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

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WRITING AND REWRITING FEMINIST AND IRREVERENT TEXTS: POETRY, NARRATIVE, PEDAGOGY AND LIFE by RENEE ADELLE NORMAN B.Ed., The U n i v e r s i t y o f 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 in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department o f Language Education) We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the j/equir^ed ^sjtandard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA January, 1995 ©  Renee A d e l l e 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  DE-6 (2/88)  CJ>^t^>^i^-^.  Zl3  J9-fT  ABSTRACT This  narrative  w r i t i n g that  thesis  presents  autobiographically  a  collection  structured  so  that  the  themes  The  are  creative writing  re-worked  a d d i t i o n a l s e c t i o n s of w r i t i n g which c o n t r i b u t e to the This  research  approach i s adapted from the  narrative i n t e r p r e t i v e inquiry described Dr.  Ted  Aoki.  Such a process b u i l d s  research.  two-step process of  by c u r r i c u l a r t h e o r i s t upon a phenomenological  of  a  post-structural  consideration  of the p o s s i b l e meanings w i t h i n  experience as i t  also  and  experience  through  revisitation  i s written  lived  creative  t r a c e s a s t o r y about coming to  w r i t i n g and t r a n s f o r m i n g through w r i t i n g . is  of  re-written.  framed i n f e m i n i s t  French  feminists  writer/feminist feminist  autobiographical Further,  the  Cixous  Virginia and and  inquiry within  thought,  Helene  writers  The  with  i n t e r w e a v i n g the and  Woolf,  Julia  and  theorists. creative  resultant,  this thesis i s  life  storied  Kristeva,  several Such  North  and  British  advocates  journalizing.  contribute  to  our  knowledge of the p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s of feminine experience. knowledge s h i f t s and  changes as the s i g n s and  of  American  thought  writing texts  writings  This  s i g n i f i e r s of  the  t e x t s 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 r e l a t i o n s h i p between writers,  texts  and  readers.  Through the  powerful p r o c e s s  w r i t i n g and s t o r y i n g , the w r i t e r comes to examine and  of  understand  the s e l v e s w h i l e s i m u l t a n e o u s l y w r i t i n g these s e l v e s i n t o t e x t . Such l e a r n i n g back and  parallels  the  recursive  nature of  f o r t h movement t h a t emphasizes how  we  writing  in  l e a r n to w r i t e  a as  we  write  to l e a r n .  Such l e a r n i n g becomes the means to  reflect  upon the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the p e d a g o g i c a l s e l v e s , b r i n g i n g a more "thoughtful  and  t a c t f u l praxis"  (van Manen 1990,  our  teaching,  and  r e f l e c t i n g process f o r students. The  as w e l l as a f u l l e r understanding of the  thesis  i d e n t i f i e s and  s p e c i f i e s how and  how  writing  approach of t h i s t h e s i s c o n s i s t s not only of w r i t i n g i n  v a r i o u s genres, but s e l e c t i n g them and The  124-133) i n t o  discusses  shaping them i n t o a t e x t . an  egocentric  story  a woman w r i t e r and teacher became through w r i t i n g ,  t h i s becoming  begins  to  transform  to  a subjectivity  which i s decentered i n r e l a t i o n s h i p t o o t h e r s u b j e c t s texts.  The  that  pedagogical  implications  of  this  and story  curriculum  p r a c t i c e are s i t u a t e d w i t h i n the empowering  strategies  which  model f o r t e a c h i n g  encourage practice.  the  writing  and  which  other for  teaching  serve  as  a  TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract  i i  Table o f Contents  iv  Acknowledgements  vi  Foreword  v i i  PRELOG  1  PROLOG Re-germinating Re-tracing Re-legitimizing Re-deciphering Re-defining Re-viewing  8 11 14 19 23 31  INTERLOG Re-reading: When You Read My Words  34  POLYLOG Re-awakening Re-joy/sing Re-traversing Re-membering Re-feminizing Re-visioning Re-configuring Re-constructing Re-centering  35 52 65 86 106 120 133 143 152  INTERLOG  Re-thinking: On Second Thought  163  NONOLOG Re-vealing: A Woman Writer's  Diary  166  INTERLOG Re-locating: Doctor, Help!  176  iv  DIALOG ONE Re-citing  178  INTERLOG Re-inscribing: Metaphorical  Madness  184  ANALOG Re-playing INTERLOG Re-versing: This Is How It's Going  186 197  DIALOG TWO Re-peating: Women Who Write  200  INTERLOG Re-contextualizing: Deft Detail  208  INTERLOG Re-sisting  211  INTERLOG Re-signifying INTERLOG Re-fusing:  213  Carnival  219  DIALOG THREE Re-poetizing,  Re-identifying,  Re-theorizing  223  ILLOG Re-assembling: Semiotic Double Text Re-sonating EPILOG Re-capitulating:  234 236  If I Call  241  Myself  WORKS CONSULTED  242  v  (ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I wanted t o w r i t e a t h e s i s t h a t was p e r s o n a l , meaningful, c r e a t i v e and t h a t embodied a k i n d of r e s e a r c h where I c o u l d put my s e l v e s i n the work. But the f o l l o w i n g people l i v e i n t h i s t h e s i s , too, and I wish t o honor t h e i r c o n t r i b u t i o n s : Dr. Wendy Sutton, who f o r over twenty years has been mentor, t e a c h e r , f r i e n d and a s t u t e e d i t o r . I have been f o r t u n a t e t o work w i t h Wendy as an undergraduate and a graduate student. I value her great s e n s i t i v i t y , p e r c e p t i o n , g e n e r o s i t y and intelligence. Dr. C a r l Leggo, who named me poet and w r i t e r , who encouraged me t o seek p u b l i c a t i o n , and whose p o e t i c s o u l and w r i t e r l y e x c e l l e n c e are a c o n t i n u a l source of i n s p i r a t i o n . I will always be g r a t e f u l f o r the day I met C a r l . Fellow poet and w r i t e r , humane and emancipated teacher, f e m i n i s t f r i e n d . Dr. Ted A o k i , s c h o l a r e x t r a o r d i n a i r e , i n n o v a t i v e and open educator and t h e o r i s t , whose goodness and v i s i o n shine through h i s w r i t i n g s but are even b r i g h t e r i n person. I have c o n s i d e r e d i t a p r i v i l e g e t o work w i t h Ted, whose p h i l o s o p h y helped me c l a r i f y many of my b e l i e f s . Dr. Syd B u t l e r , whose ground-breaking work on l i f e w r i t i n g i s a model and a m o t i v a t i o n . Syd has been generous w i t h both books and words of support. My husband, Don, who has supported and encouraged my p u r s u i t s and who continues t o nurture me w i t h love and l a u g h t e r . My t h r e e b e a u t i f u l daughters, Sara, Rebecca, and E r i n , f o r whom I a l s o w r i t e , and who f i l l my l i f e w i t h joy. My parents, S h i r l e y and Joe S i l v e r , my s i b l i n g s , and my i n laws, who have a l s o l o v e d and supported me throughout my endeavours. Donna Chan and J a c q u i Wittman, who are s h a r i n g t h i s journey, and whose responses and reassurances have been an i n v a l u a b l e p a r t of the p r o c e s s . The members of the Language Education Department, t r u l y a s p e c i a l group of people and an e x c e p t i o n a l department.  vi  FOREWORD The f o l l o w i n g poems were p u b l i s h e d i n English Quarterly, Volume 26 #1, F a l l , 1993, and i n c l u d e d i n an essay, Rivers and  Tree Roots:  Two Writers on a Journey.  authored w i t h Dr. C a r l 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 essay was co-  The f o l l o w i n g poem and n a r r a t i v e s were p u b l i s h e d 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 Herspectives, Volume 6 #1, April, 1994. Air Supplies (July 16, 1994) Noisy, Noiseless Noise (October 13, 1994)  in  The f o l l o w i n g poems and n a r r a t i v e were p u b l i s h e d 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 f o l l o w i n g poems were p u b l i s h e d i n P r a i r i e Journal of  Canadian L i t e r a t u r e :  Shadow (Volume #21, 1993/1994) First Love Oxen on the Roof (Volume #22, 1994) The f o l l o w i n g poems were p u b l i s h e d 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 f o l l o w i n g n a r r a t i v e and poems were p u b l i s h e d i n Inkshed Newsletter, Canadian A s s o c i a t i o n f o r 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)  vii  Faces was  p u b l i s h e d i n in/versions, Winter,  1994.  Crazed Cookies was p u b l i s h e d i n Writing f o r Our Volume 3 #2, Winter, 1995. The f o l l o w i n g poems are i n p r e s s : Everywomen in Northern Woman Journal Language in His Foot Post-modern Feminist Film in Room of One's  Lives,  Own  viii  PRE LOG  l  T h i s t e x t encompasses a s e r i e s of logs which work i n a way  t h a t d i f f e r s from c o n v e n t i o n a l n a r r a t i v e u n i t y .  logs weave i n t e r t e x t u a l threads between and non-fiction, f i c t i o n , metafiction The  Prolog  discusses  the  and  The  Prolog  importance of w r i t i n g  The  considers  Prolog  the  post-structural  into six parts,  each of which and  teaching.  I n t e r l o g s which occur throughout the t h e s i s i n t e r r u p t  t e x t u a l and  the l a y e r s  t e x t u r a l meaning, or to o f f e r s t r a t e g i e s  content f o r a l t e r n a t e r e a d i n g s .  of  and  These i n t e r l o g s vary i n  nature from poetry to anecdote to  fiction.  l a s t f o u r i n t e r l o g s i n the t h e s i s p l a y upon the theme  of metaphoric w r i t i n g which i s an i n t e g r a l p a r t of Kristeva's  political,  Julia  theory about p o e t i c t e x t , which K r i s t e v a  characterizes  as r e v o l u t i o n a r y ,  h i s t o r i c a l and  that i s , operating  c u l t u r a l context  These four i n t e r l o g s demonstrate how t e x t can  the  d i f f e r e n t f a c e t s of f e m i n i s t , a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l  l o g s t o remind the reader t o r e - c o n s i d e r  The  and  p e d a g o g i c a l context f o r  i s layered  post-modern w r i t i n g and The  poetry,  reviews the work of many t h e 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 thesis.  among the  drama w i t h i n them.  s t o r y i n g w i t h i n a n a r r a t i v e , f e m i n i s t and framework.  These  " r e v o l u t i o n i z e " how  f o u r t h i n t e r l o g , Re-fusing:  we  p o e t i c world to the t e a c h i n g  and  l i t e r a r y c o n c e p t i o n of mask.  a  ( K r i s t e v a 1984).  various  forms of  t h i n k about w r i t i n g .  Carnival,  and  within  r e l a t e s the  world through the  poetic The  metaphoric dramatic  2  The  Polylog i s the longest  l o g , the v a r i e d c o l l e c t i o n of  c r e a t i v e w r i t i n g which e x p l o r e s my l i f e : curriculum  the w r i t e r ' s  s u b j e c t i v i t y and the s e l v e s .  P o l y l o g c o n s i s t s o f nine s e c t i o n s , which begin w i t h a  b r e a k i n g o f s i l e n c e and continue w i t h a p r o g r e s s i o n voices. and  scholarship,  and pedagogy, feminism, the p u b l i c and the p r i v a t e ,  t r u t h and f i c t i o n , The  family,  These s e c t i o n s  teacher's l i f e ,  re-visit  the experiences o f my woman  moving through the t r a n s f o r m a t i o n t o  w r i t e r and t o a l e s s e g o c e n t r i c Re-awakening  of w r i t i n g  writing  subject.  i s about t h e u n r a v e l l i n g o f the many l a y e r s  of i d e n t i t y which have b u r i e d  the w r i t i n g s e l v e s .  The  r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t w r i t i n g p r a c t i c e i s v i t a l o c c u r s through t h e act o f w r i t i n g and through r e a d i n g f e m i n i s t Re-joy/sing  texts.  i s a c e l e b r a t i o n of home, f a m i l y , j o y ,  laughter  and women, peppered w i t h l o v e , humour, e a r t h i n e s s and  feminist  awareness.  Re-traversing  t r a v e l s former ground but takes a deeper  look a t motherhood and what i t means t o be a woman-motherwriter-teacher . Re-membering r e - c a l l s past p a i n , p a r t i c u l a r l y about m i s c a r r i a g e .  sadness and memories,  T h i s s e c t i o n d e p i c t s the  w e l l i n g up o f p a i n and sorrow as more l a y e r s of the s e l v e s a r e p e e l e d back and re-membered through w r i t i n g .  I t i s a longer  s e c t i o n t o re-produce the d i f f i c u l t y of such an endeavour. The  s e v e r a l poems and the scene about m i s c a r r i a g e  how a w r i t e r can w r i t e  illustrate  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  w r i t i n g about them. Re-feminizing  i s an angry, hard-edged segment t h a t makes  no attempt t o hide b i t t e r n e s s o r rage o r f e a r , drawing upon the more demanding aspects o f b e i n g a woman and a t e a c h e r . Re-visioning  focuses on the i n s p i r a t i o n and i n f l u e n c e o f  V i r g i n i a Woolf, and begins t o r e v o l v e away from s e l v e s c o n s i d e r a t i o n i n t o the realm o f o t h e r s u b j e c t s . Re-configuring  i s a t r a n s i t i o n a l s e c t i o n whose p i e c e s  s h i f t i n and out o f e g o c e n t r i c i t y .  This section i s p i v o t a l to  the p o l y l o g , i n c l u d i n g the landscape and the c u r r i c u l u m landscape.  of our s e l v e s , our world  Here a l i n k i s made between the  w r i t i n g s e l v e s and the t e a c h i n g s e l v e s ; between the w r i t i n g landscape  and the t e a c h i n g landscape.  Re-configuring  concludes w i t h a poem t h a t gazes outward again by r e connecting t o o t h e r s . Re-constructing  c o n s i d e r s post-modernism i n l i g h t o f  education, feminism  and w r i t i n g , coming t o terms w i t h some o f  the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s and a m b i g u i t i e s . 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 o f a  t r a n s f o r m a t i o n which i s never complete, another beginning i n a movement towards  de-centeredness.  The Monolog steps back c h r o n o l o g i c a l l y , and i n the c o n s o l i d a t e d v o i c e o f the w r i t e r , r e - t e l l s p a r t s o f the p o l y l o g , p a r t i c u l a r l y the s t o r y about coming i n t o w r i t i n g . Dialog One works through  some o f the themes and f e a t u r e s 4  of the P o l y l o g .  Here an i n t e r v i e w  conveys o t h e r s i d e s of the s e l v e s  w i t h an "unknown poet" i n conversation  about the  w r i t i n g and about e g o c e n t r i c i t y . Dialog Two works through some o f t h e f e m i n i s t aspects o f women w r i t e r s ' t e x t s and l i v e s by p l a c i n g j o u r n a l e n t r i e s and poems i n between t h e words o f o t h e r women authors. Dialog Three works through some of the c u l t u r a l , and  poetic  post-modern aspects o f t e x t and theory i n a polyphony o f  voices  and t e x t s .  The  Analog re-counts what i s unsaid i n the p o e t i c  language o f the t h e s i s by a r t i c u l a t i n g how some of the w r i t i n g came about.  Journal  e n t r i e s and memories and n a r r a t i v e r e -  w r i t i n g r e - c o n s t i t u t e some o f t h e emotions and meanings o f the polylog. The the  Illog brings  semiotic  the t h e s i s t o a temporary pause through  and the unconscious, followed  by the Epilog, a  poem whose d w i n d l i n g echoes symbolize t h a t the p o e t i c , c r e a t i v e t e x t and the w r i t i n g and t e a c h i n g  s e l v e s who l i v e and  r e - l i v e the t e x t a r e without end. Throughout t h e l o g s , t h e c r e a t i v e t e x t u a l forms a r e connected w i t h gerunds t h a t begin w i t h the p r e f i x " r e , " threading  the t h e s i s w i t h a s e r i e s o f s u b t i t l e s which c o l o r  the  i n t e n t i o n a l i t y and meaning i n the l a y e r s of words.  use  o f the p r e f i x " r e , " followed  The  by a hyphen, i s a d e l i b e r a t e  attempt t o accent the movement, f l u x and m u l t i p l i c i t y which characterize  the m a t e r i a l  of t h i s  text. 5  The meaning of the p r e f i x " r e " s h i f t s throughout  the  t h e s i s , e i t h e r s u g g e s t i n g a f u r t h e r e x p l o r a t i o n of the same elements or evoking an e x p l o r a t i o n of new  material.  This  process d i s / p l a c e s the meanings of words and emphasizes t h a t what i s s i g n i f i e d signifies  i n the w r i t i n g i s without c l o s u r e .  The " r e "  a n o n - l i n e a r back and f o r t h movement i n the w r i t i n g  t h a t 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  o f f s h o o t s of even more p o s s i b i l i t i e s .  6  PROLOG  7  Re-germinating Journey  Song  B a r e f o o t on the jagged s i l v e r stones and rooted twigs of my landmarked journey c u r i o u s , u n a f r a i d , without a l a n t e r n e d map I t w i s t and t u r n f o l l o w i n g my own i n a c c u r a t e sense of d e s o l a t e d i r e c t i o n down a path where present l o v e and l a u g h t e r l i n e my way I r e s t i n watery brooks ( c h i l d - d a p p l e d gleams of s t a r l i t bubbles) d r i n k i n g rainwater drops of innocent uncomplicated which quenches my t h i r s t to be h e l d and regarded w i t h unwavering eyes  nectar  Then knowing I have stayed too long have hidden i n the s o o t h i n g s i g h t of small bodies pressed c l o s e to my unknown d e s t i n a t i o n must voyage on to o t h e r faded s i g n p o s t s I navigate the sidewalk c r a c k s of a d a r i n g detour i n t o c r o s s r o a d s I am t e r r i f i e d to t r a v e l t h a t l u r e me there w i t h the ghosts of other wanderers well-known t r a v e l l e r s whose gaze e x p l a i n e d my u n t o l d need Now alone i n body s k i n - d r i e d from unwatered weather I break the b a r r i e r r e e f of present and t r a v e r s e the double highway of a pain-prismed past  time  Barefoot s t i l l I s p l i t and f r a c t u r e i n t o deadend d i t c h e s darting f i r s t to l u s h landscapes evergreen w i t h murky memories b a c k t r a c k i n g next to darkened scenery concave w i t h e x o r c i s e d emotion emerging a t l a s t w i t h the bloodsoaked toes of another weary wayfarer unable t o continue my f r a c t i o n s dissembled a c r o s s the m i l e s of rainbowed roaming U n t i l the b i r d s o n g of my many v o i c e s c a l l s the t r e a s u r e d past to count my present sense of j e w e l l e d l o s s e s 8  and b r i e f l y s i n g s my journey song i n t o a g h o s t l y ear I conjure up t o b o d i l y appear Momentary peace then l u l l s the tempest on my e n d l e s s journey and f l e e t i n g checks d e s i r e t h a t overwhelms my f e a r 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. tac  <J^sftsatius, iout-tsaxcliny, xspaixiny, undsxitandiny woxdi.. <zSsaxiny w  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. in danysx of tsiny ousxwtislmsd ly otfisxi.' woxdi.:  am iomstimsi.  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, ahsanIp-agsand 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. writs as. ifJJhad  U rsturn to ths words. U  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 wsrs  ths  ths ocsan, mg writing can rags in a storm, strils out as. if it 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 i n v e n t o r  a c r o s s the E n g l i s h  o f the telephone, nor d i d I swim  channel.  I d i d not d i s c o v e r the Dead Sea  S c r o l l s o r w r i t e the Great Canadian Novel (maybe next y e a r ) . did  I  not g i v e b i r t h t o q u i n t u p l e t s o r q u e l l r i o t s i n an e a s t end  h i g h s c h o o l , rob t r a i n s o r marry more than one man a t the same time w h i l e commuting back and f o r t h between f a m i l i e s . no  upcoming made-for-TV  murder o f a daughter's  movie  about  schoolmate's  my time  There i s  in jail,  mother, and I have  o r my never  been u n j u s t l y accused o f a crime, h i j a c k e d on an a i r p l a n e , o r d e t a i n e d i n some f o r e i g n country (knock on wood). I am r e l a t i v e l y unknown, u n d i s t i n g u i s h e d and unremarkable, an o r d i n a r y c i t i z e n l e a d i n g another o r d i n a r y But  something  Something  calls  creatively, that  compels  me  t o speak  i n the p o e t i c  have become a v i t a l  years.  Something  me  t o w r i t e of my woman's o f my  life.  e x p e r i e n c e s as a woman,  and r e f l e c t i v e part  life.  of my  and n a r r a t i v e  life  over  forms  the l a s t few  burns i n s i d e me, smouldering u n t i l i t b u r s t s  i n t o a flame o f words, the smoke c i r c l i n g my s t o r i e s and poems, b l e e d i n g them i n t o  the a i r , the s t o r i e s  and poems g i v i n g o f f  smoke s i g n a l s I want o t h e r s t o p i c k up and read and remember. L i k e U r s u l a LeGuin who w r i t e s o f s t o r i e s t o l d round the campfire (LeGuin 1981),  I want t o o f f e r my words up t o the flames o f the  metaphoric f i r e .  I want t o hear t h e w r i t t e n hush o f a l i s t e n i n g  s i l e n c e f a l l a c r o s s t h e f l i c k e r i n g f i r e l i g h t o f the p r i n t b e f o r e my s t o r y o r poem i s about t o b e g i n .  I want t o o f f e r my words up 11  to t h i s  hushed s i l e n c e ,  blood of the  t o the  intensity  of the  fire,  to  the  telling...  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 stories  Clarissa  and  the  Estes  feminine  (1992) who spirit,  b e l i e v e s i n the  the W i l d Woman archetype,  want t o w r i t e the s t o r i e s and poetry of my w i t h emotion and i n t e g r i t y . day and the moments of my  power of  feminine  experience  I want t o embody the events of the  life.  Moments of being, V i r g i n i a Woolf c a l l e d them (Woolf 87).  Those  times  I  when we  see  something  c l a r i t y t h a t the world stands s t i l l ;  familiar  1976,  with  such  those times when we n o t i c e  f o r the f i r s t time something i n our world t h a t i s h e a r t - r e n d i n g or w o n d e r f u l l y funny beautiful.  And  we  or t e r r i b l y  w r i t e these experiences  them shape and substance. real by putting "It is only  sad or s i l l y  i n t o words,  G i v i n g them an a f t e r l i f e .  it into words," wrote Virginia  by putting  or u n b e l i e v a b l y  it into  words that  giving  " J make it  Woolf (1976, 72). I make it whole..."  (72). What d r i v e s me t o w r i t e i s as age-old as the s t o r y a need t o reach out and  connect;  a way  itself:  t o achieve r e c o g n i t i o n  and  some i m m o r t a l i t y ; the hope of f i n d i n g  may  have been l o s t . . .  something I suspect  12  The Wild Woman.carries stories and songs and signs and symbols.  and dreams and words (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 h a i r blossoming w i l d 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 y e a r n i n g I p a r t my l i p s head moving s i d e t o s i d e i n the storm of your cheek rough on mine f u l l of g e n t l e f o r c e I am l o s t i n the m i s t s e a r c h i n g my f o r g o t t e n s e l f c a l l i n g her t o forge a path through the abyss u r g i n g her t o s c a l e the brambles t o the peak calming her when she c r i e s she has danced t h i s dance b e f o r e w h i s p e r i n g t o her when she hears an i n s i s t e n t knock on the door lamenting w i t h her when she s i n g s b e r e f t because she h i d e s no more arms h a i r 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 t o run w i t h the wolves I want t o be a wolf a g a i n 13  Re-legitimizing Virginia  Woolf  t h e i r experiences  wrote  that  ordinary  women must  so we know the d e t a i l s o f t h e i r  w r i t e of  lives:  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  Woman's L i f e writing. women  (1988),  Heilbrun  writers'  patriarchal how many distort details.  that  Carolyn  takes  profiles  lives  were  Heilbrun's  i t stitle  from  book, Writing a Virginia  how many b i o g r a p h i c constructed  o f these  biographies,  the women's  lives,  written  the  accounts of  and  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s imposed upon them.  