklessly around me, the words standing firm and erect and decisive and uniform, unlike me, f a l l i n g , f a l l i n g , further into black holes, down, down, past where A l i c e went, into the depths of utter confusion, t e r r i b l e want, desperate acts. Wanton, reckless, abandoned acts. Acts of need. Acts of memory. Acts of hope and desire and unrequited passion. Acts of writing. Acts of sentiment. Acts of fear. The writer need not worry about what she or he should say: that is poison...What the writer does is 204 look inside and tell us what is there. Never mind the embarrassment of it, or the noses in the air one will see, or the rejections that will result. If you know what you have done is the only thing you can do, good. Kristjana Gunnars (Gunnars 1990, 129) And then I finally started listening to my own heart because it was the only sound left in the room. Ann Ireland (Ireland 1990, 158) Free for a while to think, dream, read, write, sort out my many c o n f l i c t i n g emotions, l e t a l l my many thoughts spin through my mind, inside that c i r c l e of f e e l i n g that moves ever so quickly, turning round and round and round. Free to not read, not write, not think, just be. Just kiss daughters and be gratef u l to bake cookies and to remember my journal waiting f o r my words. Free to ignore even the tasks that I have set for myself over the holidays, the tasks that I have set for myself come January once again. The books that l i e unopened. The words that l i v e i n my mind, not written down. The goals that form part of my dreams, spoken and unspoken, r e a l and imagined, tangible and untouchable. Free to l e t the pen s l i d e over the page when a poem i s n ' t there, when a research assignment i s n ' t due, when a book i s n ' t appealing enough at the moment. Free to look at myself i n the mirror i n my new, flowered, flowing, romantic new dress, around my neck the choker that my daughters bought for me with t h e i r own money (such a pleasant reminder of love and r e s p o n s i b i l i t y ) . Free to r e l i s h love present, love past, love future. A l l the p o s s i b i l i t i e s that words hold. A l l the friendships and family that I cherish. We want, need, the stories of others. We need, too, to place our own stories beside theirs, to compare, weigh, judge, forgive, and to find, by becoming something other than ourselves, an angle of vision that renews our image of the world. Carol Shields (Shields 1990, 257) When I read a friend's f i c t i o n , I thought I understood the pain, could share the ( f i c t i o n a l ) journey where the words were woven together so powerfully to convey someone's raw emotion, someone's painfu l experiences, someone's journey into the darkness and the l i g h t on the other side of that darkness. The journey was with words. The pleasure as well as the pain of those words. The love i n the words and a l l the s t r i f e (and hate) that love caused. U n t i l more words, healing words, s p l i t open the sil e n c e . My words have come out of my own long silence, and I l e t well-chosen words heal me. And I, too, face the pain as well as the pleasure i n the wild, abandoned stream of words, face the darkness right i n the midst of the l i g h t of a l l those words. Face the madness of a l l the wildness of words. 205 I understand the never-ending journey. I understand i t and I share i t , because i t i s somehow my own journey. The moment I f i r s t read the f i c t i o n a l words I was touched by them and moved by them; t h i s moment now months l a t e r I remember the words and make them mine. The st o r i e s of the journey are written and re- written and unwritten, always changing. And I am up to my neck in it, this shitty, sexy language, shaped and developed by a patriarchal frame of reference, excluding me and all women, a male m(y)nefield of difficulties, words capable of inflicting so much pain, and also so much pleasure. Aritha Van Herk (Van Herk 1990, 272) a scream is an appraisal. you. a scream is a refusal. we. refuse to keep in all that silence pressing through the wall, o women, women who write. Daphne Marlatt (Marlatt 1991, 61) So how do we, as writers, women, Jews, integrate into our work what we really are, as opposed to these refutations or denials, these shadows of otherness, these acquiescences?...As women and Jews we share a common posture; a tenuous, ambiguous position in a social structure which is emphatically not our own and yet which we know and understand intimately, profoundly. Rhea Tregebov (Tregebov 1990, 270) For where else but in poetic language may she, the subject, be inscribed in all her (unnameable) complexity? Gail Scott (Scott 1990, 24) This Is the Poem no poems wrapped i n my green wool coat reach across and hug a greeting expansive f l o u r i s h hesitant laugh: merry C h r i s t m a s — n o — chanukah—no—that 1s o v e r — well — happy holidays anyway sea of seasonal a c t i v i t y emotion suspended: swept aside behind the crumbs behind my garbage can i n the kitchen 206 awaiting attention ( I ' l l get to you when I damn well please) curiously f l a t outside: sea green coat removed inside: some important organ missing no poems I l i s t e n over and over each s t i l t e d greeting sets me further apart a f l u s h of i s o l a t i o n spreads through me (hot water I sink into every morning i n the bathtub) eyes focused on a mouth ta l k i n g l i p s smiling disoriented heads f l o a t i n g above the f i r e p l a c e logs burn i n t e n s i t y I shiver as the warmth radiates i t s glow not belonging odd woman out no poems just the dust debris of the day holiday revelry end-of-year introspection suspended animation f l a t calm buried second skin of discomfort a part of the f a m i l i a r i t y apart from the warmth an e x i s t e n t i a l fur coat 1'etranger wrapped i n s e n s i b i l i t i e s close that which sets me apart close the poem t h i s voyage of strangeness l e t s the words out my head aches the e f f o r t of dreaming t h i s i s the poem INTER LOG Re-contextualizing Deft De t a i l She couldn't quite pinpoint when i t f i r s t began to happen, or when she f i r s t noticed that i t was happening, but the writing which she c a r e f u l l y completed at work was beginning to s p i l l over into her personal l i f e . It was her job to preview the tapes of upcoming Public Broadcasting programs which claimed to provide a special feature for the viewing impaired, then write a detailed t r a n s c r i p t of what she observed i n the images and pictures of the program as i t advanced, looking through a glass window of second sight for the hopelessly b l i n d with perfect hearing. This took imagination as well as s k i l l , f o r she didn't just examine the programs and comment on the objects i n the background, the people who had gathered to move or speak, the change of frame to a d i f f e r e n t location, a flashback to the past here, a forward to the future there. No, she also had to consider where the narrator, with his f l a t , unemotional, tempered, well-modulated voice could i n s e r t her precise pieces of visionary prose, without hampering the flow of the production or the d i a l o g i c text. She even wrote s c r i p t for the beginning animated c r e d i t s which introduced the Mystery series, although t h i s was far less complicated since she only had to write the clean minutia of how each black, animated figure f e l l down on top of each tombstone, hair f a l l i n g back i n a dark cascade of deathly shroud, without worrying about anything but the r o l l i c k i n g music i n the background or the tid y , spare words. She was proud of her work. It gave her a s a t i s f a c t o r y sense of accomplishment, not just that she was a s s i s t i n g the less fortunate than herself (who could not envision a l l those important, progressive or c l a s s i c a l , i n t e r e s t i n g r e f l e c t i o n s ) , but she was creating meagre, restrained prose that dwelled on fine d e t a i l devoid of any extraneous emotion. She enjoyed her work, although at times she wished the narrator did not d e l i v e r her well-thought-out, well-timed sight sentences, i n quite such an unobtrusive way, or with quite such a barren, hopeless tone meant to be a discreet cough behind the hand of a symphony patron. If the truth be t o l d , at the same time that she admired her own handy work, often tuning i n to the l a t e s t program, whether Pride and Prejudice, or Testament of Friendship or some modern depiction of a female B r i t i s h Police Inspector encountering prejudice and sexism among her fellow workers and victims, she had not yet once been able to watch a whole, scripted episode a l l the way through to the end. Not even half of the f i r s t chapter. Nor a mere f i v e minutes worth, i f she r e a l l y wanted to 208 admit the r e a l i t y to herself. She could not bear to watch those profound l i v e s or l i s t e n to those prosaic s t o r i e s with her own b e a u t i f u l , f a u l t l e s s , p a r t i c u l a r commentary sandwiched so h e a r t l e s s l y i n between. She occasionally questioned the point of providing the impaired viewers with such a t r i v i a l i z e d account of what was happening plot-wise through the movement of the characters, or the placement of the objects i n the set, or the s h i f t of time from one frame to the next. (Shouldn't they attempt to follow the story just by l i s t e n i n g to the text of words, not worry about the colored, f l a s h i n g scenes of hope or despair? But t h i s was uncharitable, for she had perfect v i s i o n , and she l i k e d her job, and did not want to suggest herself out of employment.) Once she purposely wrote i n a d e t a i l which was not t h e r e — "he moved his hand back behind his j a c k e t " — b u t which would never a l t e r the e f f e c t of the o v e r a l l theme, just to see i f i t made a difference to the story. But she had not been able to watch longer than the f i v e minutes she forced herself to focus on the screen, l i s t e n to the narrator's i n t r u s i v e comments, so well-written by herself, and take i n the dialogue of the characters as they spoke between the plot s h i f t s of t h e i r l i v e s , and her detailed renderings. Thus she couldn't t e l l whether her l i t t l e experiment made any difference at a l l . She did learn that i t could go undetected since no sighted producer or d i r e c t o r or Public Broadcasting administrator or f r i e n d of the channel had ever complained about t h i s additional l i n e . Not even the narrator, whose job i t was to read her s c r i p t of i n s i g h t f u l words, weaving them i n and out of f l i c k e r i n g frames of human suffering, joy or sorrow, seemed to notice that extra hand behind the back of the jacket, or i f he did notice, didn't deem i t worth comment. Perhaps he edited i t out himself, which was not his r i g h t . She would never know for sure u n t i l the repeat program—if she could just watch beyond those f i r s t few minutes of contextual d i f f i c u l t y . And she wanted to know i f that upstart narrator had played around with her s c r i p t . To repeat, she couldn't quite remember the f i r s t time that her work began to a f f e c t her private l i f e . A l l she knew was that one night when she served her lover a bowl of homemade soup which she had kept warm at the stove for two hours u n t i l he could get away and come to her apartment at the pre-arranged time (this wasn't always easy, you understand, he had a wife and children, r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s at work, he was a regional sales administrative executive at a large corporation), she saw him bring the hot spoon to his mouth, s p i l l i n g droplets of soup upon his white now-greatly-wrinkled s h i r t and drop the spoon i n the steaming bowl, sending out globules of brown broth and pureed vegetables spraying onto her green and white flower-bordered rug. She did not r e a l l y hear him swear, "Shit!" unabashedly but kept watching as he picked up the white table napkin and wiped his chin, moving a foot on top of some of the ground vegetables and grinding them into the green and white rug. 2 0 9 As the evening progressed, more and more actions seemed to loom up out of t h i s apartment scene with her lover, and dominate the room. She didn't f e e l his hand touch her breast, she saw him move a hand across to her and place i t on her l e f t breast. She couldn't seem to lose herself i n his wet, passionate forceful-gentle-roving kisses, she saw the man turn to the woman and kiss her for a time. When l a t e r on i n the evening she lay beside him i n her bed, where once she was usually mindful of his strong, powerful force and presence flung across her sheets, she now saw the man and woman l i e side by side i n bed, his foot folded up beside her form, r e f l e c t e d i n the mirror. The telephone rings, the woman reaches across the man to answer i t . The man r i s e s from the bed and puts his clothes on. Then the woman replaces the telephone receiver and l i e s back down upon the bed. The man kisses the woman and leaves the room. The woman does not speak but s t i l l l i e s upon the bed. The hand of the man moves back behind his jacket. The woman smiles. * * * The part equals the whole.(Lechte 1990, 97) The 'truth' or the pertinence of s c r i p t u r a l practice i s of another order; i t i s undecidable (unprovable, un v e r i f i a b l e ) . . . . ( K r i s t e v a c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 104) Not simply words create meaning, but the contextual relationship between them.(Lechte 1990, 107) ...poetic language, founded on the log i c of ambivalence, also embodies prosaic speech. (Lechte 1990, 110) ...each element... c a r r i e s the whole of the poetic message.(Kristeva c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 117) 210 INTERLOG Re-sisting In my graduate curriculum course we are asked to devise a conception of curriculum and produce a twelve page paper. I ask i f I can include poetry and narrative and write some diverse discourse. I receive support for my endeavour, as long as I f u l f i l l the requirements of the assignment. When I receive t h i s paper back, I am encouraged to seek publication i n a curriculum journal. One of the journal's reviewers comments: "This paper i s couched i n unhelpful vague metaphorical language." Writing i s impossible without some kind of e x i l e . (Kristeva c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 66) Poetic language... i s f u l l of meaning...calling for interpretation. This fu l l n e s s d i f f e r e n t i a t e s i t from the communicative language of everyday l i f e . . . i n communicative language, the presence of a ful l n e s s of meaning passes unnoticed by consciousness. It passes over, or r e s i s t s , the possible p l u r a l i t y of meanings evident i n the language of communication i n the form of ambiguity and nonsense... Consciousness and i t s agent, the ego, thus have a tendency to r e s i s t poetry- -to r e s i s t the notion that consciousness, too, i s a product of language, and that the subject i s thereby divided between two heterogeneous systems: the conscious and the unconscious. (Lechte 1990, 35) It i s prec i s e l y one of the features of poetic language... that i t embodies contradiction. A text does not (simply) obey the rules of l o g i c , or grammar, or the characterization of mathematical formalization; or at least i t does a great deal more.... (Lechte 1990, 95) ...what could not be conceptualized, o b j e c t i f i e d , represented, or simply imagined, tended to be d i s q u a l i f i e d from entering the f i e l d of discussion. (Lechte 1990, 97) ...although these young women 1 have both learned how to write papers, they have not yet learned to w r i t e — that i s , to be able to communicate by expressing t h e i r own ideas, feelings, and voices on paper.' (Bolker c i t e d i n Belenky et a l . 1986, 108) There can be no closure; there can be no f i n a l answers. . .Neither. . .King Lear nor Picasso's 211 Guernica...solves anything, o f f e r s any guidelines. They do, however, make one see and hear and f e e l i n such a fashion that one's questions sharpen, one's head aches. Marcel Proust once wrote that the writer and painter are l i k e eye s p e c i a l i s t s for those who attend to t h e i r works. 