Woolf's  burdened  by  She d i s c u s s e s  by men,  unacknowledged  obscure and anger,  the  H e i l b r u n analyzes how some women w r i t e r s i n years past  revealed only c e r t a i n to t h e hardships,  p a r t s of t h e i r s e l v e s , without  reference  the pain, the s o c i e t a l expectations  (Heilbrun  1988) . In her essay, Curriculum and the Art of Daily L i f e (1991), Madeleine  Grumet  domestic,  t h e home,  included  celebrates calling  i n the c u r r i c u l u m  the o r d i n a r y , upon  everyday  as a v i t a l  the everyday, the experience  source  t o be  o f knowledge,  meaning and a e s t h e t i c s : 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 Conley  t o women:  Write yourself  (cited  1991, 52).  I can hear W i l l i a m Gass e n t e r i n g t h i s exchange, on autobiography i n an age o f n a r c i s s i s m  commenting  and q u e s t i o n i n g the  many a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l t r a c t s which s e l f - i n d u l g e n t l y r e v e a l the  a l l b e i n g r a t h e r d u l l o r overdone (Gass 1994).  s e l f - c o n f e s s i o n a l personal h i s t o r i e s our  in  that  record  a l l —  Enough w i t h the c o l o r o f  new dress o r our most recent t r a n s g r e s s i o n s o r our whining  wails  about  how many times we had t h e f l u i n any one r a i n y  season, Gass might  cry.  But Gass' essay i s w r i t t e n  from the  p a t r i a r c h a l p o i n t o f view o f those members o f the p o p u l a t i o n who have  dominated  Virginia  Woolf  the l i t e r a r y included,  canon  might  f o r years.  write  that  Many women,  those  so-called  t r i v i a l d e t a i l s about women have been m i s s i n g from the c a n o n — o r m i s s / r e p r e s e n t e d — f o r y e a r s (Grumet 1991; H e i l b r u n 1988 & 1991; Showalter 1985; Spender 1989). "autobiography" and favours the  Marlene Kadar r e j e c t s the term  "life  writing,"  precisely  because  former term has excluded important forms of w r i t i n g w r i t t e n  by women t h a t t e l l o f women's l i v e s :  diaries, letters,  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  woman's l i f e  even i l l u s t r a t e s  how poetry  can w r i t e a  (1988, 66).  Many f e m i n i s t l i t e r a r y j o u r n a l s are committed t o p u b l i s h i n g the  life  w r i t i n g of women  i n order  which e x i s t s i n t h e l i t e r a r y  C o n t e m p o r a r y V e r s e 2,  the imbalance  canon and t o f e a t u r e Common G r o u n d ,  images c e n t r a l t o women's l i v e s : Own,  to redress  i s s u e s and  Room o f O n e ' s  and o t h e r s .  A l l w r i t i n g i s a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l , Donald Murray reminds us (Murray 1991).  Helene Cixous would agree (Conley  1991).  Yet  poet D i Brandt w r i t e s i n the p r e f a c e t o her c o n f e s s i o n a l book o f poems,  Questions  autobiographical  I  Asked  My  Mother:  "Some  and some is not" (Brandt  of  this  is  1987, n.pag.).  Is  Brandt excusing h e r s e l f from any o f the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y ? t h i n k so.  My own experience  a t the outset  I don't  of my own w r i t i n g  adventures confirms t h a t a l l w r i t i n g i s indeed a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l , but t h a t the " l i e s "  i n f i c t i o n are t r u t h s of t h e i r own and the  " t r u t h s " i n n o n - f i c t i o n can l i e . . . I n o t i c e d my husband, Don, eyeing my papers on the computer desk the o t h e r day, c u r i o u s about t h e i r contents. Then one day I read him a b i t from my "Power Games" p i e c e , the p a r t about h i s p l a y i n g b a s k e t b a l l . H i s r i b r e a l l y was broken and we were l a u g h i n g a t a l l t h e catastrophes which occur a t h i s weekly b a s k e t b a l l 16  /  game, as r e g u l a r l y as the Thursday comes and goes. I was depressed at M. 's heart a t t a c k , he commented, but I never drove a f r i e n d t o the emergency ward, he corrected precisely. You have now, I muttered. And of course, I knew when I wrote t h a t l i n e t h a t 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 t h a t p r e f a c e t h a t Brandt had w r i t t e n , and why, and moreover, I t h i n k she i s very a s t u t e i n t h i s regard about the way some of us " w r i t e a l i f e , " with husbands/wives/partners/lovers/friends/ mothers/fathers/children/hamsters p e e r i n g over our shoulders, ready t o check f o r accuracy, and who-knowswhat-else. (Renee Norman's j o u r n a l ) 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 i n t o words, what we attempt "whole," i n V i r g i n i a viewed and re-viewed. our  world,  what  ramifications. our  lives  we  t o make " r e a l "  Woolf's words, what we  chronicle  can  and be  When we t u r n a r e f l e c t i v e t e l e s c o p e onto put  into  words  can  have r e - v e r b e r a t i n g  T e l l i n g the s t o r i e s and poems of our s e l v e s and  a l s o means t h a t o t h e r s can  take  a look through  the  telescope. The e t h i c s of such w r i t i n g can be d i f f i c u l t t o d e f i n e .  Is  anything, any occurrence, t h e r e ready and w a i t i n g t o be plucked off pen?  the i d e a v i n e and re-worked through the w r i t e r ' s gardening I f so,  w r i t e r s don't  necessarily  make good  friends  or  17  relatives.  Poet  selfishness they tell  Susan  Zimmerman  of poets/their the truth..."  ruthless (cited  writes: naming  "Consider  the  of lovers/the  way  in Leggo 1989, 105).  No f a c t , no d e t a i l , no anecdote i s beyond the w r i t e r ' s hand and  reach.  wash.  Anything  can be laundry  f o r the word-processing  W r i t e r s take f a c t s and fancy, embroider them, mend them,  patch them together, and hang them out i n the midday sun t o dry. The and  f i n a l product's f i c t i o n a l aspects can seem the most n a t u r a l , the t r u t h f u l b i t s  can appear  more  bizarre  underwear on Great Aunt Fanny's c l o t h e s l i n e . that  f i n i s h e d product  that  reflect  than  the  But s t i l l ,  are fragments o f something  red  within  recognizable  and r e f r a c t b i t s o f emotion and experience.  And  fragments t h a t can border on i n v a s i o n o f p r i v a c y . When  I first  began w r i t i n g ,  p u b l i c and the p r i v a t e .  naive  about the  Although I was c e r t a i n l y r e l u c t a n t t o  share my w r i t i n g w i t h others, the r a m i f i c a t i o n s o f r e c o r d i n g read some o f my p i e c e s  I was very  I wrote without c o n s i d e r i n g a l l lives in print.  I'd o c c a s i o n a l l y  t o my f a m i l y f o r t h e i r r e a c t i o n .  Mostly  they p a i d l i t t l e a t t e n t i o n , the way a busy parent can sometimes d i s t r a c t e d l y comment t o a c h i l d ,  "that's  n i c e , dear," i n r e p l y  to t h e c h i l d ' s e x c i t e d exclamation t h a t the cat i s on top o f t h e cupboard e a t i n g t h a t n i g h t ' s comes t o , a l e r t ,  sits  dinner.  up and takes  When everyone notice,  eventually  a l l hell  breaks  loose. When I began seeking  publication,  i t seemed the n a t u r a l  outgrowth o f p u t t i n g my thoughts and f e e l i n g s i n t o words.  A way 18  to  connect  and be remembered.  w r i t e r i n the f a m i l y .  But i t i s n ' t  my  daughters  saw an a r t i c l e  The f i r s t time one  where her name appeared,  commented w i t h c h a r a c t e r i s t i c e i g h t - y e a r - o l d writing  endeavour:  r e c e i v e d an "oh." thrill  was  t o have a  J u s t ask my daughters, whose names and  a n t i c s have appeared s e v e r a l times i n p r i n t . of  easy  "That's  nice,  Mommy."  But the t h i r d time.  definitely  wearing  enthusiasm  off.  The  Well,  she  f o r my  second  time  by t h a t time the  "Couldn't  you  be  a  b a s k e t b a l l p l a y e r ? " my daughter asked me s t e r n l y . But  some  things  need  t o , beg t o be  Because w r i t i n g about our o r d i n a r y t h a t i s important.  said  and w r i t t e n .  l i v e s i s a kind of w r i t i n g  Because I b e l i e v e I should open my own many  s e l v e s t o the s o r t of s c r u t i n y t h a t w r i t i n g b r i n g s . believe  I can attempt  written.  t o examine  my  selves  through  Because I what i s  Perhaps I can come t o i n t e r p r e t my s e l v e s and my world  a l i t t l e b e t t e r , a l i t t l e d i f f e r e n t l y , through my eyes and pen, r e f l e c t e d back t o me i n words. of my l i f e  W r i t i n g the s t o r i e s — a n d poems—  reminds me I am human.  Re-deciphering There i s a t e n s i o n between the f e m i n i s t d e s i r e t o r e t r i e v e and  reveal  our l i f e  acknowledges both  stories,  and post-modern  how we c o n s t r u c t  be " r e a l " and "whole" i n such a context? "authentic"?  I cannot  which  these s t o r i e s and how the  words w i t h i n them c o n t i n u a l l y s h i f t and f r a c t u r e .  completely  thought  What can ever  What c h r o n i c l e i s ever  resolve t h i s tension,  but I 19  have  come t o b e l i e v e  that  perhaps t h i s  very  tension  i s what  prevents me from d i s a p p e a r i n g  i n t o a t o t a l i t y which consumes my  l i v e d experience as a woman.  As a w r i t e r and a woman, I seek t o  write  what w i l l  resonate w i t h emotion, but I am a l s o aware o f  the " t r a p o f words" which Helene Cixous l o c a t e s ( c i t e d i n Conley 1991, 133). In  writing  constructs  "The woman of accomplishment,"  her own l i f e in advance of living  without  the w r i t i n g  c r e a t e s and  the autobiography, o r as Kadar would say,  writing. write  autobiographically,  recognizing  Heilbrun  writes,  it, unconsciously,  or naming the process"  say as much  calls  this  ( o r more) than the r e v e l a t i o n s .  the s a i d  and the unsaid,  where the poets p l a y t h e i r p a r t  (Aoki  "may and  (1988, 11). What we  r e v e a l , what we omit, how we choose t o r e v e a l . . . t h e often  the l i f e  commenting t h a t  omissions Ted Aoki this i s  1994).  He s a i d he w r i t e s t h e t r u t h , and I t h i n k he a l s o s a i d he i s not a f r a i d o f i t . Nor am I a f r a i d o f my own t r u t h s . But I am not always c e r t a i n t h a t the t r u t h I am w r i t i n g about i s the complete s t o r y , j u s t 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 t h a t t h i s d i s t o r t s t h e t r u t h . Sometimes the form and language o f my words a l s o seem to a l t e r t h i s t r u t h so t h a t i t i s even d i f f i c u l t f o r me t o r e c o g n i z e . Yet i f I were asked t o acknowledge t h a t t h i s t r u t h must be mine s i n c e i t comes from deep w i t h i n me, however I have s t r e t c h e d i t out, turned i t upside down, o r destroyed i t by c o n f l i c t i n g images, I would accept t h i s t r u t h as mine, w i l l i n g l y . I only hope t h a t some o f these t r u t h s w i l l a t l e a s t be f o r g i v e n , i f not understood. (Renee Norman's j o u r n a l ) What i s t r u t h ?  20  Breaking  the Truth  To be t r u e t o my s e l f I am l e a r n i n g t o t r y t o w r i t e the t r u t h But t h e r e are many t r u t h s t o u n l e a r n I have t r i e d t o l e a r n the t r u t h The t r u t h i s t r y i n g I w i l l t r y to learn true I am encouraged t o w r i t e my p e r s o n a l t r u t h (But I don't always t e l l i t ) The t r u t h be t o l d the t r u t h t o l d h u r t s me In t r u t h the t r u t h f u l words w r i t t e n t r u t h f u l l y trounce me I shouldn't j u s t w r i t e the t r u t h I should t e l l i t To t e l l the t r u t h the t r u t h t e l l s me there i s t r u t h i n s i l e n c e , too (I w r i t e the t r u t h and r e g r e t i t h o u r l y I don't t e l l the t r u t h and regard i t s o u r l y ) The t r u t h i s the t r u t h h u r t s I don't l i k e t o face the truth I avoid t r u t h i f i t hurts (Being t r u e t o your s e l f can be r e l a t i v e t o how much t h a t s e l f r e a l l y wants t o face.) The t r u t h i s hard passionate, too Do the l i n e s o f t r u t h r e f l e c t back what i s truth told truth f u l l t r u t h un-folded un-truth folded The words o f t r u t h flow out o f my p e n c i l They f e e l t r u e I r e - r e a d the words strong passionate true Is s t r o n g and t r u e too hard? Does t r u e p a s s i o n hurt? The t r u t h i s the t r u t h h u r t s me Should I stop w r i t i n g the t r u t h i f others hurt, too? 21  I should remember while t r u t h reveals i t can never be r e c a l l e d I wish the t r u t h I broke d i d n ' t always break James C l i f f o r d partial  r e f e r r e d to how  one  The world would split  in Greene 1978, "Do who  t r u t h can o n l y ever  be  (1986).  "What would happen if life?  any  was  you  the  truth  open," wrote Muriel  about  Rukeyser  her  (cited  223).  know who  a traitor,  be visible  woman told  later  who  (among us) saw  the  in her  play  loyal,  doors of the  in our poems?  asks Helene Cixous  was  Has  who sky  was  betrayed,  open?  the history  Will  of truth  Akhmatova (cited  this  begun?"  in Conley  1991,  xviii). "Tell Dickinson  all  the  (cited  Truth,  in Moi  but  1985,  tell  it  slant,"  advised  Emily  59).  The  t r u t h i s . . . I w r i t e because I must.  The  t r u t h i s . . . I w r i t e because I have a t h e s i s to complete.  The  t r u t h i s . . . I w r i t e t o make known my  The  t r u t h i s . . . I w r i t e because I have a c a p t i v e  The  truth i s . . . i n  between the  the  and  the  audience.  re-writing  and  in-  spaces, words, s i l e n c e s .  The  t r u t h i s i n the  Who  cares?  I care.  writing  woman's l i f e .  life.  What's the p o i n t ?  That's the p o i n t .  Where's the  There's the  value?  value.  22  Re-defining Yet  another  question  w r i t i n g a woman's l i f e ? do  I teach  public  beckons.  my own c h i l d r e n , but I teach  school  system.  and a parent. undertaking  My  other  about  Not o n l y  c h i l d r e n i n the  interest i n writing  and  feminism  concerns, my l i f e as an educator  Max van Manen e l o q u e n t l y d e s c r i b e s our pedagogic as  parents  phenomenological experience,  i s pedagogic  I am, a f t e r a l l , a pedagogue.  i n t e r s e c t s with my e d u c a t i o n a l  Writing  What  and  undertaking  writing  serves  i s a method  teachers  (1990).  of w r i t i n g pedagogy  of t h i n k i n g  Within  the  and r e - w r i t i n g  (van Manen  lived  1990, 111).  and r e f l e c t i n g ,  a means o f  understanding the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the l i f e w o r l d , an e x e r c i s e o f self-consciousness t a c t f u l praxis William  that  brings  us t o a more  thoughtful  (van Manen 1990, 124-33).  Pinar believes that w r i t i n g autobiographically i s  a p r o c e s s t h a t i s h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t t o education.  In a l e c t u r e  d e l i v e r e d a t the U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia, P i n a r this  process  and  described  as one which makes us aware o f a past  that i s  i n f l u e n c e d by p s y c h o l o g i c a l , s o c i a l , r e l i g i o u s and gender f o r c e s (1993).  Such awareness i s an o p p o r t u n i t y  different perspective  way,  a  reconfiguration  of the world.  important t o education  Pinar  of  t o see the world a  ego  believes  that this  s i n c e he c o n c e p t u a l i z e s  instrument o f s e l f - e x p r e s s i o n t h a t i s h i g h l y David J a r d i n e w r i t e s  a l t e r s our  alteration i s teaching  as an  personal.  how i n t e r p r e t i v e i n q u i r y begins w i t h  a sense o f the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f f a m i l i a r i n s t a n c e s o f our l i v e s , 23  our "being  in the world"  instances,  these  possibilities process as  on  "texts,"  the  in  is pedagogic  these  because  self-understanding"  (60),  more  richly"  deeply,  effort  read  that  more  "understanding  understanding  of our  living"  Writing  a  it involves  which  (cited  woman's  or  forth,  and  (57).  life  is  Such  tool  I used to digest  "Writing out  l i k e N a t a l i e Goldberg,  became my  of...nowhere  my  life  vehicle  for  land...,"  and  her a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l book,  playful  interpretive  who we are according  1992a,  of  differently, to  Gadamer's  renewed in  pedagogic  through  the  I came l a t e to  w r i t i n g became f o r me to  the  60).  understand"  transformation,  author  a  the  "the transformation  t r a n s f o r m a t i o n t h a t such w r i t i n g makes p o s s i b l e . w r i t i n g but  for  "happenstance"  "always must be  in Jardine  particular  re-read  they call  texts  (60),  These  and  depends as much on exploration  meanings  philosophy,  1992a, 55).  "must be  of understanding"  that  inquiry  (Jardine  "the  (1993,  a way  N a t a l i e Goldberg  to  19). travel  explains i n  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.  which s t i r r e d me our  own  to  (Goldberg  In the  Goldberg,  to w r i t e .  minds,  feel..."  Like  discover 1993,  effort  "Writing what we  I responded is a way really  our  and  lives  live  by  of our  through  the  feminism  to connect think,  see,  with and  71). living,  we  can  (and poems) t h a t we w r i t e : past, present, retell  to  stories  texts,"  live  by  the  f u t u r e . "We can  we have read or heard.  suggests  Carolyn  stories  Heilbrun  We  (1988,  only live 37). 24  We can a l s o l i v e our l i v e s through our own t e x t s . 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 w r i t e s : from my body.  I am already  "Life  text"  becomes text  process  (Lechte  1990, 58), an e t e r n a l  of a text-in-progress.  out  (1991, 52).  J u l i a K r i s t e v a suggests t h a t we are produced as we produce them  starting  When t h i s  text  i n our t e x t s subject-ini s a poetic  r e n d e r i n g , i t i s f u l l o f j o u i s s a n c e , the l i f e and b l i s s and j o y and  fullness of l'ecriture  feminine, a s e m i o t i c w r i t i n g and a  b o d i l y r e a d i n g whose m a t e r i a l i t y i s r e a l i z e d i n the m u s i c a l i t y of  language.  I would add t h a t t h i s  resonate w i t h the darker,  j o u i s s a n c e and t h i s music  s t o r m i e r s e n s a t i o n s and chords, a l l  p a r t o f a woman's b e i n g - i n - t h e - w o r l d .  I concur w i t h K r i s t e v a ,  though, t h a t w r i t i n g produces f o r g i v e n e s s (Lechte W r i t i n g a l s o produces Writing  understandings address  which  important  in  a woman's generates  t o the l i v e s  life  is a  and  pedagogic  re-generates  of a l l women.  In her  about women and f i c t i o n which became p a r t o f the book,  A Room of One's Own, V i r g i n i a poet,  192).  understanding.  and r e - w r i t i n g  "being-in-the-world"  1990,  Woolf conjured up an imaginary  Shakespeare's s i s t e r , who never wrote a word, who  you and in me, and in many other  "lives  women who are not here to25  night,  for they  children brings  are washing  up the dishes  and putting  the  to bed" (Woolf 1992/1929, 148). W r i t i n g a woman's l i f e to l i f e  this  poet,  one o f Shakespeare's  s i s t e r s , her  l y r i c a l and p o e t i c words echoing e n d l e s s l y and profoundly w i t h i n the context of many t e x t s . What i s the connection  f o r me between such p o e t i c w r i t i n g ,  feminism and the t e a c h i n g / p a r e n t i n g  t h a t I do?  In c o n f r o n t i n g  and f a c i n g p a r t s of my s e l v e s as I w r i t e and i n c o n s i d e r i n g what this  meeting  British  drama  holds  f o r me,  educator  I am  Dorothy  once  more  Heathcote  remembering, as  writes  i n Of These  Seeds Becoming (1978), t h a t the s t r u g g l e i s the journey.  I am  once more r e c o g n i z i n g not j u s t what i t means t o be human, but also  what  discussion  i t means  t o be a woman.  i s something  parenting could c e n t r a l l y  important  I t seems that  t o me  this  a l l teaching  and  consider.  In Composing a L i f e , Mary Bateson s t a t e s t h a t women should live  their  creative  l i v e s without pursuits  daydreaming a l l the time; t h a t i t i s  which  keep  overwhelmingly unbearable (1990). to  daydream,  recognize  daydreams  from  becoming  W r i t i n g p o e t i c a l l y enables us  the r e a l i t i e s  c o n s t r u c t a woman's l i f e c r e a t i v e l y ,  of l i v i n g  a life,  and  courageously.  I w r i t e them a l l there a t 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 c o u s i n who b u i l t an a i r y room f o r Penelope's loom f i l l e d with s h e l v e s of g l o r i o u s wool 26  and b i n d e r books o f shared p a t t e r n s from women a l l over t h e world and a computer, t o o and many o t h e r women whose creased f a c e s I do not y e t r e c o g n i z e o r know whose creased s t o r i e s I am j u s t b e g i n n i n g t o u n f o l d and mine r e a d i n g w r i t i n g d e s i g n i n g weaving l i v e s w i t h cosmic heavy metal s o f t o r b r i l l i a n t wool weaving shawls w i t h c o l o r s some o f which I've seen b e f o r e some t h a t look very new and d i f f e r e n t some I want t o throw away a c o l o r I t h i n k should dominate the f a b r i c another t h a t should be muted on the border i n t e r l a c e d w i t h r e f l e c t i v e threads o f s e l f and joy and p a i n shawls decorated w i t h s t o r y l i v e s to drape upon and warm my i n n e r w a l l However,  interpretive  inquiry  as J a r d i n e  discusses i t  e n t a i l s d i a l o g u e w i t h many o t h e r s , presumably whole, r e a l bodies of  others,  personal  i n a d d i t i o n t o one's r e f l e x i v e  and p o e t i c l i f e  w r i t i n g — t h e account  i n s t a n c e s o f one's l i f e — i n v o l v e such  process.  such  How can  o f some o f the  c o n v e r s a t i o n s ? " How can  l i f e w r i t i n g a v o i d s i n k i n g i n t o the mire o f s e l f - a b s o r b e d  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 t o s t r e t c h the boundaries o f i n t e r p r e t i v e i n q u i r y as J a r d i n e d i s c u s s e s i t i n The Fecundity of the Individual  considerations (1992)  lives,  heart  of interpretive  work  t o i n c l u d e the K r i s t e v a n i n t e r t e x t u a l n o t i o n t h a t no t e x t  e x i s t s alone. will,  of the pedagogic  Case:  Rather,  each t e x t , each v o i c e , each l i f e , i f you  swims i n a sea r e p l e t e w i t h  many o t h e r  a swarming sea o f humanity s a l t y  other  tongues.  Sometimes these  still  many leagues  beneath t h i s  voices,  texts,  w i t h the d i a l o g u e o f  tongues have been s i l e n t and sea.  Sometimes these  tongues  have r e v e r b e r a t e d l o u d l y as they dominated the t u r b u l e n t waters. 27  L i k e the waves t h a t l i c k the shore w i t h each new rush of water, these tongues l a p a t the t e x t o f any l i f e  w r i t t e n anew.  Such  i n t e r - t e x t u a l i n t e r - w e a v i n g i n v e s t s l i f e w r i t i n g with the l i v e s of  many o t h e r s .  textual  others,  I f we  open  the d i a l o g u e  the c o n v e r s a t i o n t o these provides  many  a means of h o l d i n g up  one's own t e x t i n a m i r r o r e d sea which r e f l e c t s a l l t e x t s which have come b e f o r e and a l l those t o f o l l o w .  In t h i s way no t e x t  remains i s o l a t e d and alone, one v o i c e i n the w i l d sea, o n l y w i t h i t s own murky r e f l e c t i o n i n the water.  absorbed  In t h i s way a  t e x t , b u i l d i n g upon a l l o t h e r t e x t s , re-forms the way experience i s shaped.  No sooner do the words i n s c r i b e experience,  another  experience comes along and r e - w r i t e s a l i f e , the a l r e a d y w r i t t e n t e x t be/coming a r e c o r d of words s u b j e c t t o the m u l t i - f a c e t e d s u b j e c t who recorded them, s u b j e c t t o the m u l t i - f a c e t e d s u b j e c t who read them.  