'The treatment—with the help of t h e i r paintings, t h e i r w r i t i n g s — i s not always pleasant. When the treatment i s concluded, they t e l l us: You can look now...' (Proust i n Polanyi 1964, 200). What he was describing was what V i r g i n i a Woolf c a l l e d a 'shock of awareness,' an experience that shakes conventional c e r t a i n t i e s as i t opens the way for something new. (Greene 1984, 131) 212 Interlog Rcj-signifying The following i s an excerpt from the work I did i n a graduate curriculum course: Giroux, Pinar and Penna (1981) c a l l curriculum i n 1981 a " f i e l d i n evolution." This could c e r t a i n l y be applied to feminist c u r r i c u l a , which for a long time and to an extent even now, have not found a stable niche within any curriculum orientation. Largely t h i s i s due to omission. However, to contend that a feminine curriculum i s outside of any curriculum p o s i t i o n seems to render i t i n v i s i b l e as well as exterior. To the degree that a feminist curriculum works towards s o c i a l change and i s based on transformative action, t h i s i s largely untrue. And so I prefer to locate t h i s curriculum within the reconceptualist and humanistic camps, recognizing the s i m i l a r i t i e s between them while also honouring the differences. The reconceptualist curriculum recognizes s u b j e c t i v i t y , the art of interpretation, the c e n t r a l i t y of i n t e n t i o n a l i t y to understanding human action, and the p o l i t i c a l (power re l a t i o n s , class c o n f l i c t s , resistance, and the p o l i t i c a l nature of culture, meaning and knowledge) (Giroux et a l . 1981, 14). Feminism (or feminisms) analyzes and regards gender as the p o l i t i c a l and h i s t o r i c a l and s o c i a l force shaping society. "For feminist educators, feminism i s a primary lens through which the world i s interpreted and acted upon" (Luke and Gore 1992, 138). Through t h i s lens, s u b j e c t i v i t y , interpretation, i n t e n t i o n a l i t y 213 and p o l i t i c s are recognized. Since feminism recognizes that there are "gendered s t r u c t u r a l d i v i s i o n s upon which l i b e r a l capitalism and i t s knowledge industries are based" (Luke and Gore 1992, 37), thought and action (praxis) are related to awareness and transformation of these gender d i v i s i o n s . Feminism, then, shares those features of reconceptualism that lead to a more just, creative, r a d i c a l existence, a r i s i n g out of so c i a l analysis and transformative action, but a feminist curriculum's search f o r truth and struggle f o r power i s h i s t o r i c a l l y rooted i n and largely concerned with changing the s o c i a l order for women as well as for men, i n ways that l i b e r a t e and emancipate women from gender inequality as well as class and race c o n f l i c t s . While there seems to be no disagreement with such ideals i n reconceptualism, there i s a stunning lack of willingness to grapple with the issues of feminism (Luke and Gore 1992, 1-12). For example, Fr e i r e contends that "the concept of the gender struggle i s p o l i t i c a l and not sexual," that "the fundamental issue i s the p o l i t i c a l v i s i o n of sex, and not the sexist v i s i o n of sex" (Freire and Macedo 1993, 175). Many feminist scholars and educators are highly c r i t i c a l of the reconceptualist base which i s founded "by the fathers," and which i s centered on the "primacy of male consciousness" (Luke and Gore 1992, 35). In fact, feminist scholars i n s i s t that i f a creative democracy and s o c i a l / s e l f empowerment (both features of a reconceptualized curriculum) are to move beyond that envisioned by Dewey (Luke 214 and Gore 1992, 29), we must take care not to universalize oppression, the oppressed, the struggle or the resistance, but must situate these within a s p e c i f i c history which has omitted and excluded and dehumanized women (Luke and Gore 1992, 33). The new sociology of education which emerged i n the 70's and which focussed on how to make education meaningful i n a c r i t i c a l and emancipatory way can be regarded as the h i s t o r i c a l base to a reconceptualization of curriculum, one which has also influenced feminists' role i n education. This new sociology emphasized the reproductive function of schooling, but although i t provided necessary c r i t i c i s m , i t was a "language of despair," with no hope (Giroux c i t e d i n Fr e i r e 1985). Such despair and hopelessness were tempered by the work of Giroux and others, and i n p a r t i c u l a r , were recast by the philosophy of Paulo F r e i r e . While F r e i r e did not theorize gender, feminist curriculum has been deeply influenced by him, and t h i s i s p a r t i c u l a r l y true of P a t t i Lather's women's studies course (Lather 1991). Notably, F r e i r e ' s notion of conscientization undergirds Lather's (and other feminists') c u r r i c u l a r conceptions. This notion embraces the empowering id e a l of transformation, through self-awareness, consciousness-raising, s o c i a l action and change. Such transformation i s central to Freire's b e l i e f s and can be regarded as the underlying meaning to a transformational curriculum. Through Fr e i r e ' s conscientization, that i s , awareness of soc i o c u l t u r a l r e a l i t y that shapes one's l i f e and gives r i s e to the a b i l i t y to transform r e a l i t y (McNeil 1990, 215 37), the in d i v i d u a l who i s part of a larger society, and i n feminism, the female who i s part of a gendered society, recognize oppression from within as well as without. Critique leads to p o s s i b i l i t y (Giroux c i t e d i n Freire 1985). Despair changes to hope, the v i s i o n of a changed society. The curriculum i s related to society as i t should be (McNeil 1990, 46). S c h o o l i n g — i n t h i s case, P a t t i Lather's women's studies c o u r s e — i s an agent for subversion and p o l i t i c a l change. Teaching i s oppositional. Knowledge i s oppositional. And t h i s opposition, t h i s subversion, t h i s change, and the v i s i o n of what "should be," reconstruct, reconceptualize, and transform the learner, the teacher, the curriculum. But although Giroux warns that we should not get caught up i n the rhetoric of n e u t r a l i t y i n schooling and curriculum (Giroux et a l . 1981, 403), i t i s the feminists who state succinctly that " c i t i z e n s h i p i n the democratic l i b e r a l state i s gender s p e c i f i c " (Luke and Gore 1992, 32); i t i s the feminists who ask "what d i v e r s i t y do we silence i n the name of li b e r a t o r y education" (33); i t i s the feminists who warn that we can no long exclude women "by f a i l u r e to c r i t i q u e masculinist t h e o r e t i c a l narratives" (29); i t i s the feminists who challenge "the outer l i m i t s of the epistemological horizon where the masculinist l o g i c of the universal subject and i t s naming of the other are inscribed" (Luke and Gore 1992, 37). To t r u l y democratize education, "we must engage with feminism through the analysis of sexual d i v i s i o n and subjugation" or else we have 216 simply rewritten progressivism and humanism with c r i t i c a l words and no c r i t i c a l substance (138). Therein l i e s the c r i t i c a l difference between the reconceptualist curriculum and a feminist reconceptualist curriculum. * * * The following i s a poem I wrote during the same graduate curriculum course: A Feminine Curriculum a l l the women not on the pages s i l e n t l y there shaping education man acts upon the world as object man acts upon woman whose r e a l i t y i s eliminated? getting smart means academic adversary: geronimo, giroux! now I've upset you! straw men written by straw women who claim i n the l a s t chapter maybe t h i s voice doesn't r i n g true l i v e d experience b u t — impenetrable paragraphs no spaces between the words just strings of post-modern neo-marxist babble a new kind of baby t a l k mothers don't understand i n flux only more and more questions my b e l i e f s a set body through the years l i k e a chameleon now soaking up whatever color comes my way the white of everything the black of nothing d i s