And always,  s u b j e c t t o the m u l t i - f a c e t e d t e x t s  r e f l e c t e d i n t h a t m i r r o r e d sea of t e x t s . Verena Conley's d e l i b e r a t i o n of Helene Cixous' w r i t i n g and philosophy  captures t h i s  "guilt"  w r i t i n g which occurs through  of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y ,  r e - r e a d i n g , t h i s r e - r e a d i n g which  occurs through r e - w r i t i n g , an i n t e r - t e x t u a l which  i s never  innocent  this re-  inter-connectedness  o f the words and i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s o f  others. Reading then giving and something of web it tries  is writing, receiving: a text; each to decipher,  in an endless movement of each reading reinscribes reading reconstitutes the 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 t e x t s , r e a l i z e what Ted Aoki  describes  as a two-step process i n n a r r a t i v e i n t e r p r e t i v e i n q u i r y (1994): r e / c o v e r i n g the meaning ( w r i t i n g a l i f e ) , re-constituting re/covery  the  meanings  and c o n s t i t u t i n g and  (re-writing  and r e - e x p l o r a t i o n o f meanings  a  life).  This  can connect  us t o  o th er s on the e a r t h , t o other e a r t h - d w e l l e r s , another profoundly pedagogic undertaking.  For i f , as pedagogues, we do not l i v e  deeply and c o n s i d e r t h i s l i v i n g , how do we reach those we teach? those  we  love?  phenomenological of  the  lived  lived..." lived l i f e  David  Smith  sensibility," condition,  (1993, 11).  reminds  us  the complexity the  "attention  of  a  and the to  life  "narrative importance as  it is  I wish t o broaden t h i s c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f  (always a l r e a d y i n f l u x ) t o embody emotion as w e l l as  meaning. L i k e Ted Aoki, I am an e a r t h - d w e l l e r (Aoki 1991). I seek the ground beneath my f e e t , the smell of f r e s h s o i l when i t i s damp, put out t h e t i p o f my tongue t o c a t c h a drop o r two of rainwater before i t f a l l s upon the e a r t h and i s l o v i n g l y absorbed. I a l s o hear and see the way the h o r i z o n extends f a r beyond where I d w e l l , see and hear the d i s t a n t songs I imagine are sung beyond t h a t h o r i z o n . As I am an e a r t h - d w e l l e r , I l i v e among other earthd w e l l e r s , and I f e e l t h a t d w e l l i n g , f e e l t h a t l i v i n g . I l i v e and f e e l and know through my emotions as w e l l as my i n t e l l e c t , my heart as w e l l as my head, through a f f e c t as w e l l as c o g n i t i o n , my senses as w e l l as my mind, through a r t i s t i c as w e l l as s c i e n t i f i c modes o f knowledge. I know t h a t the rainwater which dampens the e a r t h I l i v e upon i s caused by water t h a t i s condensed from t h e aqueous vapour i n the atmosphere and f a l l s i n drops from the sky t o the e a r t h , but i t i s t h e t a s t e o f t h i s rainwater upon my tongue and my h a i r d r i p p i n g i n my eyes and the p o e t i c words I 29  attempt t o i n s c r i b e which g i v e the f a c t u a l knowledge l i f e and depth and meaning. Emotion has l e f t i t s t r a c e upon my l e a r n i n g , and when I have f e l t i t s absence i n my l i f e , b e r e f t , I have searched f o r i t anew. We can a l l dwell upon the e a r t h , c a t c h the rainwater upon our tongues, and touch, t a s t e , s m e l l , hear, see, f e e l the e a r t h beneath our f e e t , the e a r t h extending beyond where we d w e l l , the e a r t h beyond the h o r i z o n . Our t e a r s can r e p l e n i s h us the way the rainwater r e p l e n i s h e s the e a r t h , f a l l c o u r s i n g down our cheeks u n t i l they reach the t i p s o f our tongues, and m i n g l i n g with the rainwater caught t h e r e , become one l i q u i d , the e a r t h ' s e l i x i r , the e a r t h - d w e l l e r ' s potion. I  believe  important on  the  embodiment  of  emotion  t o r e - w r i t i n g s u b j e c t / o b j e c t dualism,  scientific  empiricism,  and  the  contradiction  and m u l t i - v o c a l i t y .  l i v i n g deeply  and c o n s i d e r i n g our l i v e s ;  to  and  explore  the  ambiguities  and  denial  Writing  meaning i s  an o v e r r e l i a n c e of  ambiguity,  i s a practice for  r e - w r i t i n g i s a means  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 s k i n s , our  many  selves  and o t h e r s ,  t o the commingled  blood  pulsing  through our b e a t i n g h e a r t s : the blood f r e s h l y drawn, o r seeping i n wounds, o r d r i e d i n s c a r s , o r c o n g e a l i n g  on the blank pages  of women's time... re-nee i n the poem's pores the poem a b r e a t h i n g space: Cixous' t r a c e the mythico-poetico-theoretico take a breath i n between the l i n e s  &<xu^£e  etna:  to BrEathe r e - b r e a t h i n g the space re-producing the re-adings to l i v e i s t o w r i t e 30  re-born through w r i t i n g : re-nee r e - i n s c r i b i n g the theory re-forming the poem e x h a l i n g s h o r t gasps between a i r l e s s words deepening the g i f t : Ce touc^e a hot wind blowing on t h e neck of my r e s p i r a t o r y v o i c e  "renee" invoking s i b i l a n t puffs of a i r  (renee)  bREathing the s i l e n c e s t h a t d r i f t by l i k e cottonwood i n s p r i n g asthmatic matter c o l l e c t e d on the white page  -renee-  an i n h a l a t o r the poem s pores opened EXPLODING f i r e & a i r r e - f l e c t i n g e a r t h & water 1  suck the l i p s o f muted mouths u n t i l they b l e e d theory s h r i e k i n g words & s i l e n c e s d r i p p i n g the poem  Re-viewing I occupy and balance feminist, when  I  many r o l e s :  s c h o l a r , poet and w r i t e r .  can w r i t e  roles...The  o f these  many  teacher, My heart  roles,  beats  strongest  out of these  song I hear t h a t keeps me w r i t i n g i s f u l l  harmonious chords,  melodic notes,  discordant  minor and major keys o f my everyday l i f e Often  mother, w i f e ,  I write  of my  everyday  many  of the  c o u n t e r p o i n t and  i n t h i s world.  experience  trying  t o make  sense o f what I t h i n k and f e e l and wonder.  I w r i t e about past  joys and p a i n s , present  f u t u r e v i s i o n s and  hopes and concerns,  31  sorrows. makes me change,  I write c r y or what  about what moves me,  laugh,  is  what I see  buried  s u r f a c e , clamouring  me,  shakes  or n o t i c e or wish  inside  that  has  me,  I could  risen  to  the  to be r e l e a s e d and s w i r l i n g upward i n those  p u f f s of smoke c i r c l i n g feelings,  deep  stirs  overhead:  details,  images, memories,  stories... Under the blows of love I catch fire, I take to air, I burst into letters. (Cixous 1991, 44)  I once wrote i n my  the  j o u r n a l t h a t each time something I w r i t e  i s made p u b l i c , I f e e l as i f I have j u s t given away some p a r t of me  t h a t I s t i l l need.  terrible  commitment  Yet the compulsion to w r i t e c o n t i n u e s , and  obsession.  The  drive  to  share  a  that  w r i t i n g continues unabated, as i f I must g i v e away a l l of myself b e f o r e 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, Perhaps  I seek  Renee, suggests, parts  I slowly  apportioned eyes  such  oblivion,  i n the w r i t i n g . gave up,  but  i n t o poems and  replaced  by  words,  re-born,  as  35) my  own  name,  No longer composed of the same  missing stories  images  metaphors, i n k t o t a s t e p i e c e s o f  them, I am and  instead  other of  an a p p a r i t i o n  written ears,  life-sustaining  and memories t h a t probe l i k e f i n g e r t i p s . . . In the l o g s which f o l l o w , I f e e l as  if  a  matter: nose  of  nurturance, I  give  away 32  everything  and I am re-born i n the w r i t i n g .  w r i t t e n again and again. end.  But w a i t .  Re-born and r e -  That i s the beginning of no  L e t me begin a t t h e b e g i n n i n g o f the beginning.  endings o f beginnings f i l l me w i t h m i s g i v i n g s l e a v i n g me a sense o f what i s gone I always hate beginnings — d r e a d the middle when i t ' s ending I cannot seem t o cope w i t h some aplomb I t h i n k i t must be harder to accept the middle ending when beginnings were so t e n t a t i v e y e t tender But I j u s t know t h a t when i t ' s ended and I move t o more beginnings I ' l l always f e e l i t ' s p a r t o f me t h a t ' s gone There is no true beginning; there, as Derrida said....  writing (Conley  is always 1991, 8)  already  33  INTERLOG Re-reading When You Read My Words When you read my words remember they j u s t l i g h t a moment and the f e e l i n g ' s f l e e t i n g When you read my words remember words can l i e and I am p l a y i n g When you read my words remember memories d i e and f a c t s are f a d i n g When you read my words remember t h a t I measure what you're weighing  POLYLOG: Re-awakening Renee's Rhetoric Re-velations Reflections on Writing A Lullaby of Voices I Am a Feminist Revelations about Writing Warning Guyn-ick-ology Stories Not to Live By Awakening  36 37 39 40 43 46 47 49 50  Renee's R h e t o r i c  Re-velations  Re-call: Was I re-born a f t e r my daughters were born? R e n e e — r e - b o r n — w h a t d i d my mother know when she named me? Or d i d I d i e d r i f t i n g down drugged on noxious n i t r o u s oxide? Renee r e - s u r r e c t e d and re-born t h i s r e - v e l a t i o n re-vealed i n the r h e t o r i c of r e a l i t y . Re-collect: Running t o r e - w r i t e running t o r u i n w r i t i n g about the running the r e - w r i t i n g sometimes r u i n e d by the running. The r e a l i t y o f my re-born r h e - t o r i c .  R e f l e c t i o n s on W r i t i n g I r e a l i z e d , as I s a t w r i t i n g the exam a l l alone i n a c o l d room i n December, my s i x sharpened p e n c i l s spread out b e f o r e me on the t a b l e , t h a t I r o l e p l a y when I w r i t e , d i g g i n g i n t o my w r i t i n g i n much the same way t h a t an a c t o r t r i e s t o absorb a role—feeling the p a r t , identifying w i t h the c h a r a c t e r s , 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 t a s k , my p e n c i l sped a c r o s s the page. I f e l t as i f I were speeding a l o n g some highway, my thoughts o n l y s l i g h t l y ahead of my p e n c i l , and sometimes the p e n c i l overtook my t h i n k i n g . I had no i d e a what the w r i t i n g sounded l i k e and I d i d not r e r e a d a t a l l as I wrote. There was not enough time, and t h i s time the p e n c i l wouldn't l e t me. I a l s o r e a l i z e d t h a t i f I care p a s s i o n a t e l y about a matter, I w r i t e w i t h abandon, and r o l e p l a y my way i n t o my w r i t i n g f u l l of emotion. Sometimes I even c r y when I w r i t e , my f e e l i n g so c l o s e t o the s u r f a c e t h a t the t e a r s s p i l l over. I t seems so maudlin, but as I have always c r i e d e a s i l y , t e a r s w e l l i n g i n my eyes a t even a thought I f i n d e s p e c i a l l y t r a g i c o r u p s e t t i n g o r f i l l e d w i t h joy, I understand i t . This awareness—that I w r i t e much the same way as I r o l e p l a y , t r a n s c e n d i n g present time and present p l a c e t o a more temporal plane o f e x i s t e n c e where a whole new s e t of circumstances r u l e — c a m e t o me as a c r y s t a l c l e a r p i e c e of s e l f a c t u a l i z e d knowledge r i s i n g up and out o f my consciousness as I wrote. I can s t i l l r e c a l l the moment, and perhaps the c o l d n e s s of the room, the u n e a r t h l y q u i e t , the time o f n i g h t , the c l o c k t i c k i n g by on the w a l l as I c o n t i n u a l l y checked i t , c o n t r i b u t e d to the e x i s t e n t i a l , disembodied f e e l i n g t h a t accompanied t h i s knowledge. I f e l t so alone w i t h myself, and w h i l e very t i r e d , connected t o my head ( f u l l o f a l l i t s thoughts) by a l i n e which ran a l l the way t o my p e n c i l . Sometimes my w r i t i n g takes over from the t h i n k i n g me t h a t begins the p r o c e s s . But I o f t e n read, r e r e a d , r e v i s e , r e r e a d , agonize over words o r phrases a f t e r the i n i t i a l w r i t i n g . W r i t i n g my f i r s t poem f o r the graduate w r i t i n g course was different. I t was slower. I read and r e r e a d o f t e n . I c r o s s e d out and s u b s t i t u t e d words, came back t o p a r t s much l a t e r . (Although sometimes not by c h o i c e , as my t h r e e daughters c o n t i n u a l l y i n t e r r u p t e d me, u n t i l f i n a l l y , I am ashamed t o admit, I jumped up and down screaming t a n t r u m - l i k e — m y own f o u r t h c h i l d — f o r everyone t o leave me alone, my work was important t o me. Then I s t a r e d back a t s i x 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 a t my upset.) I dreamed much of the poem the n i g h t b e f o r e I wrote i t , but o n l y used some o f what I remembered. But the k e r n e l o f f e e l i n g was there. I t h i n k I w r i t e mostly from f e e l i n g — n o t image, o r even memory, although they p l a y t h e i r p a r t . I read my f i r s t poem t o my d a u g h t e r s — t h e e l d e s t , Sara, s a i d she thought i t was about my w r i t i n g . Rebecca s a i d she 37  thought i t meant I was a very c a r i n g person. E r i n , the youngest, was s i n g u l a r l y unimpressed, and much more i n t e r e s t e d i n c l i m b i n g on my knee f o r a hug and coming between me and my p e n c i l , as young c h i l d r e n are wont t o do. I have l e a r n e d how t o w r i t e at the k i t c h e n s i n k and use any f i f t e e n minutes where everybody i s happy and o c c u p i e d t o do snatches of w r i t i n g (or r e a d i n g ) . Snatch-writing. Snatchreading. D e s p i t e the e r r a t i c nature o f f i n d i n g time f o r w r i t i n g , what I l i k e best about i t i s r e d i s c o v e r i n g myself, independent at l e a s t f o r a w h i l e — s o m e t i m e s as f l e e t i n g l y as f i v e m i n u t e s — from wife-mother-teacher. I r e a l l y do have t h i n g s t o say, and say them. I r e a l l y can t h i n k about more than what t o make f o r supper t h a t w i l l h i t at l e a s t t h r e e out of f i v e on the personto-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 d e v e l o p i n g , d i f f e r e n t from the one who spent the decade o f the 70 's working on her c a r e e r , and the decade of the 80 *s nauseous, b r e a s t f e e d i n g o r washing c l o t h e s . I s t i l l wash c l o t h e s , but now I throw them i n the machine q u i c k l y between phrases, o r stand s t a r i n g out at the rhododendron bush i n a r e v e r i e , t r y i n g t o work out some problem, Spray and Wash i n hand. Process-washing. Process-writing. I am watching t h i s me t o see how she develops w i t h considerable i n t e r e s t .  38  A L u l l a b y of Voices Who w i l l l i s t e n t o My v o i c e s Hoarse as they are Some a mere whisper S i l e n c e d as they are Beneath the l a y e r s of Wife, mother, teacher, student, woman, me I would shout my words t o the ocean If i t l i s t e n e d I f i t d i d n ' t take the words and rake them over b a r n a c l e s Washing them away l i k e g r a i n s o f sand Lost Are my v o i c e s a l r e a d y l o s t ? Drowned out by the c r i e s of small c h i l d r e n Joyous but u n r e l e n t i n g The words s p i n n i n g round and round i n s i d e my head W a i t i n g t o be Released Given s a n c t i o n Unburdened by the c o n s t r a i n t s of time Time the d r i f t e r Time the excuser Sad the words l a y unspoken, unshapen, unbidden, underneath my tongue I would s i n g those words t o the ocean i f i t sang them back t o me Who w i l l s i n g back my A l u l l a b y of v o i c e s Humming i n my head Rocking me t o speak.  words?  I Am a F e m i n i s t I am a f e m i n i s t w i t h a husband. I am a f e m i n i s t w i t h t h r e e daughters. I am a f e m i n i s t who cooks and washes c l o t h e s . I am a f e m i n i s t who hasn't had time t o read the f e m i n i s t t r a c t s . I am a f e m i n i s t who hasn't attended c o n s c i o u s n e s s - r a i s i n g s e s s i o n s i n the 60's. I am a f e m i n i s t who l e t s her daughters  play with Barbies.  BUT— My husband encouraged me to return to u n i v e r s i t y and c a r e s f o r our c h i l d r e n while I attend and washes our daughters' h a i r on Sunday n i g h t while I struggle to f i n i s h at the computer. AND—  My o l d e s t daughter, Sara wants t o be a d o c t o r and an a r t i s t Rebecca i n the middle wants t o be a farmer and w r i t e books and E r i n l i t t l e Erin wants badly t o be a white horse g a l l o p i n g i n the wind FURTHERMORE— I am being drawn i n t o the w r i t i n g world o f women the r e a d i n g world o f 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 t o o t h e r women l i s t e n i n g t o t h e i r p a i n and p l e a s u r e t r a d i n g s t o r i e s now and then between f l o o r s AND BESIDES— Now I share my s t o r i e s w i t h our t h r e e s m a l l women no, Sara, you don't need t o marry a r i c h man to get a swimming p o o l you can get t h a t a l l by y o u r s e l f yes, Sara, you can do i t t o g e t h e r t h a t ' s a f i n e way to e n v i s i o n i t . Rebecca, i t i s you again roleplaying the k i n g Superman the monster P e t e r Pan Rumpelstiltskin you can p l a y any adventure r o l e s you choose and those a r e some of the e x c i t i n g ones. Erin yes, I w i l l c a r r y your t e n pound Book o f Horses up the s t a i r s f o r you and l a y i t a c r o s s your bed as you s l e e p turned t o the page w i t h the white horse dotted with black s t a r s . SO— when Rebecca sends another Barbie s a i l i n g over the balcony t o land w i t h a thud near the f r o n t door and Ken i s t i e d up w i t h pink ribbons and when E r i n p o i n t s t o B a r b i e ' 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 t o the motorcycle show w i t h Don when on New Year's Eve Don p l a y s the Barbie game (a g i f t I hate from my s i s t e r  but haven't the heart t o take away) saying instead j u s t remember women aren't t h a t s t u p i d or i n s i p i d and Don wins becomes Prom Queen a l l of us l a u g h i n g on the l a s t day o f the year and when Don and I are stuck t o the l a b e l s o f B a r b i e ' s new house l a u g h i n g and c u r s i n g and we throw 45 B a r b i e s i n t o t h e i r new abode c o v e r i n g a l l a v a i l a b l e f l o o r space and s t e a l t h i l y f i l e away 15 l a b e l s t h a t i n e x p l i c a b l y are l e f t when I c a l l the p s y c h o l o g i s t who e x p l a i n s Sara's d i s c o m f o r t a t school as n i n e - y e a r - o l d hormones sexist and never go back t o h i s o f f i c e again d e c i d i n g t o home school my daydreaming daughter I am a f e m i n i s t w i t h a husband and three daughters who cooks and washes c l o t h e s and l e t s her daughters p l a y with B a r b i e s .  42  Revelations about Writing Knots and Shadows: I was astounded to read what Jane Tompkins has to say about l e a r n i n g to f o r g i v e and understand the c r i t i c a l me i n s i d e 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 t h a t as I began my journey i n t o w r i t i n g and i n t r o s p e c t i o n , I was somewhat taken aback at what was coming out of my p e n c i l , and somewhat r e l u c t a n t to share i t . I f e e l as i f I am s l o w l y but p a i n f u l l y u n r a v e l l i n g myself. I t f e e l s r i g h t , but as I t u r n over and over and the knots are r e v e a l e d or u n t i e d or t i g h t e n e d and I can view them from close-up or from a f a r , i t i s t a k i n g my b r e a t h 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 t h i n k I am going to take some slow, deep breaths, then plunge on.  For the Four F s : 1  I t w i l l take me a l i f e t i m e to understand For the Etruscans ( D u p l e s s i s 1990, 1-19). I shut myself i n my room to read i t , o n l y g e t t i n g i n t e r r u p t e d once by my o l d e s t 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 c o u l d read, c o u l d t h i n k , could take i n the words as I t h i n k they were probably meant to be r e a d — i n chunks of t e x t t h a t d i d n ' t always n e c e s s a r i l y seem c l e a r but s t i l l gave a sense of where the author was going, had been, wanted to be... The p a r t I loved the best was near the end where Sara Lennox's words are c o n s t a n t l y i n t e r p o s e d with D u p l e s s i s ' words ( i n the b r a c k e t s ) , D u p l e s s i s t a k i n g much of what she has a l r e a d y s a i d and weaving i t i n and out of t h i s other woman's thoughts, strikingly similar. I a l s o f e l t a s t r o n g k i n s h i p to the two i n t r u s i o n s of r e a l i t y t h a t i n t e r r u p t e d the essay? poem? s t o r y ? One, her c h i l d , complaining t h a t D u p l e s s i s never buys what the c h i l d l i k e s to eat. The other, D u p l e s s i s , wanting to cook something n i c e f o r her companion, but a l s o hoping i t would l a s t , so she wouldn't have to cook f o r a few days. Yes, I thought, t h i s i s t r u e , I have been t h e r e , I am there. The female a e s t h e t i c brought down t o e a r t h 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 o u r s e l v e s f o r a while on the words and thoughts), but a l s o w i s h i n g t h a t t h i s food o f our love c o u l d l a s t , spread out, f o r a l i t t l e longer, so we c o u l d take time to b i t e o f f some more words to chew and d i g e s t . D u p l e s s i s ' w r i t i n g and the essay? p i e c e ? song? i n t e r l u d e s ? is/are at once both deeply intellectual and compellingly complicated, making many r e f e r e n c e s which (as I checked footnote a f t e r footnote) were f o r e i g n to me. 43  S t i l l , I t h i n k I understand some of what she i s s a y i n g . (I have even had some o f my babies without f u s s between semesters.) That our language, t h a t i s , the female language of our l i v e s and experiences, i s not e x t i n c t , but r a t h e r , not yet f u l l y formed but forming. And i f we can c o n t i n u a l l y accept t h a t t h i s language breaks many o f the o l d b a r r i e r s , t h a t t h i s language has t o f i n d new ways of s a y i n g what has y e t never been s a i d , because a l l t h a t has not been s a i d needs to be spoken, then as t h i s female language forms, f l o u n d e r s , f l o u r i s h e s (the f o u r f ' s ) , we w i l l , u n l i k e the Etruscans, c r e a t e a language t h a t l a s t s , however strange i t seems, or however p a r a d o x i c a l l y i t seems to t u r n back on i t s e l f .  