t i n c t me, Renee a new shade a d i f f e r e n t tone 217 bordered by the white or black what color w i l l I be when I am done? the colors leaking the colors dripping the colors drying me, Renee never-ending-spectrum getting smart means painting a l l those pages with me The excerpt i s an example of communicative academic language. Non-metaphorical. Derrida: "Language i s always already double" (cited i n Lechte 1990, 95). Derrida: Trace. Absence. Differance. Erasure. The poem i s an example of poetic language. Metaphorical. A f u l l n e s s of meaning. (Lechte 1990, 35) The part equals the whole. (Lechte 1990, 97) The writer i s a phobic who succeeds i n metaphorizing i n order to keep from being frightened to death; instead he [she] comes to l i f e again i n signs. (Kristeva c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 161) 218 INTERLOG Re-fusing Carnival I don't think masks are meant to be worn a l l the time. Nor are the changing faces of a l l the masks anything l i k e a face which can be a grimace or a grin, laughing or brimming with tears, safely hidden underneath the face of the l a t e s t mask donned. ^3rze face of trie rna.it. olsauxes wtzat lies lefLind. I've got a set of masks, made by an artist/mask-maker to my s p e c i f i c a t i o n s . This very loosely entailed asking her to create some p l a i n , white "drama" masks which show l i t t l e emotion when not worn; the "people" face masks which were her trademark; any masks she desired (for example, unusual half-masks with teeth, colored-feathered masks); and some smaller-faced masks which would f i t small children. I f e e l lucky to have t h i s set of masks—which I was allowed to order and use and eventually keep when I was once a drama consultant. These masks have been well- used, by children who I worked with i n schools, by teachers/prospective teachers I taught who were hoping to learn about teaching drama i n schools, by the children I now teach at school, and by my own children. ^We axeate masks, to express, expLoxe, pexfoxm, aompaxe... I learned how to use these masks from a woman clown, a r e a l l y creative, zany, off-the-wall woman named Gumboot Loll i p o p . I haven't seen Gumboot for years, but I know that she and Conrad Flaps, her one-time clown partner, went t h e i r separate ways. Gumboot and I once b r i e f l y shared the pain of our respective miscarriages i n a bathroom at a hotel conference, Gumboot i n a rush to be o f f to perform another of her pathos- f i l l e d , c h i l d - l i k e performances, reminding me so much of my own second miscarriage when I, too, simply carried on with the workshop I was i n the middle of conducting. d\l\asfis aome to life only txiefly wizen we use tlzem. Dolly—Gumboot— teaches that you must treat a mask with respect, never placing i t nose-down on a table. She i s mystical about masks, too, suggesting one always face away from the audience when donning the mask or removing i t , so the audience cannot see you make these changes. Dolly claims the mask takes over b r i e f l y i f you l e t i t , i f you look deeply enough and long 219 enough i n a mirror before you turn around. £<jsxy mai.lL ii dijfs.xs.rit, hut ths. tsahnicjus of wsaxincj thsm xsmaim ths lams. I have seen t h i s happen with both children and adults. It i s t h i s same qual i t y of losing oneself that also frightens some children and adults badly, so that when I've used masks with groups, I have learned to make i t clear that i t i s always optional whether or not one wishes to t r y on a mask or share the experience i n the f i r s t place. Some children never do t r y on that mask, or t r y i t on at the mirror but refuse to turn around. Most adults that I have worked with w i l l i n g l y t r y the mask, even the more reserved people finding i t comfortable to hide behind t h i s oval mirror. aan hids hshind a mailz that aan SK^OIS OUX Lnnsx ishvss. The masks are not meant to be worn for long: the glue smells, the material on some of them i s rough, and despite the maskmaker's foam pads, every mask f i t s every face somewhat d i f f e r e n t l y . I always remind young children to breathe. They tend to hold t h e i r breath behind the i n i t i a l excitement and exploration of t h i s new and temporary face, not r e a l l y r e a l i z i n g that they must s t i l l draw a i r from the sides and nose holes of the mask i n order not to pass out! ^Maihi axs ai tsmjioxaxij ai ths length of tlms ivs hssfi thsm on oux faasi. My favorite mask i n my c o l l e c t i o n i s the small orange one with a tear painted underneath the eyehole. Strangely enough, i t does not always look sad, depending on who wears i t and how a person moves i n response to the character she absorbs from looking i n the mirror. cJf maih ahangsi hy ths way ons cvsaxi it. Dolly also advises strongly that you never speak aloud when wearing a f u l l mask. Such sound i s reserved only for a h a l f - mask or a mask which has a small hole removed at the area where the mouth should be. There are times when i t i s impossible to t e l l who i s behind the mask, despite one's recognition of moving limbs or bending forms or improvisational movements. It i s also impossible to know what expression i s on the face that l i e s beneath a p a r t i c u l a r mask, despite the eyes that radiate through the eyeholes, and I know t h i s because I've t r i e d i t . You can wear a mask and look very t r a g i c but be quietly smiling to yourself. You can look very jaunty i n some mask, depending on how you move an arm or hand or place i t i n juxtaposition to your body, but be t r u l y looking and f e e l i n g rather unhappy a f t e r a l l , 2 2 0 underneath the surface of that mask. <^A/\asks lie at the same time that tizzy tell a truth. I use masks with children to help them see the poetry and the p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n masks and movement. I use masks with children because i t i s always ( s t i l l ) very i n t e r e s t i n g to t r y on another face f o r a few minutes and imagine i t i s you. I use masks with children so they might experience for a b r i e f time at leas t , the awe and magic and even mysticism of drama. I use masks with children since l i k e puppets, masks sometimes free shy and reserved children into expression or of f e r active, acting- out children a safe outlet. <zzA/[asks teach us that we are free to he our/selves. But I always c a r e f u l l y bundle up those s o l i d , unchanging- on-the-table, mask face forms and put them away for another day. They're not meant to be used a l l the time, and I would miss the f l u i d eyes and ever-changing, r e a l - l i f e skin and bone expressions of the small faces I teach, faces I am always looking into and tr y i n g to draw out. ^When you Look at a mask face, only the eyes return, your stars, c/j face Lsn t just the. eyes. -^hissing are the arlnkLss, the tears fLowing, the way the mouth moves atony with the zyes in a smile or frown, or puzzlement dr wonder. Sven the cheeks move. <^£^ are framed in a face that moves. yy[asks are rigid forms that horrow life triefly from people who live it. * * * Carnival: the "make-believe overturning of law and exi s t i n g s o c i a l norms" (Lechte 1990, 105). Poetry becomes, i n Kristeva's analysis, a way of maintaining s o c i a l bonds through what i s destructive of the s o c i a l , and conducive to madness. Poetry i s c a p i t a l i s t society's c a r n i v a l , a way of keeping death and madness at bay. Poetry i s a refusal of a ' f l i g h t into madness.' (Lechte 1990, 6) 221 DIALOG T H R E E 222 Re-poetizing. Re-identifying, Re-theorizing Poetry i s the culture of a people. We are poets even when we don't write poems... (Nikki Giovanni c i t e d i n Minh-ha 1989, 15) / believe implicitly that poetry is the culture of a people, that there is poetry in people as well as words. Homi Bhabha (1987) suggests poetry and the reading of a poem are a means for understanding other cultures, and I would add that if we read these poems deconstructively, that is, if we allow for the inter/textual space that permits inter/action, inter/weaving, and inter/rogation, such a suggestion is important. A poem is a construction, too, as my