F i e l d s of Feeling, Windows of Wonder: I am beginning to b e l i e v e t h a t somewhere s c r i p t s of my l i f e e x i s t over which I have l i t t l e c o n t r o l , but i n which I somehow play a central role. I am beginning to b e l i e v e t h a t there i s some s o r t o f c e n t r i f u g a l f o r c e which r e v o l v e s around me i n everwidening c i r c l e s of experience. I am beginning to b e l i e v e t h a t I may be s l i g h t l y p s y c h i c , 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 d e v e l o p e d — a n d t o be honest, because i t f r i g h t e n s m e — s u c h c l a i r v o y a n c e o n l y e n t e r s my l i f e i n s m a l l , u n d i s t u r b i n g c l o u d s of smoke. Once I phoned my next-door-neighbour to i n q u i r e a f t e r her mother, who was very i l l and dying. T h i s neighbour took time o f f work t o care f o r her mother at home. I had not t a l k e d to her f o r weeks. T h i s was t y p i c a l of both our busy l i v e s and our n e i g h b o u r l y r e l a t i o n s h i p , my days f i l l e d with d i a p e r s and p a r t time d a b b l i n g , hers f i l l e d with a f u l l - t i m e c a r e e r . But t h a t day, i n e x p l i c a b l y , I wanted t o phone and ask about both her and her mother. How was her mother doing? Was there anything she needed? I t must be hard, and so on. We t a l k e d , and her mother d i e d not much l a t e r t h a t same day. I know t h a t 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 y e a r s , they are d i f f i c u l t t o shrug away and i g n o r e . When I am at the c e n t r e of what i s happening, i t seems so s t r o n g and significant. I have always had a v i v i d sense t h a t another f r i e n d and neighbour (with one daughter the same age as my o l d e s t ) would one day have another c h i l d . She had been t r y i n g to conceive again f o r years, beset w i t h v a r i o u s problems t h a t made t h i s apparently next-to-impossible. One day, a f t e r walking home from accompanying my daughters t o s c h o o l , I passed her house and r e a l i z e d I had not seen or spoken t o her f o r weeks. I knew w i t h a c l a r i t y and c e r t a i n t y , then, which I c o u l d not e x p l a i n , s t a n d i n g o u t s i d e her house i n the c o o l morning a i r , t h a t she must be pregnant. I imagined how she and her f a m i l y would be p l a n n i n g t h e i r days, s i n c e they had wanted t h i s f o r so long, but had a d j u s t e d to l i f e as i t seemed d e s t i n e d so f a r . As I looked 44  out at her house, I p r o j e c t e d a whole s c e n a r i o through the c u r t a i n e d windows and s o l i d f r o n t door. I d i d not go up to her door. Somehow I d i d n ' t f e e l r i g h t about i n t r u d i n g p h y s i c a l l y upon the scene t h a t I had j u s t p l a y e d out f o r them. I phoned her when I a r r i v e d home, and she t o l d me ( d r a m a t i c a l l y ) t h a t she had something to t e l l me. I f e l t amazed (and a l i t t l e b r e a t h l e s s ) at her announcement t h a t she was indeed e x p e c t i n g another c h i l d . J u s t uncomplicated c o - i n c i d e n c e , a l l of i t ? Mystical musing on my p a r t ? Or i s there a f o r c e f i e l d of f e e l i n g which f o l l o w s me as I make my way through my o r d i n a r y l i f e , and i n t o which I sometimes step, somersaulting backwards? Or i s i t j u s t t h a t events u n f o l d as they do, and I f e e l my way i n t o them, sometimes s c o r i n g b u l l ' s - e y e w i t h the d a r t , sometimes not even l a n d i n g the d a r t anywhere near the board. I have f e l t t h i s p s y c h i c sense of r e v o l v i n g r e p e r c u s s i o n w i t h my w r i t i n g : opening up one l i t t l e advent calendar window a f t e r another u n t i l a l l the p i c t u r e s are d i s p l a y e d and a l l the small candies consumed, mouth agape at i n s t a n t l y r e c o g n i z i n g the next p i c t u r e , the shape of the candy. W r i t i n g a l i f e , my l i f e as a w r i t e r , the l i f e w i t h i n my w r i t i n g , the w r i t i n g w i t h i n my life. Another l i t t l e window pops open, i t s l i t t l e s h u t t e r s j u s t b a r e l y touched by me, seeming t o open of i t s own accord. Life proceeds i n small but s i g n i f i c a n t ways, and back behind me i n t h a t f i e l d of f e e l i n g , or underneath one of those little windows, someone or something i s sometimes s n i c k e r i n g 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 c o l o r comes my way What c o l o r w i l l I be when I am done? The c o l o r o f a journey never ended.  46  Guyn-ick-ology A Response t o Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly, 1978 Ick.  I d i d n ' t make t h i s  journey.  The t r o u b l e i s Daly w r i t e s some of the book l i k e some men. The t r o u b l e i s I c o u l d n ' t s p i n . I'm s t i l l not sure I'd ever want t o s p i n . I have very mixed f e e l i n g s about the book, ranging from: —wanting to duplicate p a r t s o f i t t o send t o a few o b s t e t r i c i a n / g y n e c o l o g i s t s I know — k e e p i n g i t out o f my husband's s i g h t — s u g g e s t i n g t h a t i f Daly changed the t i t l e a b i t , e d i t e d a t a d here and t h e r e , she'd have a great pornographic, runaway bestseller —to admiring Daly's way and p l a y w i t h language. (After a w h i l e , the new words s t a r t t o make a l o t of sense.) I guess I'm j u s t "numb, dumb and normal," a compromiser (Daly's words), and w h i l e I've found many books on the s h e l v e s put t h e r e by "cemetery l i b r a r i a n s , " and laughed wryly, I am r e l u c t a n t t o put Daly's book on my s h e l f because I d i d n ' t f i n d any room i n her book f o r me. There I was, s e t t l e d h a p p i l y i n V i r g i n i a Woolf's room, and p l e a s u r a b l y t r a v e l l i n g down the paths o f Oxbridge w i t h her; identifying with her anger about e x c l u s i o n , her g r e a t s e n s i t i v i t y ; and t h i n k i n g about her l a p s e s i n t o madness, her s u i c i d e , her husband, Leonard. Then I p i c k e d up Daly's book, and the room became a p r i s o n , but I wasn't j u s t the p r i s o n e r , I was the j a i l e r , t o o . While Daly's word-making i s b r i l l i a n t , i t seems, t o me a t l e a s t , so s t a r k and devoid of f e e l i n g . Is t h i s i n t e n t i o n a l ? I f so, i t l e f t me c o l d . The book e x c i s e d ( f o r me) a l l the great core o f FEELing from FEEmale ( f e e l / m a l e — a person who f e e l s deeply). I f t h i s book was h e r anger and rage, I d i d n ' t FEEL i t . Moreover, I c o u l d not f e e l her deep sorrow f o r the s u f f e r i n g she r e c o r d s so w i d e l y and c l i n i c a l l y i n these pages. For me, t h i s made the s u f f e r i n g by women a t the hands of men and sometimes women, t o o , pornographic p a t r i a r c h y and unmitigated mockery. When I read some o f the woman-hating h i s t o r i e s , I c o u l d hear the screaming i n my head. D i d Daly hear i t when she wrote? As a woman, I squirmed when I read some o f t h e a t r o c i t i e s . Who needs t o spend time w i t h t h i s ? I gave b i r t h , I m i s c a r r i e d , I'm Jewish, I've v i s i t e d male d o c t o r s who I s e c r e t l y thought were former Nazi p e r p e t r a t o r s . I f the men Daly c a s t r a t e s i n these pages were t o get ahold o f these s t o r i e s , what d i f f e r e n t use some o f them would make o f these annals. I am reminded o f a former f r i e n d from my 30's, whose husband owned an expensive, g r a p h i c book about the t e r r i b l e t r i a l s and t e r r o r s conducted with accused witches. Whatever use 47  he made of the book d u r i n g h i s m a r r i a g e — t h e mind b o g g l e s — h e burned my f r i e n d at the stake once he graduated from law s c h o o l , and she was never the same, nor was our f r i e n d s h i p . Having s a i d a l l t h a t , I t h i n k t h i s book documents f o r p o s t e r i t y a l l the h i s t o r i c a l and c u r r e n t i n c i d e n t s of misogyny which l i k e the Jews, we women should never f o r g e t . There were passages i n the book t h a t I f e l t myself s i n k i n g i n t o (quicksand) w i t h my mind f i r m l y f i x e d on the i d e o l o g y , on a slow, downward path of d i s c o v e r y , my emotions b u r i e d f o r once beneath the quagmire. But I'd f a r r a t h e r walk down the paths w i t h V i r g i n i a Woolf and f o l l o w her i n t o the s i t t i n g room, l i s t e n i n g t o her s t i t c h — not a cosmic t a p e s t r y w i t h heavy metal t h r e a d s — b u t an e a r t h l y n e e d l e p o i n t of b r i l l i a n t c o l o r s . Daly may be a R e v o l t i n g Hag, but I couldn't help wondering i f she f e l t some of what she w r i t e s about. I'm not s a y i n g you have t o be burned at the stake t o understand, but the q u a l i t y of empathy c o u l d at l e a s t be a g e n t l e r a i n . I ' l l never be the same again.  48  Stories Not to Live By I w r i t e i n my s l e e p I w r i t e i n my dreams I have a whole other l i f e that exists underneath the s u r f a c e o f my days A l i f e t h a t gets w r i t t e n mostly i n my head w h i l e I wash the mustard o f f a spoon I am l i k e the woman i n a c h i l d r e n ' s novel who my daughter says doesn't e x i s t i n the s t o r y but j u s t 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 s t o r y o n l y through these  details  Do you understand t h a t I do not love any of you l e s s f o r t h a t ? J u s t t h a t 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 s t r i d e n t  just-a-woman's v o i c e )  But when I t e l l my s t o r y when I t r y t o w r i t e t h a t o t h e r w o r l d l y l i f e do you understand my love i s not d i m i n i s h e d but s t r o n g Growing Dormant while the d e t a i l s disappear and l i k e a sleepwalker not a s l e e p but n e i t h e r f u l l y awake I t r a v e l through t h i s world f o r a w h i l e coming i n not as a d e t a i l but the s t o r y I t i s you who make me strong who g i v e me the s t o r y I would not t r a d e our d e t a i l s f o r any dreams I j u s t want t o w r i t e t h e s t o r y awake  49  Awakening The poem i s NOT i n the answers t o a l l those q u e s t i o n s : I-can-find-the-red-shirt-for-you-if-that s-what-you-wantto-wear-no-you-probably-can t-wear-your-Little-Mermaidpy jamas-to-Disneyland-1 11-let-you-have-your-pearls-backif-you-don t-throw-them-down-the-stairs-at-me-againyou r e - r i g h t - I - s h o u l d - l i s t e n - t o - y o u r - a n s w e r - i f - I - a s k e d - b u t you-can t-just-do-the-pictures-all-the-time-there-isnothing-the-matter-with-me-it-was- just-an-automatic-ref lexto-close-the-garage-door-and-I m-sorry-the-van-doorh a p p e n e d - t o - b e - i n - t h e - w a y - a n d - n o - I - d o n t-know-what-Ichanged-in-Setup-but-I-have-screwed-up-completely-thewords-are-spread-eagled-across-a-blue-and-black-screen-andwe 11-have-to-phone-Jim-to-get-me-out-of-this 1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  The poem i s DEFINITELY NOT i n the f a c t t h a t I've been married so long t h a t when I read some p o e t r y I wrote as a young woman I was s u r p r i s e d t o remember my parents were a g a i n s t our marriage The poem ISN'T EVEN i n any of t h a t w r i t i n g I found t h a t I d i d 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 f o r g o t and don't even remember, not i n the s a c c h a r i n e words of a g i r l I don't r e c o g n i z e any more and would i g n o r e i f I saw again, not i n the bad p o e t r y of someone w i t h the same name as me who I'm g l a d i s gone, not even i n the images of a g i r l t o whom I now say yes, I remember you, I knew you once b e f o r e The poem i s NOT i n the one-word "good" a t the bottom of the w r i t i n g , or even the y o u - s h o u l d - t r y — t o - g e t - s o m e t h i n g - p u b l i s h e d w r i t t e n i n such t i n y h a n d w r i t i n g t h a t I f o r g o t i t was even t h e r e or d i d n ' t care o r d i d n ' t want t o see i t o r d i d n ' t b e l i e v e i t by then anyway The poem i s NOT i n the c a r e f u l l y couched encouragement t o t r y w r i t i n g s i n c e your great s e n s i t i v i t y and p e r c e p t i o n towards what makes good l i t e r a t u r e prompts me t o say i f that's.what you s t i l l want, f u l l o f hidden and u n w r i t t e n maybes and s o r t o f s and probably not good-enoughs The poem i s NOT mentioned V i r g i n i a i d e n t i f y the t i t l e s i d e of a bathroom  i n the E n g l i s h p r o f e s s o r who never even Woolf and what she wrote except p o s s i b l y t o of the p l a y a t i t l e which Albee took o f f the w a l l a t some u n i v e r s i t y somewhere  The poem i s NOT i n a l l the no's I had t o say, no, I can't t e a c h a summer course at U n i v e r s i t y of Toronto, no, I can't do t h a t workshop times 100, no, I don't want t o 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 t o your r e t i r e m e n t p a r t y , no, I won't come t o the s t a f f p a r t y , no, I don't want t o teach an o f f campus course i n Squamish, no, I can't do my master's program y e t 50  The poem i s NOT i n the Cheerios I i n t e n d t o serve f o r supper t o n i g h t nor i s i t i n the l o f t window which g i v e s a view o f the o u t s i d e world beyond and the poem i s i n the p i c t u r e s a l l the time The poem i s NOT i n the words jigsaw-puzzled and spread-eagled a c r o s s the b l a c k and b l u e computer screen and NOT i n those f a 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 terrible g i r l i s h n e s s and very bad w r i t i n g  poetry  and  stupid  The poem i s NOT EVEN i n a l l the r e a d i n g and the w r i t i n g and the r e f l e c t i n g and the t a l k i n g o r the journey o r the s t r u g g l e o r the women o r the d i s c u s s i o n The poem i s i n me. The poem is me.  51  P O L Y L O G : Re-joy/sing Collections of Home Male Dancers I. Snapshot: Eldest Daughter II. Cameo: Middle Daughter III. Pencil Sketch: Youngest Daughter.... Smart Conversations with My Children about God and Superman Pedagogy Writing for Disneyland Night Sky, Light Sky A Celebration of Women  53 54 55 56 57 58 60 61 62 63  C o l l e c t i o n s of Home P e e l i n g potatoes a f t e r having a f i g h t w i t h my daughter about gloves, the p e e l s p i l i n g up i n the s i n k and accumulating along w i t h our p e t t y disagreements... L i s t e n i n g t o my daughter laugh deeply from her b e l l y at how i n her c l a s s she looked and looked f o r her e r a s e r , 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 l i g h t n e s s o f her l i t t l e body as I swing her up... L i s t e n i n g t o my youngest daughter r a i l at me, I-hate-you-youdummy-you-doe-doe-you-are-so-stupid, and understanding how i t f e e l s t o be b e l i t t l e d . . . Running w i t h my daughters t o the window t o see the e i g h t blue j a y s they counted i n our season t r e e i n the creek, and r e a l i z i n g the p l e a s u r e and joy I take i n d e l i g h t i n g i n the world around us through t h e i r wonder and excitement... Watching my daughter daydream, wondering whether t h a t wandering mind w i l l ever l i g h t upon some hidden v i s t a , and a s t o n i s h e d a t some nugget of wisdom t h a t f a l l s from her as e a s i l y as a sweater shed on a warm s p r i n g day... Looking at my baby s l e e p i n g w i t h her c u r l s f a n n i n g her f i n e f e a t u r e s , her f o r e f i n g e r (the same f i n g e r I sucked as a baby) stuck i n her s u c k i n g mouth, and wanting e v e r y t h i n g t o stop s o a r i n g by so q u i c k l y . . . Reading and w r i t i n g s i d e by s i d e w i t h my daughters i n the playroom as the sun streams i n through the window, a l l of us r e s p e c t i n g the o t h e r ' s need f o r s o l i t u d e and s i l e n c e , but drawn t o g e t h e r i n our work by a mutual purpose... L i s t e n i n g on the monitor t o my o l d e s t daughter h o l d i n g my youngest daughter on her knee, t e l l i n g her a s t o r y and s i n g i n g the same l u l l a b i e s I sang t o them, the youngest asking, "Is i t over now?" i n a tone t h a t b e l i e s her words and g i v e s r i s e t o her hope (and mine) t h a t the moment never ends...  53  Male Dancers I have danced w i t h a s e n i o r a d m i n i s t r a t o r of s c h o o l s who smiled and pinched me. He has now r e t i r e d . I have danced w i t h Evan M a r c i s f r i e n d back from the BBC who s a i d i f I ever t i r e d of you to g i v e him a c a l l . I haven't c a l l e d y e t . 1  I have danced w i t h your f a t h e r ' s f r i e n d who h e l d my hand too long a f t e r the music ended. He d i d n ' t say h e l l o at your p a r e n t s ' f i f t i e t h anniversary party. I was younger then and t h i n My b r e a s t s devoid of mother's milk and t a u t . We used t o dance t o g e t h e r too. But not one of those male dancers Dancing i n my past For a l l t h e i r s l i p p e r y sinewy grace and s u b t l e mocking movement Could ever dance l i k e you ...understood my jokes.  54  I.  Snapshot:  E l d e s t Daughter  the c h i l d i n a woman's body long legs climbing the s l i d e the d r e s s bunched-up then f l i e s down the s l i d e the descent from c h i l d h o o d delayed by d e l i g h t child-woman me-you you-me blended i n t o one b l u r g e n e r a t i o n a l double exposure a p o s i t i v e p i c t u r e framed i n p e r f e c t playtime pleasure the f u t u r e s l i d i n g negative of a f i l m about t o be developed I f i n g e r her photograph over and over bending i t s c o r n e r s l o o k i n g a t me  II.  Cameo:  Middle Daughter  bent head f u l l one more poem to w r i t e the deep t h o u g h t f u l n e s s c h i s e l l e d i n words of b l a c k i v o r y the innocence i n s c r i b e d the wisdom of her i n e x p e r i e n c e always a l r e a d y 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 g i v e s e v e r y t h i n g away i n her f e a t u r e s but s t a y s o u t - o f - f o c u s I e n t e r her poem & c a r e s s the gem of her  face  56  III.  P e n c i l Sketch:  Youngest Daughter  tossed raphaelite c u r l s c i r c l e the w a t e r c o l o r of f l e s h drawn upon the p i l l o w case p e n c i l l e d i n by my lead-sharp p o i n t e d eyes t r a c e s of baby i n the l i n e s and f o l d s I use t o f i n i s h the sketch q u i c k l y I form the brow, l a s h e s , cherub cheeks as they t r a n s f o r m i n the b r e a t h of her s i g h I c h e r i s h each changing p e n c i l s t r o k e etched by t i m e l e s s motherhood f o r e v e r 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 t h a t f e e l i n g o f p a n i c , 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 d i d n ' t read t h e l a b e l p r o p e r l y and p i c k e d 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 t o spread my wings, running shoes, and run, baby, run!  wear my p u r p l e s t  SHUT YOUR MOUTH DOWN! W e l l , a l l r i g h t , i t ' s an improvement on shut up, I guess, but the same bad-tempered s n i p i n g s t i l l seems t o be t h e r e i n the words. MY BODY IS REALLY MAD, AND MY HEART, TOO. I can see t h a t . E s p e c i a l l y your h e a r t . Thanks f o r t e l l i n g me, and I a p p r e c i a t e 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 t h e r e i n your heart, l i s t e n i n g t o you suck. DO BUTTERFLIES CRY? I've never seen t h e i r t e a r s , and people b e l i e v e i n s e c t s have no f e e l i n g s , but I t h i n k when t h e i r b e a u t i f u l wings get p u l l e d o f f , they must somehow c r y . What do you t h i n k ? 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 f o r sure, because we see God a l l around us and we f e e l God i n our h e a r t s and minds, but aren't with God i n the way we l i v e t o g e t h e r here on e a r t h . But I t h i n k God c e l e b r a t e s a l l our b i r t h d a y s . What do you t h i n k ? THESE ARE ADULT PARKS.  KID PARKS HAVE SWINGS. 58  You've got a p o i n t . A d u l t s have Want t o p l a y l i k e me f o r a while? park w i t h swings.  t h e i r own ways o f p l a y i n g . A l l right, we'll drive to a  DO FISHES HAVE KNEES? W e l l , 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 l e g s . WHY NOT? J u s t an e v o l u t i o n a r y  accident.  WHAT? God made them t h a t way, they're water c r e a t u r e s . OH. PHEWF! I'M GLAD TO HEAR I NEED GLASSES. MY SMARTNESS.  I THOUGHT I WAS LOSING  No chance o f t h a t !  K i d s , nobody's p e r f e c t . JUST GOD AND  SUPERMAN!  59  Pedagogy blanket child sleeping warms the home child q u e s t i o n hanging opens the world  Writing for Disneyland T e l l daughters how many more days t i l l we leave f o r Disneyland. Water p l a n t s . F i n d a home f o r F l u f f y . Wash the c l o t h e s . Pack. Ask daughters t o 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 f o r the t r i p . P r i n t t h a t l a s t poem o f f the computer. Dry the c l o t h e s . Pack. C a l c u l a t e f o r daughters how many more hours t i l l we leave f o r Disneyland. Phone b a b y s i t t e r t o see i f s h e ' l l take F l u f f y . Water those p l a n t s . Clean the f r i d g e out. Revise t h e l a s t l i n e o f t h a t l a s t poem p r i n t e d o f f the computer. Pack. Unpack daughters' t o y s and a c t i v i t i e s so there w i l l be room f o r people i n the van. Phone neighbour t o see i f s h e ' l l take F l u f f y . Cancel the newspaper f o r the week. Show daughters on c a l e n d a r the day we l e a v e . Remember Mom's a d v i c e : do not eat a t the Jack i n the Box. Remember o l d e r s i s t e r ' s a d v i c e : phone a doctor i f they get sick. Remember not t o get advice from them any more. Remember younger s i s t e r ' s a d v i c e : get a n t i b i o t i c samples from your d o c t o r . Check. Enough f o r 4. Check Disneyland weather on weather channel so you know what t o pack. Pretend not t o hear q u e s t i o n s about whether i t i s time t o leave for Disneyland. Add new verse t o t h a t poem. F o l d t h a t mound o f c l e a n c l o t h e s . Make daughters t r y on o l d summer s h o r t s and b a t h i n g s u i t s . Phone s i s t e r s again t o see i f t h e y ' l l take F l u f f y . Water those damn p l a n t s . Think about some c r e a t i v e r e p l i e s f o r answer t o famous v a c a t i o n q u e s t i o n : Are we t h e r e yet? Don't f o r g e t paper and p e n c i l f o r my s u i t c a s e . Put the c l e a n c l o t h e s away and PACK! Try t o be l e s s b i t c h y with daughters who are c a l l i n g you b i t c h y . Rummage through drawers and f i n d b i g g e r s i z e s f o r l i t t l e one, pass on o l d e s t ' s s h o r t s and b a t h i n g s u i t s t o middle one, and take o l d e s t t o the m a l l . 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, l e a n i n g a g a i n s t me, and I was leaning against a r a i l i n g . We were pressed t o g e t h e r with our f a m i l y and the r e s t of the swarming humanity w a i t i n g f o r F r i d a y n i g h t ' s "Fantasmic" l a s e r l i g h t show to begin. "So, Mommy," Rebecca s a i d to me, running her hands through my h a i r . "What do you t h i n k the world w i l l be l i k e when I'm a grown-up?" No Mickey Mouse q u e s t i o n s out of t h i s c h i l d , and I want to t e l l her t h a t i t w i l l be e v e r y t h i n g she wants i t to be, whatever she wants i t to be, and f o r however l o n g she wants i t to be t h a t way. But I j u s t comment t h a t w e ' l l probably be able to go out f o r d i n n e r to Space anytime we l i k e , and Rebecca r e p l i e s t h a t she doesn't l i k e t h a t , she i s a f r a i d of going up to Space, she j u s t wants there to be no earthquakes. The l a s e r l i g h t show begins, and we watch Mickey s p l a s h a c r o s s the n i g h t sky i n a d i s p l a y of c o l o r e d l i g h t s upon water, wondrous, fantastic, gold-silver streams of glitter c r i s s c r o s s i n g sky waves of d i s a p p e a r i n g phantom shapes, up i n space. And f o r a few moments, as Rebecca and I t u r n our f a c e s t o g e t h e r to the n i g h t sky, t o the l i g h t sky, the e a r t h quakes, and we h o l d on to one another.  62  A C e l e b r a t i o n o f Women from my mother I l e a r n e d love how i t i s tempered with a r e a l i t y t h a t looks a t l i f e with the c l e a r 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 s t r o n g enough to s u r v i v e even words t h a t sometimes burn r i g h t through the outer s k i n of i n n e r 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 t u r b u l e n t maternal waves and c u r r e n t s from my aunts I l e a r n e d remembrance f e l t i t extend a b l a n k e t of warmth and comfort even when the q u i l t i s f r a y e d and t o r n from my women f r i e n d s I learned devotion and f i n a l l y began to l e t i t s salve be rubbed upon the f e s t e r i n g of my e t e r n a l sadness  sores  from my women c o l l e a g u e s I l e a r n e d awe watched i t s aura c i r c l e overhead w i t h 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 a c r o s s the underwater any c o l o r any p l a c e  r i v e r room o f time  63  any r i v e r any race I learned the loveloyaltyforgivenessremembrancedevotionawe t h a t o n l y comes w i t h womanly Grace  POLYLOG:  Re-traversing  Travel Everywomen Motherhood and Feminism Noisy, Noiseless Noise Prodigal Mother "Bitter Milk" Happy Birthday Afternoon Delight Where Did I Leave Me?  66 72 73 75 77 79 81 82 85  Travel I t h a r d l y seemed worth a l l the bother, but s t i l l she checked t h e time when she woke, t i r e d from another n i g h t o f wakeful, t h o u g h t - f u l l s l e e p , and i n s i s t e d t h a t they a l l r i s e , d r e s s a p p r o p r i a t e l y and hurry down t o another rushed, c o l d cereal breakfast. Rushed so they would be ready i n good time: t e e t h brushed, h a i r brushed, lunches i n hand, boots and r a i n c o a t s donned, umbrellas open, r u s h i n g down the driveway past two p e r f e c t l y p r e s e n t a b l e and working v e h i c l e s t o walk the path i n a r e l e n t l e s s downpour.  