eight-year-old daughter Rebecca's poem demonstrates. Still, her poem speaks about her selves, about culture. A poem can be read many ways, just as culture can be read many ways. A poem is autobiographical, too. We need to rethink how we view the autobiographical aspects of writing, how we view culture... The Wind and I There I stand just me and the wind A silence f a l l s upon my wife's grave I stand there gazing at the meadow There I stand the wind getting weaker Night f a l l s as I slowly turn to go home There I stand just me and the wind Rebecca Norman, 8. Writing, i n a way, i s l i s t e n i n g to the others' language and reading with the others' eyes. The more ears I am able to hear with, the farther I see the p l u r a l i t y of meaning and the less I lend myself to the i l l u s i o n of a single message. (Minh-ha 1989, 30) / believe, too, that poetry and all forms of poetic language are important ways of speaking and knowing, ones that embrace a multiplicity of meanings, a multiplicity 223 of metaphors, memories, musings. A part of me wants to let poetic language speak for itself, let the poetry be read by the reader who can live between the lines, dis/placing herself in the words and spaces. Another part of me knows there is much the poet/writer can say about her selves and her writing, and this, too, is a kind of poetry that needs to be inscribed and heard. A theory of the soul? The notion of poetry as culture, poetry as theory is enormously appealing. I am a poet, and I speak through my poems, which re-present me and culture. But as a poet, I speak in many voices: some joyous, some contentious, some feminist, some pain-filled, some respectfid, some essentialist, some post-modern, some unsparing, some despairing...Is the poem the poet? Perhaps only for one brief moment in time, for no sooner do the words inscribe experience, another experience comes along and rewrites the poet, the already written poems be/coming a record of words which is subject to the multi-faceted subject who recorded them and the multi- faceted subjects who read them. I l i v e a post-modern l i f e . I sometimes write post-modern discourse and poetry. I construct, del construct and r e / c o n s t r u c t . Why the resistance, I am asked when someone recaptures what I've said and wonders if everything i s constructed. Because a part of me believes that some things just are. And should be. Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind (1990). Do we construct everything? Does everything construct us? Is there a t h i r d here, some unknown, some psychic force that i s impervious to the post-modern? Call me mystical. The mind e x i s t i n g deep within a chasm of Being and Be/coming, not constructed because not everything can be b u i l t , not constructing us because we in some deep mysterious sense already are. I have held three newborn babies in my arms and looked deep into already knowing eyes...(Renee Norman) Nowhere was it more apparent to me that the poet/poem can be rewritten by others than in my recent lived experience with a poem I wrote. This poem, "Power Games," was published in the newspaper. A prose poem, it is a humourous but sharp-edged account of my twenty year marriage living with my husband and our three children. The poem ends redeemingly, filled with a love that recognizes imperfections as well as what is important. What controversy this poem created! One reader (a male academic) wrote and called me a man and husband hater. And how dare I invoke the name of two long- dead writers (Virginia and Leonard Woolf)! Another reader (a woman poet, I later learned) wrote to say that I failed to connect to the lives of women. People have no sense of humour, commented the editor when I phoned to ask him how many of these letters he had up his editorial sleeve. A woman and her daughter then wrote to defend my words, calling me insightful, a kindred spirit, and offering sympathy for 224 my plight. Meanwhile, my husband, who is adjusting to living not only with a poet and writer, but one who sends her work to the newspaper, responded to the poem with: 1. initial pride and understanding about what I was saying 2. increasing resentment about what I was saying as each letter from a reader appeared on Saturday morning 3. a request for a copy of the poem which he took to work in order to solicit his colleagues' reactions. One woman asked if the house was in my name. A younger, unmarried man pronounced: She loves you. My mother read the poem and asked: Were you mad at Don when you wrote this? I read the poem in a writing class, and the women laughed; the men looked stunned. My sister phoned and told me she cried when she read the poem; it was so authentic. A woman friend said her husband was incensed by the poem; she felt he was consumed with guilt because he had done everything I wrote about in the poem. I read the poem at a conference and a colleague called it brutal. At a family gathering of my husband's relatives, my husband's sister commented: Women like this poem, but I don't think men do. Her husband commented: Sounds like Don to me, and laughed. A cousin (whose first feminist wife left him, taking all the contents of the house with her) refused to look at me or speak to me throughout the evening. ...the tension i n teaching, i n l i v i n g , at home. If you're a l i v e , there's tension. If you're dead, no tension. (Aoki 1994) For the surface a g i t a t i o n of the passing car as i t sunk grazed something very profound. (Woolf 1925, 21) Perhaps poetry is the culture of a people just because it makes many places for many others. Perhaps poetry can be theory because it combines lived experience with structures which can house these experiences, always leaving the doors and windows open... Be-longing in a poem—a new inter-cultural strategy? ? (Renee Norman) Mommy, my daughter asked as I was scrubbing ink off our white patio table. Do you like the table more than us? As I scrub some of the ink off the poetic language I offer in the logs, I am remembering that I love my daughters more than tables. I love the poetry more than theory. As I write this, my family is away, giving me time and space to write. I found a little unicorn drawn with pencil on the window sill. I know this is Erin's artwork, 225 because my four-year-old draws horses and unicorns always. I left the unicorn unscrubbed on the window sill, a reminder to me of what is most important. . . . i t i s s t i l l unusual to encounter instances where theory involved the voiding, rather than the affirming or even r e i t e r a t i n g , of t h e o r e t i c a l categories. Instances where poeticalness i s not primarily an aesthetic response, nor l i t e r a r i n e s s merely a question of pure verbalism. And instances where the borderline between t h e o r e t i c a l and non-theoretical writings i s blurred and questioned, so that theory and poetry necessarily mesh, both determined by an awareness of the sign and the d e s t a b i l i z a t i o n of the meaning and writing subject. (Minh-ha 1989, 42) The post-modern. Interrogating identity. My own resistance to the post-modernisms that color my own thought and writing. In an article I recently wrote: I am so sick of myself; I mean selves. The decentering of our selves gives us even more selves to focus upon. What draws me to phenomenology and Ted Aoki's work is hope and goodness and vision. What worries me in the post-modern is what I perceive could lead to a lack of ethics, a kind of fickleness that exists in contradiction. I do not believe that everything is fixed. Neither do I believe that each contradiction should be an excuse for whatever we say. Along the way to the post-modern, have I lost my desire to seek consistency in chaos? Identities. Poet. Each poet who writes is interpreted by Homi Bhabha (1987). I like that. Poetry as theory. Poetry taking over where phenomenology leaves off, to reverse what van Manen cites in Researching Lived Experience (1992, 19). But something feels like it is missing. What? The poem is not only words, not only eloquent silences, not only created spaces for others. The poem is art, a symbol, a feeling, never captured but there all the same. When I read a poem, I hunt for that feeling. Does theory feel ? At the bookstore when I approached the Special Orders Desk to try and obtain the Poetry Markets in Canada book, the woman at the counter subject-searched poetry combined with markets and got nursery rhyme books. To market, to market to buy a fat poem. To market, to market to buy a fat pig. To market, to market to buy the latest book. To market, to market to buy the latest theory?? (Renee Norman) I sat with my daughters and wrote out my "Renee s Story" poem. I lived with 226 my words in a way I have not had time to do for a while. Not only writing the poem, but placing the words artistically on calligraphy paper with my calligraphy pen. The pen scratching out the letters. Like a spade in the earth. Away from the word processor. Away from double-spaced, paginated and one of ten required pages. It felt so good. A returning home, a returning to the earth. (My husband laughed when I told him this, remarking that I never garden in our yard. But I used to, I replied. Before we had children. Before I began to write. Now my children are my garden; my garden is my writing, where I grow flowers (and weeds), where I hoe and fertilize and move plants and pull those weeds and watch those flowers grow, picking blooms to display at times, or leaving them to open freely, until each petal drops away, another nutrient for the earth—the text, the child. I tinker with words, putter around in ideas, dig in ideologies, nurture and am nourished by my children, my poems...) I didn't like my first calligraphic attempt, and I did a second. Better. But all this space to the left. The left side of knowing? Ah. Get out those dried flowers from years ago. Arrange them and stick them to the page with special clear paper, the dried flowers sometimes rising up off my arrangement to meet the stickiness at the merest breath of movement. This is living poetically, as poet and academic Carl Leggo speaks of it. Living artistically. I don't always think things. I feel them. I want to feel post-modern theory. We have feminisms post-modern isms pre-modernisms modernism post-modern modernists (Virginia Woolf) post-modern feminism post-colonialism and now post post-modernisms. I WANT TO ASK: WHAT IS ALL THIS MULTIVOCAL MUMBO-JUMBO? Alison Jaggar who spoke in Vancouver this last spring defined a feminist as someone who works to eliminate suppression of women. I WANT TO ASK: DO POST-MODERNISMS WORK AGAINST SUPPRESSION OF WOMEN? Somer Brodribb writes that Nancy Hartsock comments: isn't it interesting that just as we women are discovering our voices, along comes post-modernism and problematizes the "I" (Brodribb 1992, 46). I WANT TO ASK: IF THE "I" IS DECENTERED, WHERE'S MY CENTRE GONE? THE ANDROGYNOUS ZONE SEEMS ENDLESSLY COCENTRIC. WOMEN HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN WHAT IT MEANS TO BE DIVIDED. ALL THOSE SELVES TO JUGGLE IN THE AIR LIKE PLATES. 227 Somer Brodribb satirizes the Post-modern Man with a l i s t of traits. I WANT TO ASK: IS THERE A POST-MODERN WOMAN? AM I A POST-MODERN WOMAN? IF THERE IS A POST-MODERN WOMAN, LIST HER READING MEN, LISTENING TO MEN, BUT READING AS A WOMAN, LISTENING AS A WOMAN. I attended several sessions/lectures on post-modernism this last year. At one, the leader apologized for his patriarchal model of lecture/listen/compete to speak and then proceeded to use it. Another presentation was humourous, a group of administrators, three men and a woman, trying to deal with post- modern theory in educational leadership, placing colored transparencies on the overhead and then laughingly labelling them post-modern. In another presentation, a woman self- deprecatingly commented that it's cool to put post-modern in your thesis or dissertation or paper. I got lost in the post- modern landscape of her words, not between the words, but outside of them. I WANT TO ASK: WHY, EVERY TIME I QUESTION POST-MODERNISM TO THE POST-MODERNISTS, I FEEL THE DISAPPROVAL OF THE POST-MODERN POLICE? Is post-modernism a theory? a cult? a practice? a way of life? a recipe? Take 1 cup of Derrida and deconstruct ion, add 2 tablespoons of Lacanian lack, a dash of Foucault's power, and fold together. Do not stir. Do not overbeat. What is missing? What is missing? What is missing? Jean-Frangois Lyotard, in a chapter entitled Rewriting Modernity, discusses the word "postmodernity," preferring to replace "post" with "re," and "modernity" with "writing" (1991,24). I myself have used the term "postmodern." It was a s l i g h t l y provocative way of placing (or displacing) into the limelight the debate about knowledge. Postmodernity i s not a new age, but the rewriting of some of the features claimed by modernity.... (Lyotard 1991, 34) Lyotard reasons that the displacement of "post" and "modernity" takes into account the temporal quality of the "flux of events" (24). He maintains that "the postmodern is always implied in the modern" because modernity is itself always in flux, always moving towards a state other than itself (25) . While Lyotard addresses how the "re" can mean "a return to the starting point" (26) which erases all else, he prefers a meaning that embraces a working through. a "working through"...a working attached to a thought of what i s c o n s t i t u t i v e l y hidden from us i n the event and the meaning of the event.... (Lyotard 1991, 26) 228 Nor does Lyotard believe that the "re" in "re-writing" should encompass a kind of remembering that accuses, nor should this "re" repeat what it re-writes (historically). ...working through would be defined as a work without end and therefore without w i l l . . . . (Lyotard 1991, 30) For Lyotard, re-writing means registering the elements of a scene without re-presenting it like a picture; rather, presenting the elements of a scene like an aura, privileging play, freedom from empiricism, fluidity and imagination in a process that is unending (31). ...rewriting means r e s i s t i n g the writing of that supposed postmodernity. (Lyotard 1991, 35) Perhaps in my own resistance to and confusion about post- modern thought, I have unwittingly stumbled upon some of the limitations that the word itself causes. Certainly Lyotard is suggesting a much more fluid cultural consideration of modernity and post-modernity, where the "re-writing" embraces the past as it forges ahead to the future, never excluding the present. Such re-writing seems to parallel the process of writing and re- writing one's lived experience: presenting it like an aura and privileging imagination and play in the writing. Within re-writing modernity as Lyotard discusses it, perhaps feminist theory can live more comfortably, since I concur with Jane Flax who states that feminist theory certainly does not belong with Enlightenment philosophy (Flax 1993, 71). Having now re-sisted, I embrace: the multiplicity of meanings the unfixed unstable discourses the poetic in the post-modern the language-centeredness the word intertextuality There is danger in embracing any theory totally without deconstructing it. We need to slide. We need the subtext of the intertext. We need to examine our interest as well as our resistance. Especially we must also question authority as well as author. No authorial I, but Authority lives in the academy, Authority lives in the post-modern. Authority should be subverted, just as the 11 eye is inter I rogated, or we merely create a new kind of dualism: what is post-modern and what is not. (Renee Norman) The I/eye got a quaking. (Aoki 1994) 229 ...how do you forget without annihilating? (Minh-ha 1989, 28) Woman can never be defined. (Minh-ha 1989, 96) Woman, as Cixous defines her, i s a whole—'whole composed of parts that are wholes'—through which language i s born over and over again. (Minh-ha 1989, 38) Writing i s born when the writer i s no longer. (Minh-ha 1989, 35) There i s a fine l i n e between poetry and madness. (Renee Norman's journal) . . . i f the s e l f i s a house I have searched for a home.... (Hussey 1990, 69) ... difference... produces the i l l u s i o n of i d e n t i t y while undermining i t r e l e n t l e s s l y . (Minh-ha 1989, 116) ...speaking nearby or together with c e r t a i n l y d i f f e r s from speaking for and about. (Minh-ha 1989, 101) Laying claim to the s p e c i f i c i t y of women's sexuality and the rights pertaining to i t i s