Hurry up, please, girls! Why don't you wear pants, it's raining heavily? Oh,  d o w eh 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 ow e a r a d r e s s .  Fine, but you'll have to wear tights. Oh,  Ihate putting tights on!  W i l l y o u d o i tfor  m e ?  No, I hate putting tights on, too, and I have to do the baby's. S h e ' s n o ta b a b y a n y m o r e , y o u  know.  She is to me and so are you. T h e n put m y tights on,  too!  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 ow 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 tall that d u m b r a i n . At f i r s t such p r o t e s t s by the c h i l d r e n had been v o c i f e r o u s and r e l e n t l e s s on the w e t t e s t days. They were t i r e d , they p r o t e s t e d , c o u l d n ' t they j u s t be d r i v e n t o s c h o o l , t h e r e wasn't enough time t o p l a y b e f o r e i t was time t o l e a v e , and so on... But she p e r s i s t e d , d r i v e n by some unconscious need t o prove to them t h a t t h e r e was another way t o t r a v e l , t h a t t h e r e was a whole l i f e o u t s i d e t h a t they would never know about i f they d i d n ' t walk i t , see i t c l o s e up, f e e l i t i n t h e wet downpour which t h r e a t e n e d t o soak them through t h e i r nylon coats and umbrellas. The sunny days were never a problem. I t was e a s i e r t o wake i n the s u n - f i l l e d rooms and the c h i l d r e n were eager t o s l i p l i g h t shoes on t h e i r f e e t and bask i n the c o m f o r t i n g s u n l i g h t which countered even the most b i t i n g c o l d o r wind. Those days they counted themselves l u c k y t o rush p a s t the n e i g h b o u r i n g houses on the c r e s c e n t , up the walkway t o the s t a i r s which l e d to the path i n the w o o d s — w i t h t h i c k , dense f o r e s t brush on one s i d e , where bears were sometimes known t o come f o r a g i n g f o r food, and p o l i t e , c l e a n - l o o k i n g townhouses u n i f o r m l y arranged on the o t h e r s i d e . Leaving those townhouses f a r behind, they f o l l o w e d t h e trampled weeds o f t h e i r f a v o r i t e s h o r t c u t through the woods, the s u r r o u n d i n g brush l u s h w i t h pussywillows and hot pink salmonberry f l o w e r s i n e a r l y s p r i n g . Through t h i s f o r e s t 66  t r a i l they would walk, e v e n t u a l l y s c a l i n g a rocky, e a r t h - f i l l e d h i l l which l e d them t o t h e p e d e s t r i a n l i g h t a c r o s s a busy s t r e e t , c o n t i n u i n g up another h i l l where they breathed and coughed and s p u t t e r e d i n the exhaust fumes o f c a r s speeding by much t o o f a s t . Then they turned past the corner gas s t a t i o n and car wash—which always h a l t e d t h e i r journey i f t h e r e was a c a r b e i n g washed. They loved watching the l a r g e blue mops s p i t t i n g soap suds and water i n a wet dog-haired spun f r e n z y . Up t h e p a r k i n g l o t o f a l a r g e apartment b u i l d i n g they would continue, where they had t o be c a u t i o u s o f the o c c a s i o n a l c a r b u r s t i n g unseen out o f t h e cave o f t h e underground garage. Then they s t r o d e a c r o s s t h e church p a r k i n g l o t where t h e p r e s c h o o l t e a c h e r ' s maroon van was always parked, up one f i n a l s t r e e t o f newish, p i n k - s t u c c o e d houses. F i n a l l y , they p i c k e d 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 o f overgrown undergrowth and a c r o s s the top f i e l d of the schoolground t o t h e i r u l t i m a t e d e s t i n a t i o n . They had d i s c o v e r e d much on these f o o t adventures, which she f e l t c e r t a i n they would have missed i f they j o i n e d t h e o t h e r s b a r r e l l i n g past ( o f t e n waving t o them o r o f f e r i n g them a r i d e which they d e c l i n e d ) i n f a m i l i a r , popular c a r s . They now knew the names o f many c o l o r f u l f l o w e r s , found earthworms and s n a i l s and odd-shaped r o c k s . They lunged f o r and fought over l u c k y pennies, o r n i c k e l s , and once, a q u a r t e r . They had taken home f o r washing the l o s t bounty o f dropped c h i l d h o o d t r e a s u r e s : p r e t t y h a i r b a r r e t t e s , s m a l l , f l a t p l a s t i c d o l l s once p a r t o f some d o l l h o u s e o r other, a s m a l l , r e d - s t r i p e d d o l l d r e s s , and other f i n d s . 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 t h a t e v e n t u a l l y when they reached their d e s t i n a t i o n , whether t h e i r journey had been smoothly sun-warmed or i n t r e p i d l y r a i n - p e l t e d o r even b e a u t i f u l l y snow-drifted, they f e l t some i n n e r sense o f accomplishment, confirmed by t h e s a t i s f i e d l o o k s on t h e i r f a c e s , the r e f u s a l t o even c o n s i d e r some a l t e r n a t i v e mode o f t r a n s p o r t , the disappointment when 67  o c c a s i o n a l i l l n e s s prevented them from s e 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 w i t h a sense o f f o r e b o d i n g , a presentiment t h a t no matter what, she should change the r u l e s and not a l l o w any departure by f o o t , and she q u i e t l y mentioned t h i s t o the c h i l d r e n .  I think we should consider scrapping our walk today, and just go by car. The n o i s y p r o t e s t s weakened any r e s o l v e a r i s i n g out o f 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 r e p l i e d , d e f e n c e l e s s a g a i n s t t h e i r r i g h t e o u s onslaught. "Dress q u i c k l y , and come down f o r breakfast." But as she poured t h a t morning's c h o i c e o f d r y c e r e a l i n t o b r i g h t l y c o l o u r e d p l a s t i c bowls, she c o u l d not shake the f e e l i n g t h a t t h e r e was something t e r r i b l y wrong, t h a t she should j u s t i n s i s t they a l l s t a y home. By the time everyone assembled f o r t h e i r usual c o l d touched, warm-voiced morning meal, she f e l t she was powerless t o prevent the day from proceeding as u s u a l , j u s t as she had implemented and s t r u c t u r e d i t not so l o n g ago, f o l l o w i n g i n s t i n c t s t h a t a t the time had been s t r o n g i n her and t r u e . As they trooped up the s t r e e t t o the walkway which l e d t o the f o r e s t , c h a t t e r i n g h a p p i l y about the p u r p l e and white crocuses, warning each o t h e r b o i s t e r o u s l y t o a v o i d the dog poo, she t r i e d t o shake o f f the sense o f doom and gloom which was so s t r o n g i t was a presence walking n o n c h a l a n t l y r i g h t along w i t h her f a m i l y , s i d e s t e p p i n g the dog droppings. E v e r y t h i n g seemed normal. I t was another r a i n - e n c a s e d day, and t h e i r c o l o r f u l , c l o s e l y h e l d a r r a y o f umbrellas a c c i d e n t a l l y bumped and brushed the water o f f the hanging branches o f c h e r r y blossom trees. The umbrellas seemed l i k e l i t t l e colored parachute-shaped bumper c a r s d r i v i n g haphazardly up the roadway of p l a n t s and f l o w e r s t h a t l i n e d t h e i r course. By the time they s c a l e d the walkway s t a i r s and a r r i v e d a t the f o o t of the woods, her b r e a t h i n g was q u i c k and panicky, and the f o r c e o f the r a i n seemed t o quicken with each new p u f f and pant. She s c r u t i n i z e d the woods through the r a i n d r o p s b l i n d i n g her view, d r i p p i n g o f f h e r g l a s s e s . A wind blew up, and they a l l c o n c e n t r a t e d on h o l d i n g on t o the blowing umbrellas. The pelt of the r a i n intensified, and her c h i l d r e n giggled, d e l i g h t i n g i n b e i n g blown along by the wind and r a i n .  68  Look, Mommy, my umbrella's turning inside outside and I can hardly hold it any~ A s t r o n g gust c a r r i e d t h e r u i n e d umbrella c r i e s o f d e l i g h t changed t o dismay, and t e a r s .  o f f , and the  Oh, no! Oh, no! It's blowing away! Before she c o u l d even bend t o console t h a t d i s a p p e a r i n g umbrella's small owner, o r o f f e r the s h e l t e r o f her own apparatus, the r e s t o f 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 c r a z e d f l o w e r i n g c r e a t u r e s , and an even s t r o n g e r gust blew them o f f , one, two, t h r e e . . . Now a l l o f the c h i l d r e n were c r y i n g , and g e t t i n g very much wetter w i t h the f o r c e o f the b u f f e t i n g wind and the pounding downpour. She q u i c k l y decided they should t u r n around and head f o r home, as they were a l l f a r t o o drenched t o even c o n s i d e r completing the walk t o s c h o o l , and t h i s time there were no n o i s y p r o t e s t s a t her s u g g e s t i o n . But they c o u l d not f i n d the walkway s t a i r s , even though they had j u s t entered the woods up those s t a i r s o n l y moments ago. Panicked, she t r i e d t o seem calm, so as not t o alarm t h e c h i l d r e n , but they immediately sensed her concern and p i n p o i n t e d 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 q u i c k l y a l l a y e d t h e i r f e a r s , f i g h t i n g her own r i s i n g sense o f dismay, s a y i n g t h a t they would simply f i n d another way out o f the woods, up by the end o f 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 t h e busy s t r e e t which s i 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 a n t i c i p a t i o n of the s i g h t o f the c a r s speeding by the road as seen through the spaces i n t h e overhanging t r e e branches. They marched on, wet and d i s h e a r t e n e d by the c e a s e l e s s r a i n and wind, the c h i l d r e n soaked through and c r y i n g l o u d l y now, and she knew t h a t they should have reached t h a t l i g h t by now, were walking on and on f a r too long, but s a i d nothing, s i l e n t and growing more alarmed. The c h i l d r e n ' s w a i l s grew louder, longer, siren-like, b l e n d i n g i n t o one long s u s t a i n e d minor note whose sound was h e l d by a f o o t on a loud p e d a l , an e e r i e , o t h e r - w o r l d l y sound i n t h e pummelling r a i n of the f o r e s t . Suddenly the c h i l d r e n ' s forms rose i n the a i r l i k e t h e i r blown-away umbrellas, and c o a t s f l y i n g up l i k e the f a b r i c on the upside-down spokes o f 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 f r o z e n f o r s e v e r a l seconds, rooted t o the ground l i k e one o f the o l d t r e e s o f the f o r e s t , watching 69  dazed as her c h i l d r e n seemed t o f l o a t away. A f l o o d of energy surged through her, maternal i n s t i n c t maneuvering her i n t o motion, and she d e s p e r a t e l y c l u t c h e d a t the l i t t l e f e e t r i s i n g h i g h e r and h i g h e r i n the a i r . With t h a t chorus of h i g h - p i t c h e d c r i e s r i n g i n g unmistakably i n her e a r s , she clawed at a i r , and her hands s l i c e d through no substance at a l l , the c h i l d r e n a h a l l u c i n a t o r y v i s i o n of small l e g s and f l a p p i n g coats and waving arms, dear l i t t l e b a l l o o n f a c e s r e c o g n i z a b l e from w i t h i n the c e n t r e of each w a f t i n g image. As suddenly as t h e i r ascent began, the c h i l d r e n ' s forms (or, what she had b e l i e v e d t o be the c h i l d r e n ) disappeared from view, the c a t e r w a u l i n g w a i l s winding down t o one l a s t despondent note cut o f f i n mid-stream. The r a i n stopped a b r u p t l y . A great s i l e n c e punctuated the f o r e s t f l o o r w i t h i t s exclamation of p o s s i b i l i t y . The sun shone through the l e a v e s of the d r i p p i n g t r e e branches. P u f f s of r i s i n g , smoky d r y i n g a i r rose from f l a t t e n e d t r e e t r u n k stumps s c a t t e r e d here and t h e r e 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 t h a t she began t o understand, and f e e l i n g r e l i e v e d t h a t the c h i l d r e n were a c t u a l l y q u i t e s a f e , warm, and dry, knowing t h a t the o r d i n a r y morning m i n i s t r a t i o n s were v e r y l i k e l y b e i n g continued r i g h t a t t h i s very moment somehow, she r e l a x e d somewhat and began t o enjoy b e i n g by h e r s e l f i n the woods. Soon her c l o t h e s began t o f e e l l e s s sopping wet and simply c o o l and s o f t upon her s k i n . She breathed i n the worm-scented, pinecone a i r and c l o s e d her eyes, s t a n d i n g q u i t e s t i l l f o r a few seconds, contemplating. She sensed t h a t her next move when she opened her eyes would b r i n g her t o some t r a i l which l e d out of the woods, but s t a l l i n g , she delayed, and i n s t e a d , l i f t e d her face, eyes s t i l l c l o s e d , t o f e e l the warming a i r l i c k her f a c e . When she opened her eyes a t l a s t , she was not the l e a s t s u r p r i s e d t o see the c o n c r e t e walkway s t a i r s , f u l l of s m a l l puddles l e f t o v e r from the downpour. She l i n g e r e d f o r a minute longer, secure i n the thought t h a t these s t u r d y s t a i r s descended to the walkway and e v e n t u a l l y would l e a d her home when she was ready. She p e r c e i v e d t h a t they would be t h e r e even i f not i n f u l l view, even i f she chose t o descend them l a t e r , even i f she decided t o e x p l o r e on her own some more and s t r o l l i n the forest. F e e l i n g c o n f i d e n t , a l i v e , and very much i n c o n t r o l of herself, she walked p a s t 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 f o r e s t , eschewing the p e d e s t r i a n l i g h t and busy s t r e e t which was at the o p p o s i t e end of the woods' path. D e l i g h t i n g i n t h i s unexpected t u r n of events, she continued her t r a v e l , walking, s e e i n g a whole outdoor l i f e c l o s e up, f e e l i n g i t w i t h her clearheaded senses, r e l i s h i n g her s o l i t u d e . She d i d not even look backwards once at the v a n i s h i n g walkway, knowing she c o u l d f i n d i t again e a s i l y when i t was time, understanding and a c c e p t i n g her own adventure i n time, her e a r l i e r sense of f e a r and f o r e b o d i n g e v a p o r a t i n g as 70  h a s t i l y as the r a i n had stopped. In the d i s t a n c e s e v e r a l s m a l l umbrellas l a y turned i n s i d e out, r u i n e d , t h e i r parachute c o l o r s s t r e a k e d w i t h ribbons of still-wet material.  71  Everywomen For s i x months o f the year I am I n t e l l e c t u a l Woman R e a d i n g / w r i t i n g / t h i n k i n g / c r e a t i n g my work. Winter C y c l e For another h a l f the year I am E a r t h Mother Baking c o o k i e s , v i s i t i n g parks, d e v o t i n g a l l my time to my Family. Summer S o l s t i c e In w i n t e r away from In summer away from  I r e s e n t every moment my work. I c e l e b r a t e every moment my work.  In w i n t e r I am i n s p i r e d at odd moments i n the bath, i n my bed. In summer I am r e q u i r e d at a l l moments from the bath, from the bed. D i v i d e d between the women I am or hope t o become. What do my daughters make o f t h i s m a t r i a r c h a l metamorphosis? T h i s strange s h i f t i n g back and f o r t h . They no longer ask me i f my work i s done but wait, suspended s t i l l b o r n , e x p e c t i n g the b i r t h of a whole mother.  72  Motherhood and  Feminism  I t h i n k Mary Catherine Bateson p r o f i l e s mostly mothers, not c h i l d l e s s women, f o r some very r e a l and reasonable reasons. I do not w r i t e t h i s to i n any way b e l i t t l e the c h o i c e s of (or outcomes f o r ) any c h i l d l e s s woman. I have f r i e n d s who have no children. (I wish they'd b a b y s i t . ) I've even been there myself f o r a while, f i r s t by c h o i c e , then not by c h o i c e . But I d i d decide t h a t c h i l d r e n were and s t i l l are very important to me as a woman and a person. However, I l o s t p a r t s of my s e l v e s d u r i n g a decade of pregnancy and b i r t h i n g , and no matter how much Bateson lauds i m p r o v i s a t i o n a l a c t s j u g g l e d between and amongst r e a l l i v i n g , i t r e a l l y h u r t s to l o s e those p a r t s and i t i s a p a i n f u l l o s s . At the same time i t was p a r a d o x i c a l l y a wonderful decade t h a t brought me the joy of three b e a u t i f u l c h i l d r e n , a l o t of good jokes cracked by my husband, and years which I w i l l always c h e r i s h and remember and look back upon with great l o n g i n g . I made some c h o i c e s , one of which was t h a t I was not going t o be one o f those women l i k e my lawyer c o u s i n i n Calgary, who never stopped working except to g i v e b i r t h to her two c h i l d r e n and h i r e the nanny. Besides, my two m i s c a r r i a g e s and subsequent d i f f i c u l t i e s a f f e c t e d a l l of my c h o i c e s . And I d i d n ' t want t o do i t a l l , not at the same time anyway. I don't care, u n l i k e my c o u s i n , i f my house i s s m a l l e r than 5000 square f e e t , i f I am not a p a t r o n of the symphony, and whether my sunroom (oops, s o r r y , A d e l l e , solarium) has l o v e l y s t a i n e d g l a s s windows. In p o i n t of f a c t , my house i s much, much s m a l l e r ; I buy t i c k e t s and take my c h i l d r e n t o the symphony; and my sunroom i s a playroom c l u t t e r e d with too many t o y s . But f o r a l l my contentment with the p l a y e r s of those t o y s , I l o s t a great d e a l : status self-worth self worth and the c o n t i n u i n g development of a woman I am j u s t now t r y i n g t o remember, o n l y she's ten years o l d e r and d i f f e r e n t . When I was a young teacher, then a c o n s u l t a n t , and then a s e s s i o n a l i n s t r u c t o r , 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 P a r t i e s and p r i d e d myself on never ever a t t e n d i n g one. Who had time or cared? Well, t h i s mother and p a r t - t i m e person now owns some Tupperware, and i f you don't t h i n k t h a t ' s frightening, try listening to one of those Tupperware p r e s e n t a t i o n s and p l a y i n g one of those dumb games with a straight face. I needed the b e l l s h a p e d cups and the s i p l i d s . I d i d f e e l somewhat l e s s f r i g h t e n e d about Tupperware when I returned to part-time t e a c h i n g when my youngest daughter was s i x months o l d , but even t h a t was p a i n f u l . I was b r e a s t f e e d i n g and my baby r e f u s e d a b o t t l e . But the Environment Club was selling Tupperware t o save the earth: I c o u l d buy more bellshaped cups with sip lids, and s k i p the games and 73  p r e s e n t a t i o n s . I d i d have t o run home r i g h t a t 3 t o feed a baby who was very, very t h i r s t y . I t h i n k a l l o f these experiences have c o n t r i b u t e d t o my great admiration o f V i r g i n i a Woolf, who i n Room o f One's Own, w r i t e s t h a t somebody has t o have t h e c h i l d r e n , but maybe a few are enough. ( V i r g i n i a , i f I c o u l d have arranged pregnancy and labour f o r my husband, I would have, b e l i e v e me. With f i v e p r e g n a n c i e s — t w o m i s c a r r i a g e s and t h r e e c h i l d r e n — t h e t h r i l l wears o f f q u i c k l y . ) I t h i n k , too, these experiences and these c h o i c e s made me b a l k a t some of Mary Daly's feminism. I t i s d i f f i c u l t f o r me t o read t e x t t h a t q u e s t i o n s whether women expel t h e i r babies by spontaneously a b o r t i n g them. Mary, i f you o n l y knew what I now know t h a t I can pass a l o n g t o my c h i l d r e n : —how t o put a p l a s t i c l i n e r i n a P l a y t e x b o t t l e —how t o change a c r i b sheet without removing the bumper pad —how t o f o l d and p i n a d i a p e r — t h e names o f a l l the ponies. The l i s t i s e n d l e s s , but i t i s changing: —how t o use TELEREG —how t o make the beds and w r i t e poetry —how t o f i n i s h the l a t e s t book w h i l e p i c k i n g up supper a t Mcdonald's... Yes, i t was j o y f u l but p a i n f u l t o experience a decade o f s e l f - l o s s and o t h e r - g a i n . I'm t e n years o l d e r ! 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 , t o o , and p o s s i b l y even l e s s p a i n f u l .  74  Noisy, Noiseless Noise If one of the themes i n f e m i n i s t w r i t i n g i s s i l e n c e , o t h e r must s u r e l y be n o i s e .  the  NOISE! Three c h i l d r e n t a l k a l l at once: can-I-have-moreapple-juice-please-tell-me-another-story-about-when-you-were-alittle-girl-Mommy-look-at-the-elephant-I-made—in-the-centre-ofmy-cheese and I answer: o n c e - w h e n - I - w a s - a - l i t t l e - g i r l - h e r e s your-apple-j uice-piease-don t-spread-that-cheese-around-anymore-I-stole-one-doll-shoe-from-my-friend...One husband f i l l i n g my o t h e r ear f u l l of p e n e t r a t i n g c h i t c h a t on the s t a t e of the economy and the recent e l e c t i o n and h i s motorcycle maintenance hobby, a l l d e l i v e r e d i n t o t h i s o t h e r ear while the f i r s t ear i s b e i n g f i l l e d with the sweet and busy babble of c h i l d h o o d needs and j o y s . 1  1  NOISE! The t e l e v i s i o n or a video b l a r e behind me as I s i t at the k i t c h e n t a b l e or u p s t a i r s at the computer. I hate t h a t t e l e v i s i o n , I am always going around and t u r n i n g i t o f f . My c h i l d r e n don't answer me when i t ' s on and have g l a z e d , unfocused s t a r e s when I look at them. Oh, how I am beginning to hate t h a t f a m i l y on F u l l House. My f a m i l y l i k e s the TV on while I t a l k t o them; t h e i r eyes wander away from mine to the screen u n l e s s I t u r n t h a t t e l e v i s i o n o f f , an abrupt and u n l o v i n g gesture of frustration. NOISE! The whisper of the w h i s p e r - q u i e t dishwasher, the hum of the f r o s t - f r e e f r i d g e d e f r o s t i n g , the whir of the d r y e r s p i n n i n g a week's worth of musty towels or juice-stained c h i l d r e n ' s c l o t h e s , the s i l e n t n o i s e of our p l a n t s begging f o r water, the m u f f l e d s n u f f l e s of our dog p l e a d i n g f o r food and water, the v i s u a l n o i s e of a whole house f u l l of t o y s which have s t e a d i l y been overturned and r o t a t e d and c i r c u l a t e d i n everwidening c i r c l e s of c l u t t e r and d i s a r r a y . NOISE! Trapped w i t h t h r e e c h i l d r e n s i c k w i t h the f l u f o r two weeks and now they are f i g h t i n g almost c o n s t a n t l y between v i d e o s , and sometimes d u r i n g the v i d e o s , and i n c r e a s i n g l y b e f o r e the v i d e o s they choose to watch even begin, so t h a t I am a c t u a l l y l o o k i n g forward to going to the d e n t i s t by the time the b a b y s i t t e r comes. The c a l l f o r honeynut c h e e r i o s f o r one, wice c w i s p i e s f o r another a h a l f - h o u r l a t e r , and f i n a l l y , when the a l l - d a y mess of the k i t c h e n 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 f i v e - y e a r - o l d a d o l e s c e n t l e a r n i n g to e x e r t her independence w a i l i n g i n c e s s a n t l y i n my ears f o r a h a l f hour, interspersing this s i r e n of sound with I-hate-you's, and dummies, and you-are-so-means. And the n o i s e of another c h i l d sneaking out to the h a l l j u s t o u t s i d e our bedroom, p a c k i n g up her bed r o l l and twenty toys and s e t t l i n g down f o r the n i g h t 75  c l o s e r t o us because she f e e l s someone s i t t i n g on her back and watching h e r a t n i g h t . The n o i s e o f y e t another c h i l d t u r n i n g on our bathroom l i g h t , peeing, never f l u s h i n g , and c l i m b i n g 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 p i l l o w . The most b i t t e r s w e e t , echoing n o i s e of a l l , the knowledge t h a t one day a l l too soon many o f these clamorous sounds w i l l be gone, I can t a l k t o myself a l l I want, and I w i l l miss each and every moment o f t h i s raucous, cacophonous symphony o f sound j u s t as badly as I now crave the s i l e n c e .  