a step we have to go through i n order to make ourselves heard; i n order to beat the master at his own game. But reducing everything to the order of sex does not...allow us to depart from a discourse directed within the apparatuses of sexuality. (Minh-ha 1989, 39) I want to expand the discussion of difference, and difference in kind, to one of recognizing, too, what we hold in common, what it means to be human, the metaphoric mosaic in all its glorious colors, each color separate and distinct, yes, but side by side comprising an array that is whole, beautiful, with elements of form, texture, color, that affect us all, that make us all who we are. (Renee Norman) After writing my decentered self poem, I approached my Israeli friend, curious as to whether or not the Hebrew word ? K (ah-ee) which I "invented" really meant something. It means "Ah-ee" like ouch, my friend replied, as he pinched my arm. Perfect, I thought. The fifth ah-ee is an exclamation, shouted when we are pinched to make sure we're awake, not dreaming. The fifth ah-ee is an exclamation made in response to an action that hurts. The fifth ah-ee is a shout in response to a violation of the body, a shout to be heard. In-voluntary and reflex-ive at first, but 230 warranted. And it occurs to me with all this reflection that I prefer to write de(c)entering with the "entering" showing. We enter more selves into the fray, acknowledge our dividedness, and still dwell on egocentricity. It is merely dispersed more, radiating from the multiple ego, the divided selves, in circles of subjectivity, each circle now requiring attention, analysis, nurturance, a dis-placed place in the circular scheme, a cell subdividing into twins, triplets, quadruplets, quints, each "self subject-positioned in a social and cultural and sexual context. So how do we, as writers, women, Jews, integrate into our work what we r e a l l y are, as opposed to these refutations or denials, these shadows of otherness, these acquiescences? (Tregebov 1990, 270) When I look at a person, "subject" a person to my own gaze, I look with much more than my eyes/I's. I am looking at a body, yes, an outward appearance that is substantial, dressed in the accoutrement of culture, but I am looking at a presence that is more than a visual re-presentation. I look with my ears, listening to the words that give some initial indication of how a person is thinking, who a person might be, what parts of the selves a person wishes to share. I look with my heart, opening the chambers to the possibility of connecting with another's blood, the pulse of my human beat racing unchecked and drumming its staccato sound, silent but searching, into the air between us. I look with my feeling sense, a dimension beyond that of the eye/I and the ear/hear, groping for goodness, for hope, for possibility, for the unnamable cry of recognition that I know can sometimes be there when one human being speaks to another without saying a word aloud and understands: Ah. So that is how you are. I look with my experiences in the world, some painfid, some joyous, some I have no wish to remember but in remembering and facing have opened myself. As if to open the way for the spirit of the Other to enter me and leave, risking what I might lose in the passing, but knowing that without such an exchange, I will not only be alone but empty. I look so I can begin to write the person before me, hair, eyes, face, demeanor, expressions, impressions, inwardly knowing that this writing tells more about me. That my gaze, while stretching beyond the visibility of the eye I I, is always full of the distortions and distillations of my own reflections. A circus House of Mirrors, full of my own hopes and desires and longings, full of my one simple wish to be seen. Invisibility is painful. To look without being seen, to be present but cast absent, to be between shadow and substance, still then in shadow, is my woman's experience, my Jewish experience, and when I look I cannot help but feel my own invisibility every time my glance radiates its circular search to any other. In the process of being written and re-written, there is always more to be said, 231 always that which is unsaid and therefore significant, the search begun but never- ending, the beginning a small oasis in the emptiness, the J of Jewish a hook to catch some of the encouragement of encounter. There i s no s t a b i l i t y i n t h i s world. Who i s to say what meaning there i s i n anything? Who i s to f o r e t e l l the f l i g h t of a word? It i s a balloon that s a i l s over treetops. To speak of knowledge i s f u t i l e . A l l i s experiment and adventure. We are forever mixing ourselves with unknown quantities. What i s to come? (Woolf 1931, 100) A classmate lends me a book of classical Chinese fiction, and I leaf through it, finding a tale about the Jade Maiden, a story of supernatural, unrequited love. Two times the Jade Maiden gives her lover a poem, and the tale ends with the lovers' reunion, so inspiring that a scholar named Zhang writes a poem about it (Chen 1990, 21). (Renee Norman) There i s a fine l i n e between poetry and madness. (Renee Norman's journal) ...unearth some new l i n g u i s t i c paths. Do you surprise? Do you shock? Do you have a choice? (Minh-ha 1989, 20) 232 ILLOG 233 Re-assembling Semiotic Double Text I. i am the computer (underneath which the dog warms my bare toes) i re-read my words (who i s t h i s woman?) move poems & sto r i e s shaping a poetic text a production shaping a l i f e producing me the pages lengthening when are you going to stop? (maybe i don't want to stop) STOP the end death the disruptive unconscious between the l i n e s i am writing the unconscious Maurice Blanchot says: "writing i n order not to die"* Renee Norman says: "dying i n order not to write?" II. my p l u r a l practice re-shaping me semiotic re-assembling re-as-sembling re n m every text double every text double a chorus for the chora metonymous mother-vessel f u l l of meaning f u l l of MEing f u l l of me re-nee a re-ceptacle block/move/re-block/re/move de-lete re-write/re-vise save control two accent accent \>IAVJ w\th those fonts font with those plays 2 3 4 want to play? de-fence around a table de-fence that table no white pickets separating me & the committee what's your (the words catch) thesis about? (in my throat) idontknowidontknowidontknow what's guiding (something) you? (a v i s i o n a dream a feeling) p r o p e l l i n g me forward (doomed) u n t i t l e d unbridled double double text no trouble * ( c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 48) 235 Re-sonating I am dreaming. They are a l l here, f l o a t i n g wraiths, with s t r i a t e d gauze fingers reaching out to me, and I stretch my own fingers out to touch them, s l i c i n g through a i r , s l i c i n g through nothingness... P a t t i Lather swoops down f i r s t from the mist, earthy and re a l , a post-modern neo-marxist angel, hiking up her dress and adjusting her pantyhose, asking: "So, Renee, i s t h i s a deconstructive t a l e or a r e a l i s t t a l e or a c r i t i c a l t a l e or a s e l f - r e f l e x i v e t a l e ? " (Lather 1991). I t r y to form the words to answer her, stutter, "W-well—," but she cuts i n and reminds me: "Oppositional knowledge. That's what you've tapped into . Remember the journal comments from my Women's Studies course: 'Can you be a feminist and do what's right f o r yourself and s t i l l have a husband and family? I don't want to lose my family i n the finding of myself (78). ' [My] world i s shaken up. I f e e l I am l i v i n g i n constant c r i s i s ' (140). ' . . . i t has caused me confusion, a l i e n a t i o n and fights...'