76  P r o d i g a l Mother Sometimes when I d r i v e away A daughter waving s m i l i n g s a d l y from the window The o t h e r s i n v i s i b l e u n t i l an e x t r a arm or head appear behind beside her Glass gargoyle g a z i n g I remember Suzanne t a l k t o me over our r e s t a u r a n t meal Speak about her husband and c h i l d r e n i n England s t i l l wondering about the day Suzanne Left j u s t a toothbrush i n her purse She never went back I see Suzanne's s e n s i t i v e s t r i c k e n f e a t u r e s S o f t behind her eyes i n her words They know where I am now I f they ever need me I f they want t o c a l l I was c h i l d l e s s then I d i d n ' t understand a l l Suzanne c o u l d be She gave b i r t h at 19 too q u i c k l y i n a t o i l e t then again a year l a t e r She d i d n ' t l i k e her husband When I f i r s t drove away f o r j u s t an hour I didn't l i k e i t Worried the u m b i l i c a l cord t h a t t i e d me Unsevered and secure Soon I l e a r n e d t o leave l o n g e r times Worried l e s s needed t o go Understanding I was not my We were j o i n e d but Separate too  t o my  children  These days I d r i v e away f e e l i n g freedom i n my f l i g h t Fear  children  Knowing a l l I've l e f t behind Return Everyone rushes to p r o d i g a l mother Returned t o the f o l d And I am g r a t e f u l Relieved I d i d not b r i n g my toothbrush l i k e Suzanne  "Bitter Milk" At the end of June every year at our neighbourhood s c h o o l (a s m a l l , primary annex), a s p e c i a l "graduation" ceremony i s h e l d to mark a passage f o r the Grade 3's, who go on to s e v e r a l d i f f e r e n t s c h o o l s i n the d i s t r i c t , sometimes l e a v i n g s i b l i n g s behind at the annex s c h o o l . The Grade 3's t r a d i t i o n a l l y w r i t e memories which they read aloud i n t o a microphone d u r i n g an assembly f o r the whole s c h o o l and the parents. The event i s s e n t i m e n t a l , s t i r r i n g , happy f o r the c h i l d r e n , b i t t e r s w e e t f o r the p a r e n t s . 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. T h i s year on t h i s s p e c i a l g r a d u a t i o n day, I am f i l l e d w i t h " b i t t e r m i l k " about one daughter's s c h o o l experience. Bitter milk: "a mixture of milk and crushed margosa l e a v e s , the same b i t t e r p o t i o n t h a t mothers apply to t h e i r n i p p l e s when they wish to wean t h e i r b a b i e s " (Grumet 1988, x i ) . " B i t t e r milk, f l u i d of c o n t r a d i c t i o n s : l o v e and r e j e c t i o n , sustenance and abstinence, nurturance and d e n i a l " ( x i ) . L i k e Madeleine Grumet, I want s c h o o l t o be a p l a c e of i n t i m a c y and nurturance f o r my daughters. I want s c h o o l to be a p l a c e where they l e a r n l o v e and t o l e r a n c e , not s u b o r d i n a t i o n . And so on t h i s s p e c i a l g r a d u a t i o n day, I w i l l d r i v e a l l t h r e e of my daughters to a b e a u t i f u l park w i t h t r e e s and swings. There we w i l l run i n the warm wind t h a t blows over the Coquitlam h i l l s i n June, swing i n the swings w i t h freedom, d e l i g h t , and abandonment, and I w i l l say my f i n a l good-bye t o Sara's Grade 3 year. T h i s year Sara w i l l not be among those who read t h e i r memories i n t o the microphone. I f she were, she c o u l d t e l l how she b u r i e d a dead o r i o l e we found on the f r o n t porch i n November, how she wrote a eulogy f o r t h i s b i r d , conducted a f u n e r a l f o r the b i r d , and read her eulogy aloud to the c o l d , n i g h t a i r , b u r y i n g 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, freezeframe,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 w on for weeks on end, I cried, too, again, this time out loud, long and out loud, out loud 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-real like-it-just-give-me-school-at-home-please-Mommy. Sara-runs-out-the-door-in-her-ruffledsocks-it-is-pouring-wet-from-aU-the-rain-I-let-the-teacher-pull-her-back-inside-don't-lookback-she-advises-like-Lot's-wife-and-tum-into-a-pillar-of-salt. Don't-look-back-and-I-don'tdon't-look-back-I-don't-need-to-I-know-Sara-is-crying-feels-Pve-abandoned-her-and-I-havebut-I-don 't-know-it-yet. I-didn 't-look-back-I-didn 't-even-listen-I-couldn 't-believe-it-justcouldn 't-this-can 't-be. Don 't-look-back-she 's-fine-she 'll-stop-as-soon-as-you 're-gone-w 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-knowforgive-me-for-I-knew-not-what-did-not-listen-to-the-wisdom-of-little-children-out-of-themouths-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.  80  Happy B i r t h d a y 1 m not ready f o r t h e b i g b l a c k Sony Space Sound r a d i o t a k i n g up h a l f her d r e s s e r space the c l a s s i c a l tapes r e t u r n e d t o the s t e r e o c a b i n e t Red R i d i n g ' s Hood given away 1  I o n l y j u s t f o l d e d the d i a p e r s i n t o d u s t c l o t h s dismantled the c r i b donated small s l e e p e r s t o the playroom d o l l h o u s e I watch her by her r a d i o s t i l l deep i n thought dreaming t o the raucous music I see myself by the screen door t e a r s p o u r i n g down my eyes I gaze out a t p r a i r i e sunset blood r e d d u l l e d by summer haze chequered i n the t i n y squares of f r o n t door lookout my mother's r a d i o p l a y i n g songs t h a t make me c r y apron t i e d she dances round our k i t c h e n making d i n n e r I want t o hide t h a t r a d i o i n her room cover i t p a i n t i t white unplug i t smash i t s speakers glue the buttons down g i v e i t away But I won't i t ' s me there by the r a d i o the sunset's c a l l i n g i t once spoke t o me I ' l l p l a y her r a d i o dance around her room put c l o t h e s away tuned t o a c l a s s i c a l song I l i k e wish i t wasn't there  (Note: This impaired.)  story  Afternoon Delight i s e s p e c i a l l y designed  f o r the  hearing  Do you have a poem i n your head? Sara asks as I s i t down to do my work. We have j u s t begun an imposed Afternoon S i l e n c e Time (which, as you can t e l l , we both f o r g e t about i f the q u e s t i o n i s c o m p e l l i n g enough). T h i s time i s sacred t o me, and Sara r e s p e c t s i t w i t h an unusual m a t u r i t y f o r a t e n - y e a r - o l d . But then, she i s l i k e t h a t , one o f the world's wise o l d s o u l s i n h a b i t i n g a c h i l d ' s body. E r i n has succumbed u n w i l l i n g l y but n e c e s s a r i l y t o a f t e r n o o n naptime, t h i s time screaming a l l the way t o her bed over having t o l e a v e M u f f i n , the neighbour's c a t , then s n u g g l i n g g r a t e f u l l y under her s o f t bedcovers, still howling about her removal. Ambiguous Womanhood begins e a r l y . Sara c a l l s her an immature woman. Afternoon S i l e n c e Time i s my time t o r e f l e c t o r read o r w r i t e , the time when the demands o f motherhood ease somewhat f o r one hour f i f t y minutes. F o u r - y e a r - o l d chatterbox i s s a f e / s i l e n t for this spell, eight-year-old wildwoman is prospecting/adventuring outdoors, ten-year-old dreamer is p r o c r a s t i n a t i n g / p o n d e r i n g her way through the remainder of her day. F o r t y - f o u r - y e a r - o l d husband has escaped t o work. T h i s i s the time, s e v e r a l days a week, when I can t a l k t o myself, i n s t e a d of t r y i n g t o focus on o t h e r people's q u e s t i o n s . (The peanut b u t t e r i s so i n the f r i d g e . Yes, we bought food f o r Tux. No, i t ' s not your b i r t h d a y y e t . 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 r o t t e n , j u s t throw i t out. No, I can't park the van any b e t t e r , your f o u r m o t o r c y c l e s were i n the way. Y o u ' l l have t o wash t h a t s h i r t s e p a r a t e l y i n c o l d water. Yes, I see you jumping o f f the s t a i r , t h a t ' 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 o f a l l the answers t o a l l those q u e s t i o n s . How d i d Sara know t h a t ' s what sometimes d r i v e s me t o w r i t e , poems i n my head. No, today I want t o t a l k t o 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 p a t i e n t and understanding and capable. Thank you, Renee, thank you. A Hallmark G r e e t i n g c a r d thank you t o you from you. W e l l , t h a t sounds s t u p i d enough, doesn't i t ? Let me t r y a g a i n . Renee, l i s t e n , l e t me g i v e you a word of a d v i c e from someone who has been watching you f o r a long time. Relax a little, l e t the l i t t l e t h i n g s wash r i g h t over you, l i v e a l i t t l e , q u i t complaining, you're l u c k i e r than most, and f o r God's sakes, get o f f h i s back! Who l e t him i n t h i s c o n v e r s a t i o n ? Get out! You are not welcome here. Women o n l y . Is he gone? 82  Good. A l l r i g h t . Renee, d a r l i n g , you must understand, you are not doing anyone any favour when you l o s e your temper at Eaton's because the c l e r k t r e a t e d you l i k e what you a r e — a 43-year-old matron with three demanding l i t t l e b r a t s hanging onto your arm f i l l e d with p a r c e l s t o r e t u r n . And s i n c e when do you know more than the doctor? Doctors are Gods. A l s o , i t ' s a wonder you are s t i l l married c o n s i d e r i n g the way you t a l k . And I've been meaning t o t e l l you, I found out about the time you and your s i s t e r s n e g l e c t e d t o t e l l me about the b r e a k - i n . But I wasn't f o o l e d , you know. I've j u s t been w a i t i n g t o t e l l you how hurt I am t h a t you don't t r u s t me. Mom. I love you, but I'm supposed t o be t a l k i n g t o myself, and I'm not w i l l i n g t o pay l o n g - d i s t a n c e r a t e s i n t h i s s t o r y . Hang up, I ' l l c a l l next week, and b e l i e v e me when I t e l l you t h e r e was no b r e a k - i n . Renee, Renee, Renee, there was so a b r e a k - i n , how can you l i e l i k e t h a t ? How can you hang up on your mother? How can you ignore her advice? Remember the time you hurt her so badly when you s a i d what you r e a l l y thought. Shut up and eat your words, Renee, when you t a l k t o your mother, you're making i t hard f o r the r e s t o f us, and she deserves some r e s p e c t , she's 67 y e a r s old. Oh, p l e a s e , not my conscience, t h i s i s j u s t too banal now. T h i s reads l i k e a sit-com (a l i t - c o m ? ) , an episode o f Roseanne, a r e a l l y bad novel by D a n i e l l e S t e e l e . I'm supposed t o be t a l k i n g t o myself, but a l l the r e s t o f you keep i n t e r f e r i n g . And i t ' s making me over-dramatize e v e r y t h i n g , which i s r i d i c u l o u s . I'm a h a p p i l y married, h e t e r o s e x u a l woman with three l o v e l y c h i l d r e n , and a mother who i s the w i s e s t , most l o v i n g woman I know. Why do you j u s t w r i t e the p a r t s t h a t you t h i n k sound so dramatic, Renee? I t ' 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 g r a t u i t o u s , so s e l f i s h l y s e l f - a b s o r b e d . Why don't you ever w r i t e the p a r t s t h a t you are t h i n k i n g but never, ever put i n t o words? Or t h e p a r t s t h a t make you look l i k e an idiot? Why do you exaggerate j u s t t o make i t sound amusing o r wry o r poignant? Why not w r i t e a b o u t — HEY! That's enough! Some t h i n g s are p r i v a t e , and I'm not w r i t i n g o r t a l k i n g about them, not even t o myself. There a r e some t h i n g s t h a t I w i l l never w r i t e about, understand, Renee? Understand? Good. Now, l e t ' s j u s t 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 E r i n i s awake y e t , and what Sara and Rebecca are up t o . I hear a l o t o f happy humming, but you can bet the e n t i r e playroom has been turned i n s i d e - o u t while you've been t a l k i n g t o y o u r s e l f , Renee. I t r e a l l y wouldn't have k i l l e d you t o check on them once d u r i n g S i l e n c e Time, and do you t r u t h f u l l y t h i n k you've used t h i s time w i s e l y ? You c o u l d have f i n i s h e d r e a d i n g Theory i n t h e Classroom, o r t r i e d t o get a poem i n your head. You c o u l d have baked bran muffins. You see, there you go again, s t r e t c h i n g the t r u t h j u s t so 83  the w r i t i n g sounds the way you want i t t o come a c r o s s . You know p e r f e c t l y w e l l you baked bran muffins t h i s morning between q u e s t i o n s , and someone i s probably r e a d i n g t h i s s t o r y r i g h t now, g e t t i n g the impression t h a t you d i d n ' t bake bran muffins, c o u l d n ' t bake bran m u f f i n s , and wouldn't bake bran m u f f i n s . Now you're stuck i n t h i s tone o f v o i c e which i s nowhere near t h e dreamy, r e f l e c t i v e w r i t i n g w i t h which you began t h i s story. Serves you r i g h t , Renee, y o u r s e l f when you w r i t e .  s e r v e s you WRITE, f o r t a l k i n g t o  84  Where Did I Leave  Me?  making my bed I smooth p l a s t i c undersheet p r o t e c t a d u l t mattress from leaky c h i l d - u r i n e and r e g u r g i t a t e d c h i l d - s i z e d i n n e r s remove the dangle b r a c e l e t and Barbie boots underneath f o l d s of q u i l t t r i p on p u r p l e - h a i r e d 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 k i n k y - h a i r e d white s t u f f e d dog down the h a l l f i r s t freeing i t from f i e r c e bed wheels c l e a r ten videotapes with Disney-tale t i t l e s off tarnished s i l v e r dresser set sweep red and y e l l o w e l a s t i c s i n t o chipped c h i n a c o n t a i n e r rearrange p i l e of new c h i l d r e n ' s l i t e r a t u r e a w a i t i n g bedtime s t o r y t i m e add another s m a l l t o r n s p r i n g s k i r t to sewing basket s t i l l holding w a i t i n g winterwear wearing out glance i n m i r r o r at w i l d knotted h a i r and o l d c o t t o n nightgown rush by with hands f u l l of y e s t e r d a y ' 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 l e a v e s me turning colours in dry edges spread underneath the t r e e s October c h i l l s me f i l l i n g corners with moist drops staunched by m i d - a i r f r e e z e October darkens me tearing daylight from e a r l y evenings memorized w i t h p a i n f u l ease  F a c i n g the Music I combed t h e l i b r a r y s h e l v e s f o r s e l f - h e l p books t h a t helped Coping with M i s c a r r i a g e h o l d i n g empty s l e e p e r s and r e f o l d i n g them p e r f e c t l y i n t o f l a t s l e e v e l e s s dreams when the wrenching wracks of f u l l t e r m motherhood r a d i a t e d v i o l e n t l y through my u n r e l i a b l e body the c o u r s i n g wetness f i n a l l y s l i p p e d e a s i l y out o f me once again s t i l l I would wait e x p e c t a n t l y f o r the bad news the t r a g i c end the empty space of unfulfilled feeling checked my baby's b r e a t h i n g h o u r l y always rocked her down t o s l e e p i f she c r i e d i n case she d i e d how c o u l d I pause the chords on the instrument of t h a t rhythmic w a i l i n g with me t h e r e o u t s i d e the d i s c o r d a n t door o f devotion divided every r e n d i n g r i s i n g crescendo c r y would sever me and soar p l a y i n g my love with staccato pieces d i d n ' t anybody know i t was me there mourning m u s i c a l l y behind t h a t door? and now I've found another source i n which t o seek my r e t u r n i n g sorrow emotional s t o r i e s o f those who g r i e v e and misbore t o o but as always when I f i n d some small s o l i d note o f wordless comfort o, babies I wish t h e r e 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 o f the stage, dressed i n a green h o s p i t a l gown, and covered o n l y by a t h i n sheet which doesn't q u i t e cover her bare f e e t . A bedpan has been p l a c e d by her s i d e , stage f r o n t . A green c l o t h backdrop i s the o n l y stage scenery i n the background, suspended by a p o l e which runs the l e n g t h and width o f t h e stage, l i k e the c u r t a i n which s e p a r a t e s h o s p i t a l beds i n n o n - p r i v a t e rooms. The woman speaks her monologue from t h i s p o s i t i o n . ) Woman: Blood. J u s t a s m a l l , teardrop-shaped smear o f b l o o d . That was what I n o t i c e d f i r s t , and I thought, wait a minute. T h i s i s n ' t what's supposed t o happen, t h i s i s n ' t C i n d e r e l l a pushing d o l l s i n c a r r i a g e s i n my basement playroom on Sunday morning. They never t o l d me about t h i s , t h a t ' 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 f o r a day and a h a l f , w a i t i n g f o r t h e g y n e c o l o g i s t , Godot, my arm green b r u i s e s from t h e IV the student nurse t r i e d t o s t i c k i n my v e s s e l s a t l e a s t f i v e times u n s u c c e s s f u l l y . They won't l e t me eat o r d r i n k o r get up, j u s t i n case I have t o be rushed t o surgery, i t was e x p l a i n e d , i n case I b e g i n hemorrhaging a t any moment. And of course, I must l i e s t i l l t o t r y t o save the baby. I know t h e r e ' s no baby i n my body any l o n g e r . I saw the great globs o f r e d t i s s u e 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 o b s e r v a t i o n a r e d i r e c t l y r e l a t e d t o the f u n c t i o n of your b o d i l y p a r t s , and my body p a r t s are d e f i n i t e l y screwing up r i g h t now. They were r a t h e r annoyed I had gotten up t o go t o the bathroom. She's gone. A l l the dreams I allowed myself f o r nine weeks gone, t o o . How s t u p i d . I f o r g o t about r e t r i b u t i o n . I'm s o r r y . Sorry about the time I s a i d I d i d n ' t want c h i l d r e n because you c o u l d n ' t shut them i n the basement l i k e the dog. Sorry about the morning I phoned the d o c t o r f o r the morning a f t e r p i l l , nervous a n y t h i n g might i n t e r f e r e with my blossoming c a r e e r . Sorry t h a t I waited and waited, e x p e c t i n g e v e r y t h i n g t o f a l l into place. Read the thermometer, temperature r i g h t , time r i g h t , name the time, name the date, name the baby. Talking about gender, a room, f u r n i t u r e , daycare, p a r t - t i m e , happy, excited, anticipating, BOOM!  I've been l y i n g here f o r a day and a h a l f w a i t i n g f o r the h o s p i t a l g y n e c o l o g i s t t o come and examine me, so he can then scrape me out and I can go home. I t ' s Sunday, and he's probably out w i t h h i s c h i l d r e n , I can't expect him t o come q u i c k l y j u s t 89  because I want t o get t h i s over w i t h . But I'm d e v e l o p i n g a d e f i n i t e dislike f o r the man. Shouldn't they examine me q u i c k l y i f they r e a l l y thought t h e r e was a chance t o save the baby? She's not t h e r e anymore, I know. She's f l o a t i n g i n the sewer system, f l u s h e d 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 o t h e r guck. Goodbye seed, v e s i c l e , embryo, f e t u s , baby. I'm s o r r y . So s o r r y . Baby daughter human b e i n g l i t t l e soul. D i d you hear the Beethoven I p l a y e d f o r you? D i d you know you were expected on my f a t h e r ' s b i r t h d a y ? D i d you know I wanted t o take you everywhere, teach you e v e r y t h i n g ? I'm t i r e d o f w a i t i n g here i n t h i s room. The o t h e r women are k i n d . The two G a l l Bladders passed me some kleenex. They know she's gone, t o o , d e s p i t e what the nurses say. The Teenaged Mother had her baby, but she won't get out of bed. The nurses make h e r walk around. She doesn't want t o see the baby and the G a l l Bladders t h i n k i t ' s strange t h a t no one has v i s i t e d her yet. The emergency ward was a nightmare. Never m i s c a r r y on Hallowe'en Night. They were so busy, witches and mice and pumpkins coming i n a steady stream o f a c c i d e n t s and mishaps. The worst was the g i r l i n the c a r a c c i d e n t . They c o u l d n ' t get ahold o f her p a r e n t s (I guess) and she l a y i n the next c u b i c l e screaming and screaming i n p a i n , w h i l e I w r i t h e d and i n agony, gave b i r t h t o my m i s c a r r i a g e , her screams s h r i e k i n g i n my consciousness as each new p a i n o f a b o r t i v e l a b o u r coursed through my body, r e n d e r i n g me t o o shocked t o even c a l l o u t . I r e f u s e d t h e Demoral, r e f u s i n g t o b e l i e v e the obvious, the ominous, the o p p o s i t e , w a i t i n g f o r someone t o phone me with t h e news, l i k e the parents o f the g i r l who l a y next t o me screaming in pain. My p a i n , t o o , a l l o f us, a l l the women, screaming i n p a i n , some o f us screaming f o r the o t h e r s who simply l a y t h e r e mute, l e t t i n g each new spasm of p a i n c i r c u l a t e through a body no l o n g e r t r u s t e d , no l o n g e r s t r o n g . Miscarriage. Now t h e r e ' s a word. Interesting that t h i s one word c o n t a i n s the feminine miss. Of course. A woman's body f a i l i n g t o c a r r y . F a i l i n g . C a r r y i n g . A b o r t i n g . Spontaneously aborting. Sending out. I d i d n ' t want t o send you o u t . 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 p i c t u r e s i n the books as you developed. You f e l t r e a l t o me a l r e a d y , not a f i s h , but a l i t t l e person. I'm so s o r r y . I'm so s u r p r i s e d . No one warned me. No one t o l d me my body might a c t l i k e t h i s . No one s a i d i t wasn't easy, wasn't smooth-happy-ending. My mother never t a l k e d about t h i s , never once. Or my aunts. Or any o f t h e women I know. I never knew anyone who l o s t a baby t h i s way. I never heard a s t o r y about i t once i n the y e a r s I spent growing up t o be a woman. Not once when a l l the women gathered up the p l a t e s and put t h e food away. 90  Not once l i s t e n i n g t o my mother t a l k i n g on the phone, u s i n g the odd Y i d d i s h word t o keep us o f f t r a c k , which o n l y made us more a l e r t and c u r i o u s . Not once when the aunts came t o g e t h e r over r i t u a l , b i r t h , death, s i c k n e s s . C e r t a i n l y not i n B i o l o g y 12 Reproduction. Very about the t i s s u e as own, w i t h my l i f e .  common. Why d i d n ' t anyone t e l l me? Warn me? T e l l me p a i n , the l o s s , the dreams d i s s i p a t i n g l i k e the f e t a l i t spewed from my t r a i t o r o u s body, w i t h a l i f e o f i t s a t r a i l o f bloody mass s p i l l i n g a l l over the f l o o r o f  ( A l l t h e stage l i g h t s speaks, d i s g u s t e d . )  go out.  In the b l a c k o u t , a male v o i c e  Male V o i c e : You've aborted the baby. hard f o r a minute.  I'm going t o push down  (The l i g h t s go on. The woman i s l y i n g the same way, but on a s t r e t c h e r w i t h wheels. The bedpan i s gone, and so i s the green c u r t a i n , r e p l a c e d by green w a l l s . The woman i s v i s i b l y shaking from t h e c o l d , her t e e t h c h a t t e r i n g a u d i b l y . The d o c t o r walks up b e s i d e her, t a k i n g o f f l a t e x gloves.) Doctor: You know, they used t o do D and C s without anaesthetic. I ' l l have you s p i c k and span, c l e a n as a w h i s t l e , in a j i f f y . I t o n l y takes 20 minutes and then you're out o f here i n no time, no worse f o r wear. J u s t a minor procedure, really. Nothing t o worry about. I ' l l see you i n the o p e r a t i n g room. (The d o c t o r e x i t s . The woman l i e s Nothing happens. She c a l l s out.)  there,  silent,  shaking.  