(133) . '...I've f e l t the oppositional knowledge; indeed there are some days I wish I didn't have to deal with women's i s s u e s — b u t the wonderful hours come when I f e e l l iberated, not angry, but f u l l of love...'" (133). "And you have to put something back into the process," Lather continues, t a l k i n g at me. "Something that makes the research worthwhile. You have to give, too." The angel l i n e s of P a t t i Lather turn shadowy, s p l i t apart l i k e a spidery web pulled between two opposing branches. And i n the space between the branches, a v i s i o n of a woman walking down a road appears. Only her back can be seen. She exposes no face but I see wings sprouting out of her back. Someone c a l l s out to the woman who reveals no face: "Hey, lady, who are you?" The woman turns around quickly, as i f surprised by the question. I gasp. It i s me. The v i s i o n disappears. The woman that i s r e a l l y me, the jet stream l i n e s of P a t t i Lather, dissipate i n the overhead frame of my dream. I hear P a t t i Lather's distant voice, a dim chorus to a choir of disappearing angels: "multi-valent-text- how-we-other-others-troubling-our-own-assumptions-try-hard-to- understand-less-role-of-the-autobiographical-a-less-comfortable- social-science-a-poetic-speaking-a-text-that-works-against- knowing-too-quickly-inviting-open-readings" (Lather 1994). Sudden silence. The white mist of my dream remains, and Monique Wittig f a l l s from the mist, jabbering f i r s t i n French, then i n a heavily-accented English, then back to French. I s t r a i n to hear what she i s saying. She turns over and over as she f a l l s . The only words I can make out are "white workshop space" and "the blank page." Monique Wittig begins to spin around and around, faster and faster, a blur now. The mist swirls into a page of a book, pure white, and the blur that i s Monique Wittig turns red, spinning 236 onto the page-mist and dotting i t with small pinpoints of red color. The red turns black for a moment. I can almost see the words I think are there, but the black turns white again, blending into the page-mist. Monique Wit t i g i s gone. Again the mist swirls, a heavy fog i n my dream, and the page transforms to a white wall. Over t h i s wall leaps Alison Jaggar, smiling sideways, and with a s l i g h t l i s p , she turns to me i n the dream, repeating over and over: "A feminist i s someone who works to end the suppression of women. A feminist i s someone who works to end the suppression of women. A feminist i s someone who works to end the suppression of women. 11 Alison Jaggar walks through the wall, which closes behind her. The wall expands, growing other walls, producing tables and chairs between the walls, producing cups of coffee f l o a t i n g mid- a i r between the chairs and tables. One chair stands up, and I can see i t i s taking on human proportions, but I am unclear about who i t i s . "Natalie Goldberg," the chair announces for my benefit. "Cut! Cut! Cut!" the Natalie Goldberg chair c a l l s out to me, reaching for a f l o a t i n g cup of coffee and s e t t i n g i t upon a table where the cup refuses to stay s t i l l , dancing up and down i n a b o i l i n g frenzy. "Cut! Cut! Cut!" I open my mouth, again t r y i n g to speak to t h i s apparition i n my dream. I croak, a hoarse, toad-like sound. The Natalie- chair c r i e s : "Shut up and write! Look for the poems! Write about what you don't want to write about! Write through the layers to first-thought, wild mind. And cut, cut, cut!" (Goldberg 1986; 1990). The hand of the Natalie-chair s l i c e s through the a i r between the dancing coffee cup, crying cut, cut, over and over. "Cut!" ( S l i c e of her hand.) The cup dances. "Cut!" (Sli c e of her hand.) The cup dances, disappears. The Natalie-chair freezes, her hand no longer s l i c i n g , and conversationally, she adds: "I got a phone c a l l from Leonard Cohen's manager, you know, about Writing Down the Bones. Leonard Cohen l i k e d my book." The Natalie-chair s i t s down, a chair again. The coffee cups s e t t l e on the tables, and I hear the l y r i c s of Leonard Cohen's Future CD re-sonating from behind the white walls, sung i n Cohen's gravelly voice: "...and a l l the lousy l i t t l e poets coming round t r y i n g to sound l i k e Charlie Manson...." Then silence. From the corner of one of the walls, an all-white, ghostly Phantom of the Opera seeps out and snakes along, white cape emerging, hands clutching claw-like, corner to corner. The masked mouth chants: "She has been vell-taught" i n an European accent. The Phantom snakes along to another wall corner. A cloud formed from dry ice r i s e s , obscuring the Phantom's shape, covering the chairs, the tables, the walls. Clears, revealing a r i v e r . And a woman with long hair 237 standing i n the r i v e r . Her hair c u r l s down to the r i v e r so that they seem joined. The woman walks deeper and deeper into the torrents of the r i v e r , hair pulled by the currents, currents tugged by the hair. U n t i l the swaying woman becomes the r i v e r , or the raging r i v e r becomes the woman, I cannot t e l l . A face smiles from the depths of t h i s swaying body. I can see the face. It i s V i r g i n i a Woolf, no, me, no, V i r g i n i a Woolf again, then the face of a wolf. C l a r i s s a Estes smiles i n the wolf's face, and from that smile, strings of words are spewed out. Each word i s clear and d i s t i n c t at f i r s t , then fades s l i g h t l y as i t moves over the body of the r i v e r , the body of the woman, to make room for the next word, and the next, and the next: Through s l i p s of the tongue,...the poetic dimension of language (to the extent that i t i s f u l l of ambiguity, and therefore f u l l of meaning), the dream as a rebus, and forms of nonsense, we glimpse the unconscious. (Lechte 1990, 34) ...the unconscious i s always equivocal, between the li n e s , the i r r e d u c i b l y poetic which a p l u r a l i t y of meanings resonates.... (Lechte 1990, 36) For we dream i n narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, c r i t i c i z e , construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative. In order to r e a l l y l i v e , we make up st o r i e s about ourselves and others, about the personal as well as the s o c i a l past and future. (Hardy 1981, 13) I think the world i s a better place because of Jerome Bruner, who has looked at narrative as one of two possible modes of thought, a way of knowing, a means of ordering experience, a mode for constructing r e a l i t y . (Sutton 1992) ...narrative i s b u i l t upon concern for the human condition. (Bruner 1986, 14) What i s the power, the p u l l , the magnetism, the dynamism of narrative? (Leggo 1994, 19) How does narrative relate to s e l f , self-awareness, s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n , s e l f - a c t u a l i z a t i o n , s e l f - n a r r a t i o n , selfishness, self-centeredness, self-understanding, self-knowing, self-knowledge, self-consciousness, s e l f - d e t e r m i n a t i o n , s e l f - f a m i l i a r i t y , s e l f - c o n s t r u c t i o n , s e l f - c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n , s e l f - c o n t r a d i c t i o n , s e l f - g e n e r a t i o n , s e l f - representation? .. .What counts as narrative knowledge/knowing? (Leggo 1994, 20) ...narrating i s not merely a thoughtful narrating of 238 s t o r i e s and themes of l i v e d experiences... the act of narrating i s already involved i n the becoming of i d e n t i t y . . . narrating i s not only a thoughtful t e l l i n g but also a way to come to be. (Aoki & Shamsher 1993, 1) It i s a long time before I wake from the dream. I want to write the story awake, but I want to dream, too. And so I write. And so I dream again. 239 EPILOG 240 Re-capitulating If I C a l l Myself i f I c a l l myself a poet w i l l the words come s p i l l i n g upon that blank page the blood of my memories i f I c a l l myself a r e v i s i o n i s t w i l l the changes come sto r i e s rewritten that mythologize a woman's experience i f I c a l l myself une feministe w i l l my body come i n an ecstasy of jouissance that celebrates my womanhood i f I c a l l myself a mother w i l l my children come to remember back through me days we could have come together i f I c a l l myself a woman w i l l I come to believe that I, too, l i v e i n a world that means to l e t me speak i f I c a l l myself w i l l I come screaming echoes of s e l f c a l l i n g COME COME COME WORKS CONSULTED A l l e n , Marie, and Shelly Marks. 1993. Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Aoki, Ted. 1990. "The Sound of Pedagogy i n the Silence of the Morning Calm." 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