Woman: I'm c o l d . So c o l d . Hello? Is anyone there? Hello? Could you come and get me now? H e l l o ? I'm f r e e z i n g . Could I get a b l a n k e t o r something? H e l l o ? H e l l o ? (The l i g h t s go out.)  91  Faces  I can't seem t o w r i t e about my second m i s c a r r i a g e I can't seem t o w r i t e about the f i x e d s m i l e on my f a c e when I accepted c o n g r a t u l a t i o n s a f t e r r e t u r n i n g t o the t a b l e from the bathroom where I found blood again the grimace on my d o c t o r ' s face the sad g r i n 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 f r o n t entrance f o r 45 minutes watching a l l the new mothers c a r e f u l l y c a r r y t h e i r new babies t o the w a i t i n g c a r s e a t which the new f a t h e r s s t r u g g l e d with the g r i p p i n g f e a r on both our f a c e s t h a t i t would go on and on the s l y face o f the nurse who t r i c k e d me i n t o g i v i n g her a l l my money and v a l u a b l e s u n t i l the head nurse s a i d t h a t i s n ' t necessary here and r e t u r n e d e v e r y t h i n g except $10  92  M i s c a r r i a g e of J u s t i c e presently grieving a second m i s c a r r i a g e of the past not ever knowing I was sad or a c c e p t i n g g r i e f - s t r i c k e n or g r a t e f u l I am writing writing p e e l i n g back present l a y e r s examining immediate past and t h i s event remains unresolved unforgotten future (three b e a u t i f u l daughters' l o v i n g f a c e s s t i l l two babies never erases) body b e t r a y a l mind manipulation l i f e changes g u i l t induces me t o 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 c a r e e r i s worth a l l t h a t ambition I am a woman no more burdens, p l e a s e t o be c a r r i e d by me t o be m i s c a r r i e d by me m i s c a r r i a g e of j u s t i c e : I w i l l s a c r i f i c e p a r t s of myself f o r g r e a t e r good mother of m i s c a r r i a g e : I want to rock t h a t second m i s c a r r i e d baby to slumber l e t her s l e e p p e a c e f u l l y c r y myself t o r e s t with her and  f o r g i v e myself f o r e v e r y t h i n g  93  Two Two  Failed  Ghosts  Pregnancies  . . . l i n e d up behind me by department s t o r e r e g i s t e r s l a u g h i n g d e r i s i v e l y a t my i n d u l g e n t c h o i c e o f babysoft rainbow b l a n k e t "You won't need t h a t , " they h i s s e d i n my e a r ...breathed what-a-waste-of-time and panted see-he-knows-it's-useless w i t h me a t c l a s s e s w h i l e my husband yawned m i g h t i l y and looked a t h i s watch . . . s a t b e s i d e me i n the d o c t o r ' s w a i t i n g room waiting, whispering "Just wait, wait and see, wait and see" Two F a i l e d Pregnancies ...marked the m o t h e r h o o d - b a b y - n u r s i n g - i n f a n t - t i t l e d books on my s h e l v e s w i t h bent-cornered pages whose margins h e l d 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 " I f a t f i r s t you don't succeed..." and " T h i r d time l u c k y " . . . s p i t i n the hundredth g l a s s o f b l u e - t i n g e d skim m i l k poured out i n an eight-ounce g l a s s and g r a t e f u l l y breathed i n the smoke from my mother-in-law's c i g a r e t t e s ...warned me c o n s t a n t l y not t o a l l o w myself to hope, dream, p l a n o r t h i n k ahead p o s t i n g s i g n s i n my head "Dreaming and D e s i r i n g i s Damnably Dumb and D i s a s t r o u s l y D e s t r u c t i v e " ...laughed knowingly when the c r i b was set up j o k i n g about wobbly wombs and t e n a c i o u s 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 falling Two  Failed  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 t o me and p l a c e d her i n my o u t s t r e t c h e d arms  ...remained s t i l l , ever w a t c h f u l when my f i r s t b o r n looked up a t me w i t h wisebaby innocent eyes f u l l of d a y - o l d o l d - w o r l d s o u l f u l gleams of newborn knowledge . . . s i l e n t l y witnessed the e v e n t f u l normal b i r t h s of two more babies but buzzed p e t u l a n t p e r s i s t e n t m a l i c i o u s memoirs i n my ears "Remember us, remember, won't you when you l e a s t expect i t what can happen" Two  Failed  Pregnancies  . . . f i n a l l y faded from view but f a i l e d t o d i s a p p e a r sometimes s t i l l still still still never s t i l l and always w a i t i n g always wanting  l i n i n g up behind me b r e a t h i n g and w h i s p e r i n g l a u g h i n g and warning s p i t t i n g and b u z z i n g s i l e n t f o r long  Giving  Birth  b e g i n n i n g the end of myself once known the end o f the b e g i n n i n g of myself I have come t o be f o r e v e r changed forever forever blood f r i g h t e n s me my body blood blood leaked and mixed with the blood of my memories underground waves of p a i n course down me longer waves w i l d e r , pounding, pummelling coursing cruising carrying me on top of p a i n mind above my body c h e e r i n g me on watching me k e e l over v o i c e s c a l l i n g me forever forever  L a s t s and  Firsts  The f i n a l day of p r e s c h o o l approached with alarming speed. The v e r y l a s t day f o r me. Youngest daughter about t o e n t e r K i n d e r g a r t e n i n the f a l l , I p i c k e d up my daughter by her elephant nametag i n the cloakroom, waited f o r her t o don her outdoor shoes, and packed her i n d o o r runners i n her knapsack f o r summer usage. The two of us walked t o g e t h e r t o the c a r , h o l d i n g one more p r e s c h o o l p a i n t i n g . I have made t h i s passage two times a l r e a d y , with two o t h e r daughters, and each time I c r i e d , my baby about t o e n t e r the p u b l i c s c h o o l system, t r y her s t i l l - s m a l l wings and f l y , h o p e f u l l y without too many f a l s e s t a r t s . &*ui me, mat£e% (Untt, 6oveni*ty T h i s time the passage c a r r i e d s p e c i a l 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 t h a t a l l of my c h i l d r e n have l e f t babyhood. The busy baby years of b r e a s t f e e d i n g , diapers, chewable books, b o o s t e r s e a t s , and t r i c y c l e s have i r r e v o c a b l y come t o 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&neefronteyUevout fan, t&o&e tweet utteo*KfdieeUed 6&6y eUufA o£ mot&eT4> miMb, cewUaye cva£&4, <u*tcM &*Ut wueatetA. uetvionKfaey anct <&o£t. wiafi-AaineeC ttec&&.  I should have taken more photographs when I c o u l d have. (With a t h i r d c h i l d , the number of photos decrease i n number, and those t h a t make i t t o the darkroom are crowded w i t h s e v e r a l faces.) I should have taken more time t o savour every moment, t r e a s u r e every event, gather a catalogue of memories t o draw upon i n l a t e r y e a r s . I should have m e n t a l l y recorded more "firsts"—teeth, words, steps, t o i l e t s , suns i n drawings, s t r i n g s of l e t t e r s a c r o s s the page. And oh, those " l a s t s " . When my youngest daughter s p i t out my b r e a s t f o r what we both thought was the l a s t time, I c l u n g t o her i n my arms, the bond between us unbreakable, but no l o n g e r b o d i l y connected, and I f e l t bereft. T h i s 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 t o be b r e a s t f e d every n i g h t f o r seven more days: c r e a t i o n ; a week i n which the world was born. I savoured t h a t e x t r a unexpected week of mammary memory, every draw and suck a t a c t i l e photograph t o t r a c e w i t h f a r - r e a c h i n g f i n g e r t i p s when I needed t o remember. I f o n l y we always r e c e i v e d an e x t r a week when we wanted i t o r needed i t . I am a f r a i d t h a t I missed something e l s e t h a t I w i l l l a t e r r e g r e t because o f my own g o a l s , my own hopes, desires, ambitions. I do not want t o wake up one day, f i l l e d with the sense t h a t I should have done more w i t h my c h i l d r e n when they were young, t h a t the days which sped by l i k e the pages i n a f l i p book have b l u r r e d the c o l o r s f o r a l l of us. AMCC me. «mo*t&, eantiev, yteefcdhf, teCfatf t&e teacAei: 76i& i& my (oatfineac&ootTKot&en,'^ "Day Ie*. one mone 6<x6q ttepa out a*te etoox, <zttd etttena* tutot&en,.  A^U»  i» teant, <z&  97  A second severance from the body of our mothers, a c h a r a c t e r i n V i r g i n i a Woolf's novel Waves says of a c h i l d going away t o s c h o o l . When I e x p l a i n t o E r i n f o l l o w i n g her K i n d e r g a r t e n o r i e n t a t i o n v i s i t t h a t she w i l l a t t e n d s c h o o l f i v e a f t e r n o o n s a week i n the f a l l , she t e l l s me: I can't do t h a t . I w i l l miss you too much. But a l r e a d y t h i s second severance has begun, s e t i n motion as i n e x o r a b l y as the w i n t e r winds t h a t blow every l a s t l e a f o f f the autumn t r e e s , the l e a v e s s p i n n i n g and f l y i n g upside-down, sideways, over and over. Aid»te. Auqyutf Sri* tootiy&t. £o>i o*te (oatfa&teo£ &z6y, cOuvuup euvayfrio*Kffieac&oolfant6e uenq, loot time, deati my MMt &utd a£ tevenOMce.. Now c h e r i s h i n g every c h a t t e r - f i l l e d day. Now c h e r i s h i n g every e x t r a request f o r a push on the swing. Now l o o k i n g around the corner w i t h b i t t e r s w e e t c u r i o s i t y f o r more f i r s t days t h a t t u r n t o l a s t days, too, a f e r r i s wheel t o r i d e upon. "I l o v e you, Mommy," E r i n says. "Give me another hug." T h i s at l e a s t i s constant. Atd die cu6e itt me au&iidea.  98  Shadow t h i s shadow does not go i n and out w i t h me i s not mine does not s h r i n k o r grow w i t h the passage of the day t h i s shadow always the same f o l l o w s me dogs me haunts me chases me around the c o r n e r o f my c o n f i d e n c e no matter what I say t h i s shadow b l a c k l i k e an unending n i g h t t i m e road darkens my d a y l i g h t l i g h t s my i n s i d e s squeezes my t h r o a t t r i e s t o r i d e on my back I shun t h i s shadow a f r a i d o f i t s consuming depth c a u t i o u s o f i t s b u r n i n g touch aware of i t s admiring envious gaze I want no such shadow s t e p p i n g on my o u t l i n e I want c l e a r c o l o u r s not b l a c k but once I thought I saw t h a t shadow's i n n e r t e a r f e l t i t s black fingers c l u t c h my s h o u l d e r s f a s t from f e a r and t u r n i n g looked i n t o a broken shadow m i r r o r so s o f t l y , g e n t l y I drew t h a t shadow fragment near embraced i t w i t h arms o u t s t r e t c h e d and p l a c e d the broken shadow p i e c e s here by my s i d e , h e l d t o g e t h e r a shadow shape from y e s t e r y e a r  Oxen On the Roof under the g l a s s a faded s e p i a photograph of my g r a n d f a t h e r Aaron i s preserved a r e f l e c t i o n o f a Jewish Czechoslovakian man riding a bicycle smiling i n the foreground behind him an ox upon the roof trapped i n p i c t u r e memory time upon a Yastrap v i l l a g e house underneath my c o f f e e t a b l e g l a s s my g r a n d f a t h e r (Zeda) on the b i c y c l e rides freely year a f t e r year p r o t e c t e d from the dust of another g e n e r a t i o n viewing the oxen h e l p l e s s on the r o o f my g r a n d f a t h e r h e l p l e s s on the r o o f the oxen h e l p l e s s on the bed my g r a n d f a t h e r h e l p l e s s on the bed my mother maneuvres the spoon to Zeda's drycaked l i p s a rhythm i n her f e e d i n g f r e n z y r i f e w i t h l o n g - f o r g o t t e n spoonfed s t r o k e s h i s o l d mouth i n v o l u n t a r i l y opens t o r e c e i v e m a s t i c a t e d sustenance upon a c o t s i z e bed mushy l i f e - g i v i n g motion d e l i v e r e d on the s i l v e r w a r e o f d a u g h t e r l y d e v o t i o n I listen focus on the r i v u l e t s o f spoonfed s p i t t l e and d r i p p i n g streams o f s o f t oatmeal-colored mush disgustingly displayed my g r a n d f a t h e r s countenance a mask o f h e l p l e s s hopeless p a i n t e d s t r e a k s o f food l i f e l e s s eyes s t a r i n g through the foodframed face an o l d baby t a b l e t u r n e d i n the m i r r o r t o a mothering daughter 1  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 c a s t a s p e l l of backward time upon t h a t dear o l d f o o d s t a i n e d face c l e a n i t w i t h a c l o t h of memory p l a c e i t u p r i g h t upon a couch i n my l i v i n g r o o m past watch i t s mouth s p i l l i n g s p e l l b i n d i n g s t o r i e s of other c o u n t r i e s o f f i c e r s and wars and s h i p s t h a t s a i l e d away from our a n c e s t r a l d e s t r u c t i o n  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 g l a s s my grandfather Aaron s t i l l his bicycle past the oxen on the roof  rides  102  ^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-odd 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 aiyou 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, u n a f f e c t e d 1 sweet with y o u t h f u l abandon and promises I should not keep were s i l e n c e d by young male embarrassment: shouldn't women be mysterious? you ( i n s t e a d of deep) and I grew c a u t i o u s then and never l o v e d so w e l l again f o r those l o s t words of l o v e (not you) I weep  ask  Herbal Remedy the woman's t e a brewed mint t h e c o l o r o f a l i g h t t a n not q u i t e l o n g enough i n the sun h e l d up t o brownberry l i p s warmed t h e a i r between them c o u l d be a w a t c h f u l gesture when the s i l e n c e wrapped them i n i t s awkwardness the smoke of l a p s e d time r i s i n g i n misty c i r c l e s t h a t 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 t h a t covers a l l excuses the woman's t e a h e r b a l mixture would t r e a t h i s words the cure would not corrode her i n s i d e s : black holes muscles h e l d t o g e t h e r round broken tender p i e c e s o f o t h e r people's memories no t e a l e a v e s t o f o r e t e l l the f u t u r e j u s t peppermint sharp i n her n o s t r i l s the scent o f daydreams i m p o s s i b l e t o remember  105  POLYLOG: Re-feminizing Judgement Day Matron in the Mirror Crazed Cookies Moodpiece Language in His Foot Playhouse Reality Woman in the Mirror Toeing In Excuses, Excuses, Excuses The Politics of Fear  107 108 109 110 112 113 115 116 117 118  106  Judgement Day Dear Cousin A d e l l e , C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s on your appointment as a judge! What a w e l l - d e s e r v e d honour. I know you w i l l be both j u d i c i o u s and wise. And s i n c e you w i l l soon h o l d the g a v e l , I want you t o know:  I am g u i l t y of bad temper impatience knotted h a i r b e i n g moody hard t o p l e a s e and I swear I say one t h i n g but w r i t e 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 t o o much I ask f o r more I'm never content I'm hurt and sore I'm ambiguous, ambivalent an a b s t r a c t e d , o b s t r u c t i v e w i f e j u s t c o n v i c t me o f gross womanhood and sentence me t o l i f e  Love, Renee  107  Matron i n the Mirror I look i n the m i r r o r day b e f o r e my 43rd b i r t h d a y a new l i n e appears l e f t of my upper l i p a s u b t l e droop l o p s i d e d one-sided sadness reminding me I am changing daily once v i b r a n t a l i v e w i t h wisdom each l i n e j u s t a path towards a new adventure etched upon the matron i n the m i r r o r s t i l l shops f o r c l o t h e s i n the J u n i o r Department wants young c l e r k s t o stop c a l l i n g her ma'am so many times i n one transaction a new l i n e p o i n t i n g downward t o the aging body of a m i d d l e - c l a s s middle-aged mother f u l l of t i n n y f e m i n i s t truthful tracts you o f f t o p l a y war games w i t h your you c o u l d have stayed here w i t h me w i t h the matron i n the m i r r o r  friends p l a y e d war  games  108  Crazed Cookies my mother  e x p e c t i n g death baked sesame t w i s t cookies a l l morning w a i t i n g f o r the phone t o r i n g answering machine turned t o o f f my mother  r e c o g n i z i n g death i n the h o s p i t a l w a i t i n g room went home and f e e l i n g nervous worked i n her blue k i t c h e n where she knew t h e phone would r i n g as s u r e l y as the t u l i p s l o s t t h e i r p e t a l s t o the wind every springtime my mother  foreshadowing death f i l l e d her f r e e z e r with those cookies rows o f t w i s t e d dough corpses packed i n shoebox c o f f i n s d e f r o s t i n g them o n l y two days l a t e r my mother no s t r a n g e r , she s a i d , t o death served those cookies c l e a r e d t h e p l a t e s t h a t h e l d them vacuumed sesame seeds from rug c o r n e r s and s a i d , prepare y o u r s e l f but don't l e t i t make you c r a z y  Moodpiece I'm bitchy. Almost a l l the time. F o r t y i s h woman j u s t f i n i s h e d t o t i n g J e r r y Packs with b a b i e s , not q u i t e f i n i s h e d with and able t o f o l d the s t r o l l e r (which i s permanently s t a i n e d with pee and apple j u i c e ) one l a s t time and p l a c e i t out a t t h e bottom o f the driveway on garbage day. I walk by male t e a c h e r s l i n i n g up the boys and the g i r l s and c a l l o u t , ever heard o f gender e q u i t y ? When t h e male t e a c h e r quips, the l i n e s are equal, I respond with p e r f e c t p r e c i s i o n shooting, designed t o r e v e r b e r a t e f o r days (he p r i d e s h i m s e l f on h i s newly l i t e r a t e t e a c h i n g ) , v e r r r y o l d s c h o o l , and walk on by. Bitchy. I smile b e n i g n l y upon h e a r i n g t h a t a l o v e l y , sweet young t h i n g was h i r e d t o 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 t h i n k s the l e a d i n g s c h o l a r s are completely wrong.) That's f i n e , I smile t o myself, b i t c h y , j u s t wait u n t i l she has t o mark papers w h i l e she's throwing up i n the bathroom, o r p l a n t h e f o u r hours while she's l y i n g on the bed b r e a s t f e e d i n g a baby, s t i l l not dressed. Go f o r i t , a d v i s e s the c l o s e t - s e x i s t - p s y c h o l o g i s t who I c o n s u l t o n l y t h r e e times about one o f my c h i l d r e n . He has turned the c o n v e r s a t i o n t o me, probably i m p l y i n g t h a t I'm the b i g g e s t problem. You c o u l d r e a l l y make a d i f f e r e n c e , he c l a i m s . H i s name i s Wally C l e a v e r and my husband and I t h i n k I am going t o t a l k t o the Beave's b r o t h e r . No, Wally, I a l r e a d y went f o r i t , and i t r e a l l y d i d n ' t make a l l t h a t much d i f f e r e n c e . He needs t o leave TV Land f o r a while. You see, b i t c h y . It's r e p o r t c a r d time and I'm crabby, confesses Ann t o me at t h e xerox machine. I'm always crabby now, I r e p l y t o Ann. I'm j u s t one even long l i n e o f c r a b b i n e s s , snaking my way around the c o r n e r s o f the h a l l s . I don't need t o wear a warning l a b e l , i t ' s palpable crabbiness. You can touch i t , p i c k i t up, i t ' s red hot, t o s s i t down, i t never breaks. At r e c e s s Ann r e v e a l s she once attended a workshop I gave i n the d i s t r i c t . You were young and s t a r r y - e y e d , Ann says, you made us s i t on the f l o o r ; I d i d n ' t l i k e t h a t . I nod, and Evelyn, s c h o o l s e c r e t a r y (the backbone o f our l i t t l e annex) comments, you're not s m i l i n g , Renee. But I do s m i l e , s t i l l b i t c h y , when Sam walks by the a c t i v i t y room and comes t o say h e l l o . A person from my past, he c a l l s out. And mine. I t h i n k : He's b a l d , no longer s t u t t e r s , promoted t o an a d m i n i s t r a t i v e p o s i t i o n . I'm f a t , I don't care what I say anymore, working one day a week exhausts me. I went t o a l l the f e l t pen and c h a r t paper committee meetings t h a t Sam ran, rushed down the p o l i s h e d glow-back h a l l s of t h e s c h o o l board o f f i c e past him, saw him dancing a t the deadly r e t i r e m e n t send-off p a r t i e s . (People d i e q u i c k l y 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 h i s w i f e and l e f t h i s c h i l d r e n , l i k e everyone e l s e , I t h i n k , but don't dare t o ask. Not t h a t b i t c h y ! Renee has t h r e e daughters now, the v i c e - p r i n c i p a l who has j o i n e d us, adds. Sam shakes h i s head. He remembers, too. Says a mutual f r i e n d of ours has two daughters now; he comments t h a t she used to say she hated c h i l d r e n . (We a l l hated c h i l d r e n back then, but I don't say t h i s aloud.) Instead I respond, she s t i l l does. Bitchy. Sam s m i l e s wryly. Golden Boy's halo s h i n e s b r i g h t l y and i s r e f l e c t e d on the b a l d spot, i l l u m i n a t e d by the i n s t i t u t i o n a l l i g h t s o u t s i d e the a c t i v i t y room where we are s t a n d i n g . My next c l a s s e n t e r s , the t h r e e of us d i s p e r s e , and I b e g i n t e a c h i n g the way the sweet young t h i n g c o n s i d e r s f o l d e r o l . At home I drop pans and my daughters check t o see i f I'm angry. No, I j u s t dropped the p a n — r e a l l y ! I'm clumsy today, but my daughters a r e n ' t f o o l e d . They f e e l the b i t c h y heat waves emanating from where I stand at the stove. You do bang t h i n g s when you're mad, my daughters t e l l me, and I do, but I a l s o drop things. In my memory, L i s a f l i c k s her daughter Sophia's f o o t away from her f a c e , angry, b i t c h y , t i r e d o f the s n i p i n g j e a l o u s y Sophia d i r e c t s t o L i s a ' s cheek. L i s a once taught. Now she r a i s e s her f i v e c h i l d r e n . I am humbled, L i s a says t o me on the phone l o n g - d i s t a n c e when we t r a d e l i v e s once again a f t e r a prolonged s i l e n c e . She says this with one twin on her lap, interrupting our c o n v e r s a t i o n t o d i r e c t someone e l s e t o another, l a r g e r window f o r l o o k i n g out ( ? ? ) , hacking from her b r o n c h i t i s , her Greek husband, having s u r v i v e d an emergency appendectomy, busy at the r e s t a u r a n t they own. (I handle these t h i n g s f i n e , L i s a says. I count what I have b e f o r e I stand t o l o s e something.) No, L i s a , I am humbled by you, I t e l l her, my b i t c h i n e s s t e m p o r a r i l y put a s i d e , as one of my t h r e e rushes i n t o the bedroom t o ask about where the ham i s , r u s h i n g r i g h t past my husband who i s s i t t i n g i n the k i t c h e n . L i s a laughs w i t h me about the ham—we are both Jewish, married to non-Jewish men, and I say something b i t c h y about b e i n g the Keeper of the Ham. At n i g h t my mother doesn't laugh at my jokes on the t e l e p h o n e — t h e r e ' s j u s t a great, lengthy, h e s i t a n t s i l e n c e when I quip. Long-distance b i t c h i n e s s g r a t i n g i n my ears, she asks my f a t h e r , why don't you t u r n the TV up even louder? (Her ears are not the same as they used t o be.) Maybe she doesn't hear my wisecracks. Maybe I'm not so funny anymore. Maybe she knows I'm b i t c h y , too, so she doesn't laugh. Oh, w e l l . At l e a s t I was born, as Anton says i n "A L i t e r a r y H i s t o r y of Anton" by Matt Cohen (1992). I t sounds b i t c h y when I say i t , though, doesn't i t ?  Ill  Language i n H i s Foot (Or Why Can't A Man Be More L i k e a Woman) Upon the c o n f i r m a t i o n o f my f i r s t o f two m i s c a r r i a g e s : You aborted the baby. Upon my r e f u s a l t o be x-rayed a t e i g h t months pregnant: All women think their baby is so precious. Upon the six-week check-up a f t e r the b i r t h o f my t h i r d You'll have to work on that (body).  child:  Upon the chaos o f g e t t i n g f i v e people (three of them c h i l d r e n ) packed f o r a t r i p : You sound just like a, drill sergeant. Upon the mention o f my c h o i c e o f p o l i t i c a l p a r t y : If you're going to voice an opinion, it had better be right. Upon sounding my m i d d l e - c h i l d v o i c e l o u d l y and resoundingly: Bohunk. Upon sounding my p r o f e s s i o n a l v o i c e s t r o n g l y and p a s s i o n a t e l y : Bitch. Upon sounding my woman's v o i c e s t r o n g l y and p a s s i o n a t e l y : Man-hater. Upon sounding my woman's v o i c e l o n g i n g l y and e m o t i o n a l l y : Insensitive, offensive man-hater. Upon sounding my woman's v o i c e q u i e t l y and c a r e f u l l y : Insensitive bitch. sounding my aborted woman's v o i c e (working on being r i g h t ) the words d r i l l through my body I am Sergeant B i t c h I am Sergeant Bohunk no longer l o n g i n g to be q u i e t o r c a r e f u l the language i s i n h i s f o o t my memory of the words o f men  112  Playhouse R e a l i t y he i s i r o n i n g i n d u s t r i o u s l y handmade wooden i r o n s l i c k i n g back and f o r t h upon a g l o s s y wooden board l i k e a skater t u r n i n g f i g u r e s i n the i c e distracted he t u r n s c o n t i n u e s s t i r r i n g pots and moving d i s h e s s m a l l face i n t e n s e with the c o n c e n t r a t i o n of h i s make-believe and the hard work of j o y f u l p l a y p l a s t i c Fisher-Price toy kitchen receiving small m i n i s t r a t i o n s of y e t another p l a y e r I s i t on a hope chest too t a l l t o stand i n the playhouse enter i n t o the l i f e of the p l a y : 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 w i t h f i v e year o l d suddenness abrupt a change of scene he dons a red helmet and announces he i s o f f f o r a r i d e testing I enquire but what about the twenty c h i l d r e n you look a f t e r them he responds q u i c k l y resonating authority there I s i t b e s i d e twenty c h i l d r e n 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 t h a t p l a y episode echoed life  Woman i n the M i r r o r Women s l o t : share, don't dare meet, but be d i s c r e t e be a f r i e n d behind t h a t s u b t l e l i n e 1  but  disappear decline i f the l i n e ' s u n c l e a r and never, never step o u t s i d e the boundaries  of t h a t m i r r o r  115  Toeing In tiptoeing tripping treading l i g h t l y t r a v e r s i n g through the narrow u n i v e r s i t y w a l l s of the men's c l u b (where women t o o c l o s e the s i l v e r - k n o b b e d b l u e - p a i n t e d doors of academia) women with beige-white l e g s w e l l - c u t matching flowered s u i t s and immaculate impotent h a i r doors opening and c l o s i n g between the men and the d o c t o r a l boys c o n v e r s i n g 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 p l e a s a n t r i e s t h a t r e a l l y a l l say c l e a r l y j u s t who belongs t o the c l u b w e ' l l j u s t l e t you i n the t h r e s h o l d o f the door i f you're b r i e f i f you don't d i s a g r e e with the a r t i c l e i f you stop r e l y i n g on t h a t i n t u i t i o n which paralyses the t o l e r a n c e o f the men and the PhD boys who c l a i m they admire w i t and wisdom and i n t e l l i g e n c e as long as i t doesn't o b s t r u c t the men's c l u b i s hushed d o c i l e s t i l l and stays where i t belongs not behind any more blue doors f o r ecru l e g s not i n the carpeted h a l l s of b l u s t e r y camaraderie not coupled w i t h t h a t i n t u i t i o n and mind and body but i n the safe distant faraway p l a c e o f part-time home-bound mother-hooded non-academic woman dabbler  reading  116  Excuses, Excuses, Excuses I'm not a f e m i n i s t , b u t — d i d you n o t i c e t h a t t h e author used t h e she pronoun o n l y when he r e f e r r e d t o poor p a r e n t i n g ? I'm not a f e m i n i s t , b u t — I b e l i e v e i n humanity, humanism, a l l o f us working t o g e t h e r i n e q u a l i t y and w i t h e q u a l  opportunity.  I'm not a f e m i n i s t , b u t — I c e r t a i n l y don't l i k e i t when t h e boys are l i n e d up s e p a r a t e l y from t h e g i r l s . I'm not a f e m i n i s t , b u t — do you t h i n k you c o u l d j u s t l e t me f i n i s h one sentence w i t h o u t b e i n g i n t e r r u p t e d ? I'm not a f e m i n i s t , a n d — do you r e a l l y t h i n k you'd want a man you c o u l d push around l i k e t h a t ? I'm not a f e m i n i s t , a n d — I r e a l l y t h i n k mothers s h o u l d s t a y at home w i t h t h e i r c h i l d r e n when t h e y ' r e young. I'm not a f e m i n i s t , a n d — I wondered how a man would f e e l when he r e a d  that.  I'm not a f e m i n i s t , a n d — I j u s t g e t my way by m a n i p u l a t i n g t h e s i t u a t i o n w i t h o u t him even knowing i t . I'm not a f e m i n i s t , s o — I don't worry about t h i n g s  any more.  I'm not a f e m i n i s t , s o — I c a n ' t be i n c l u d e d  as p a r t of t h e problem.  I'm not a f e m i n i s t , s o — I don't have t o say I'm a f e m i n i s t , a n d — I am not seen as a f e m i n i s t , b u t — I am a woman, b u t — t h a t ' s not t h e same as a f e m i n i s t , b e c a u s e — I am a mother, a n d — I do want t h i n g s d i f f e r e n t f o r my c h i l d r e n , s o — I may be a f e m i n i s t , b u t — I c a n ' t say I'm a f e m i n i s t , b e c a u s e — i f she's a f e m i n i s t I'm not l i k e t h a t k i n d of f e m i n i s t , not r e a l l y — i f I e v e r s a i d t h a t t h e r e would be h e l l t o 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 f e m i n i s t b u t — a n d — s o —  117  The  P o l i t i c s o f Fear  I am a woman. I am a l s o a w r i t e r . I am a wife, a mother, a student, a teacher. I am a f e m i n i s t , t o o . L a t e l y , I have been f e e l i n g a f r a i d t o even say I am a f e m i n i s t , t o be seen t o be i n v o l v e d o r a s s o c i a t e d w i t h i s s u e s and b a t t l e s t h a t a r e exploding a l l around me. " I t ' s a war zone out t h e r e , " my husband says t o me, and he w o r r i e s about me. We d i s c u s s and d i s c u s s and d i s c u s s and no matter how f a r apart we f e e l on any i s s u e , I f e e l secure i n the knowledge t h a t we can and do a r r i v e a t a p l a c e o f understanding and mutual r e s p e c t . But t h i s i s the p r i v a t e arena. In the p u b l i c arena, I have been f e e l i n g burned. I get notes back from j o u r n a l e d i t o r s who w r i t e : you have an a t y p i c a l p e r s p e c t i v e ( t r a n s l a t i o n : you're a woman). Responses t o some of my p u b l i s h e d f e m i n i s t w r i t i n g have i n c l u d e d the a c c u s a t i o n t h a t I hate husbands and men, o r t h a t I have f a i l e d t o connect to t h e l i v e s o f women. And now, I am c u r r e n t l y e n r o l l e d i n a u n i v e r s i t y course where I have had t o l i s t e n t o jokes about whether one should t e s t t o check i f r e s e a r c h s u b j e c t s are male o r female; where, i n response t o my paper on male t a l k dominance i n the mixed-sex classroom, I have been s i n g l e d out by a male p r o f e s s o r and c h a s t i s e d i n f r o n t o f the e n t i r e c l a s s . I am not humourless. I don't t h i n k I'm r a d i c a l , although one would hope t h a t today t h i s would not brand a person. I walk my daughters t o s c h o o l , I cook meals, I d r i v e on school f i e l d t r i p s , I t a l k on the phone every week t o my mother who l i v e s i n another c i t y . I c r y when I'm h u r t . I a l s o w r i t e p o e t r y and f i c t i o n and n a r r a t i v e , about my f a m i l y , about what i t i s l i k e t o be a woman, about my many e x p e r i e n c e s as a woman. I t r y t o w r i t e t r u t h f u l l y , I o f t e n 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 w r i t e r s , about w r i t i n g . And every book I read, every word I have w r i t t e n , opens up a myriad p o s s i b i l i t i e s f o r me: t h a t women have v o i c e s and should use them; t h a t i t i s not c o n s t r u c t i v e o r h e a l t h y t o be trapped i n s i l e n c e ; t h a t we share many common experiences despite our d i f f e r e n c e s , and our d i f f e r e n c e s should be c e l e b r a t e d ; t h a t women's ways o f knowing are important; t h a t i n order t o e n v i s i o n a f u t u r e t h a t has a p l a c e f o r women and men l i v i n g together harmoniously, we must engage i n important d i s c u s s i o n s . These p o s s i b i l i t i e s spur me on t o f u r t h e r reading, further writing. In the newspaper these days I read about women w r i t e r s who r e c e i v e anonymous hate l e t t e r s , u n i v e r s i t y p r o f e s s o r s suspended for sexual harassment o f women, and e n t i r e university departments embroiled i n problems o f sexism. I read h e a d l i n e s t h a t blame f e m i n i s t s f o r a p o l i t i c a l p a r t y ' s poor e l e c t i o n showing, and l e t t e r s t h a t accuse e d i t o r s o f p r o v i d i n g a forum 118  f o r 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 t o read and w r i t e and step i n t o the p u b l i c domain, as I continue w i t h my a b i d i n g 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 a v a i l a b l e t o me, I f e e l I might somehow be made t o pay d e a r l y f o r a l l o f t h i s , have a l r e a d y as a r e s u l t o f some o f my endeavours, experienced some hatred and sexism. I t takes courage t o w r i t e what you b e l i e v e when you know the words cause s t r i f e and s t r i d e n c y , and I am t i r e d . T i r e d and a f r a i d . I am r e l u c t a n t t o be drawn i n t o b a t t l e s I d i d n ' t s t a r t o r want. I am l o s i n g my courage these days. I have f i n a l l y found my v o i c e , but i t may be dangerous t o use i t . In the book, Language i n Her Eye, Canadian p l a y w r i g h t Margaret H o l l i n g s w o r t h w r i t e s : "Every time a woman puts pen t o paper i t i s a p o l i t i c a l a c t " (1990, 142). I am t i r e d o f p o l i t i c a l a c t s . I want t o be a woman—writer, w i f e , mother, student, teacher, f e m i n i s t — a n d I want t o w r i t e as a woman, f r e e l y , without f e e l i n g a f r a i d . But I know t h a t a t t h i s moment as I put pen t o paper, as I once again engage i n another p o l i t i c a l a c t , I am r i s k i n g a great deal. I look deep i n t o the innocent, t r u s t i n g eyes o f my daughters i n order t o summon a l l my remaining r e s e r v e s o f courage. For myself and f o r them. So I w i l l not f e e l a f r a i d . So I can s i n g out o f the s i l e n c e i n a v o i c e f i l l e d w i t h s t r e n g t h and c o n v i c t i o n : I am a f e m i n i s t .  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 h i g h s c h o o l t e a c h e r c a r e s s e d my arm eyes gleaming power and a u t h o r i t y i n c h a l k d u s t classrooms when my u n c l e h e l d me too c l o s e behind shoebox rows i n warehouse o f f i c e s when I walked down dark s t r e e t s alone elbow j o s t l e d t i l l I r a n t o r e s t a u r a n t phones c a l l i n g t a x i saviours no one t o l d me s a i d you were w a i t i n g I used t o read a book a n i g h t 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 y e a r s o f l i f e or d i d someone j u s t f o r g e t to t e l l me mention by the way d i d you hear about V i r g i n i a know she was w a i t i n g would s t i r me t o w r i t e the ache w e l l i n g up and s p i l l i n g on the p o e t r y on a l l the p s y c h i c c h i l d r e n who h i d t h a t row o f W books from me? I a t e 6 Austen n o v e l s and a 7th completed f o r a woman's magazine i n h a l e d the Brontes waited f o r Godot searched f o r the author w i t h those 6 c h a r a c t e r s v i s i t e d t h a t absurd zoo howled w i t h A l l e n was a f r a i d o f George's b i g bad Woolf spent time i n the c h i l d r e n ' s hour but I never found the W's f o r 40 y e a r s a l i f e t i m e t o c a t c h up on c a t c h my b r e a t h from c a t c h on t o  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 p a r t s doing d i s h e s between l e c t u r e s p u t t i n g phantom c h i l d r e n t o bed a trace of tears on a l l Shakespeare's s i s t e r s ' cheeks w a l k i n g down autumn Oxbridge paths to a i r l e s s rooms filled with f o l d i n g w a l l s wide windows curtainless a g a i n s t the summer g l a r e or hammerpelt o f r a i n writing lives a penny a p i e c e b u r i e d under c h i l d r e n ' s s t o r i e s 3 l i t t l e pigs and b i g 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 w a l l and knew she was i n my l i f e  Power Gaines Virginia Woolf— Did Leonard ever do the  dishes?  Did he leave the dishwasher wash c y c l e f o r the next morning because someone c o u l d squeeze i n one more cup and anyway, he'd be gone i n the morning, he had an e a r l y 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 g a t h e r i n g a l l the towels from t h e i r v a r i o u s h i d i n g p l a c e s around the house (except never mine hanging behind the bathroom door, I've o n l y been hanging i t t h e r e f o r 20 y e a r s ) ? Did he throw those washed towels i n t o the d r y e r and f o r g e t them there? He d i d n ' t r e a l i z e he hadn't turned the d r y e r on, r i g h t ? Did he buy  groceries?  D i d he use the l a s t b i t o f m i l k f o r h i s c o f f e e and c e r e a l and p l a c e the empty milk c o n t a i n e r c a r e f u l l y back i n i t s exact p l a c e i n the f r i d g e and leave f o r work, s i l e n t l y so as not t o wake anyone? Did he read bedtime s t o r i e s to the c h i l d r e n ? Did he hate Amelia B e d e l i a and r e f u s e to read t h a t again, he j u s t read i t l a s t month, and d i d he say no, he couldn't read P i p p i Longstocking e i t h e r , she was a loud-mouthed, a g g r e s s i v e l i t t l e b i t c h , was there a good book around here to read t h a t ' s short? Did he take the c h i l d r e n on  outings?  Did he o f f e r to take the c h i l d r e n out so I c o u l d get some work done and have some s o l i t u d e and s i l e n c e f o r a change? Was he going t o c a t c h f r o g s because they'd been wanting t o do t h a t f o r a long time? Did he sound s u r p r i s e d when I mentioned t h a t he f o r g o t the baby? Did he pretend not to see my s c h o o l t e a thermos which needed r i n s i n g out when he was doing the d i s h e s because I l e f t him the c o f f e e p o t and c o f f e e g r a i n s the n i g h t before? Did he ever t u r n the monitor down at n i g h t and c l a i m not to have heard anyone c r y i n g ? Did he wake me up to ask where the c l e a n sheets were when one of the c h i l d r e n wet the bed and t h i s time went to h i s s i d e to t e l l 123  him? Did he t u r n 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 c o l d ? Did he f o r g e t the d r y c l e a n i n g p i l e d up by the f r o n t door which he had t o move i n order t o e x i t and the overdue V i s a b i l l propped up a g a i n s t h i s keys, a l l of which he s a i d he'd take care of t h a t morning, don't worry? Was he p a t i e n t ? Did he help the c h i l d r e n get t h e i r hats and coats and m i t t s 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 s t a y on, and y e l l even l o u d e r when someone c r i e d once t h a t boot was on? Did he f i n d the o l d m i s s i n g the next day?  sock stuck i n the t o e o f t h a t boot  Did he take a well-deserved  break?  Did he p l a y b a s k e t b a l l once a week, b r u i s i n g h i s f i n g e r , breaking a r i b , throwing h i s back out, d r i v i n g h i s f r i e n d t o the emergency ward, g e t t i n g depressed over someone e l s e ' s heart attack, just to r e l a x and get out of the house f o r a while? He couldn't p o s s i b l y miss b a s k e t b a l l , r i g h t ? Did he t a l k t o me? Did he nod and say hmm, o f f e r i n g an o c c a s i o n a l oh, and r e p l y r e a l l y , i s t h a t r i g h t , no k i d d i n g , you don't say, I agree, c o u l d you move a l i t t l e t o the r i g h t I can't q u i t e see the screen and excuse me, your elbow's on the business s e c t i o n ? Did he cry? Did he shout oh, God, i n a t e r r o r - f i l l e d v o i c e j u s t l i k e mine when one o f the c h i l d r e n h i t the c o f f e e t a b l e too hard? Did he have t e a r s i n h i s eyes a f t e r I m i s c a r r i e d the second time? Were h i s e x p r e s s i v e eyes f u l l of awe, the f i r s t t o h o l d our f i r s t b o r n a t l a s t i n h i s arms, crooning I love you, l i t t l e baby, i n h i s own baby babble? V i r g i n i a , I want t o know. If Leonard ever d i d the d i s h e s . If he c r i e d when you were gone.  124  V o i c e s , Past and Present ^ZJIZEXE i no douht Ln my mind that U ha<7E found out now io leg in (at to lay somEthing  in my own <joiaE."  I think I discovered committed s u i c i d e . Leonard.  V i r g i n i a Woolf (Woolf 1975, 47) . another  reason  why V i r g i n i a  (£)/z, hut JJ hauE dons, QUHE  Woolf  VJE.11 SO fax  with TOutm o£ Ote'ii. Ouul\..(7^9J-  I j u s t read h i s p r e f a c e t o her d i a r y , s e l e c t i o n s which he had e s p e c i a l l y compiled and bound i n a volume meant t o i l l u s t r a t e the w r i t e r , the person, the i n t e l l e c t , and the l i f e , i n c l u d i n g t h e e n t r i e s w r i t t e n j u s t b e f o r e h e r s u i c i d e , and keeping i n mind, as Leonard reminds us so a p t l y , t h a t a d i a r y e n t r y o n l y i l l u m i n a t e s and s p o t l i g h t s 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. ^Mat  Jloxd how desj^ it is!  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 ^3hat is the only  XEaah the txuth.  mitigation; a hind of zSolEmnity.  nolility.  fl shall mahe. myself face  tliE faat that triEXE is fox any of us.  nothing--nothing  ^Woxh, xeading,  wxiting,  axE ait disguisEi; and XElations with  ^IEOJIIE.  ^\JES,  EUEn having  would IE USEIESS"  ahildiEn  (143' 44)• J  125  40 J  But Leonard, I couldn't f i n d o r f e e l one word o f your sorrow o r r e g r e t o r sadness a t V i r g i n i a ' s death. (And don't you dare, p a t i e n t reader, dare t h i n k between the l i n e s t h a t perhaps t h a t was h i s way o f showing g r i e f , o r t h a t perhaps t h a t i s how some people hide from g r i e f , o r t h a t perhaps h i s g r i e f was very p r i v a t e , o r t h a t perhaps I haven't y e t read t h e book Leonard wrote t h a t c h r o n i c l e s h i s d e v a s t a t i o n a t V i r g i n i a ' s death.) I wanted t h a t g r i e f there i n the p r e f a c e . I wanted t o sense Leonard's great sadness t h a t h i s wife was gone, not read some bookworm's advice on how t o read the d i a r y e n t r i e s and how he managed t o decide which e n t r i e s t o i n c l u d e . *£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).  she  I wanted t o f e e l died.  some o f what Leonard must have f e l t when  "c/fnd then LJ am 47: yei; and my Inflrmltlei will of aoune Increaie (145). I d i d n ' t want a H a r l e q u i n Romance Preface, j u s t a p r e f a c e t h a t p a i d t r i b u t e e m o t i o n a l l y t o the woman who a l s o sometimes cooked Leonard's meals ( i t ' s there i n b l a c k and white i n one e n t r y ) ; who knew the poetry o f C h r i s t i n a R o s s e t t i was " n a t u r a l s i n g i n g power"; who wrote i n a f i n a l e n t r y 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 o f a p r e f a c e t h a t took h i s w i f e ' s d i a r i e s and d i d n ' t burn them, but i n s t e a d used them without even s a y i n g how much i t hurt him t o do t h a t . Leonard d i d n ' t even c r y p u b l i c a l l y i n t h a t p r e f a c e . Yet he c r 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 hath,  moment,  aona.£,l<Jzd  iEgua£ ths  this  an  having  cvhsn  EntixE  naur  hooh-  to A 7^<xmt o£ 0*e& Ount>~ahout  isxuaf  hips o f wotnEn  ^765j.  Knowing V i r g i n i a I have been both haunted and i n s p i r e d by V i r g i n i a Woolf. She i s there i n the b i b l i o g r a p h y o f every f e m i n i s t book I have read so f a r . I have w r i t t e n poems about her, used q u o t a t i o n s from some o f her books, and I f e e l her presence a l l the more whenever I w r i t e my words o r encounter her once again i n y e t another book. I know she was married t o Leonard, had no c h i l d r e n , s u f f e r e d r e c u r r i n g bouts o f d e b i l i t a t i n g melancholy, l o v e d o t h e r women, d e c l a r e d her feminism even more s t r o n g l y when she was i n her f i f t i e s , and I know t h a t she walked i n t o a r i v e r i n 1941 and committed s u i c i d e . I know, t o o , t h a t she wrote i n A Room of One's Own t h a t t h e r e were many women who would not be l i s t e n i n g t o her p u b l i c l e c t u r e (upon which t h e book i s based) because they were home "doing the d i s h e s o r p u t t i n g the c h i l d r e n t o bed" (1992/1929, 148) . I know t h a t she admitted t h a t someone has t o bear the c h i l d r e n , because she wrote such words i n A Room of One's Own, and I know, t o o , t h a t she a d v i s e s the women whom she i s a d d r e s s i n g t h a t perhaps one o r two c h i l d r e n are enough. I know t h a t she f e l t , d u r i n g her d i f f i c u l t times, t h a t even having c h i l d r e n would be u s e l e s s , because she wrote those very words i n her d i a r y . I know t h a t she was nurtured and cared f o r by h e r husband, Leonard, and t h a t i t i s e n t i r e l y p o s s i b l e t h a t were i t not f o r h i s care t h a t many o f her great works would never have been written. I know, t o o , t h a t there are f e m i n i s t s c h o l a r s who are q u i t e c r i t i c a l o f Leonard; who say t h a t he f a i l e d i n h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l assessment of some o f her work, and i n the manner i n which he t r e a t e d her i l l n e s s . I know, t o o , t h a t i n h i s p r e f a c e t o her d i a r i e s which he e d i t e d , he does not mention one word about h i s great g r i e f o r sadness about her s u i c i d e and death, nor does he r e f e r t o how difficult i t might have been f o r him t o even c o n s i d e r her diaries for publication. I have r e a d — a n d am s t i l l r e a d i n g — b o o k s by o r about V i r g i n i a Woolf, and I suspect t h a t I w i l l go on r e a d i n g these books f o r many y e a r s t o come, and t h a t there i s s t i l l much I have y e t t o s y n t h e s i z e . I have charted a l l the f e m i n i s t books I've read, and somehow a l l the arrows i n my flow c h a r t diagram c i r c l e back t o Virginia. And I wonder about her. I wonder what she was t h i n k i n g about when she walked i n t o the r i v e r , when she f e l t the f i r s t c o l d shock of s o o t h i n g 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 t o her neck as she walked her way out o f our l i f e and i n t o her e v e r l a s t i n g words. Words which we s t i l l read, which I see everywhere i n every f e m i n i s t book I have e v e r 128  read. What was she t h i n k i n g i n t h a t underwater room o f her own, t h a t c o l d , 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 h a i r spreading out above the water l i k e the t h i n , s k e l e t a l hands o f a thousand, thousand threads o f time. H o l d i n g her hand up out o f the r i v e r o f her words t o reach a c r o s s t o a l l o f us who have l e a r n e d from her. And I wish I c o u l d t e l l her: she was never alone, even when she walked i n t o t h a t r i v e r , when she c o u l d no longer bear the p a i n . A l l o f us were l i s t e n i n g t o her words echo a c r o s s the water, i n t h a t f i n a l , wet auditorium of time.  129  Against the Grain is  this  aching tight  Virginia: folded  fist  i n my t h r o a t what you f e l t  they c r i t i c i z e d your t e x t  a g a i n s t the g r a i n  Leonard s a i d l i k e carving  like  scraping  like  driving  like  scaling  the r o a s t the other way your f i n g e r n a i l across the chalkboard the wrong way down a one-way s t r e e t up the down e s c a l a t o r  like  shouldering  people like writing  your way through a  crowd  of  what you a c t u a l l y t h i n k  130  Repeated i n Threes i n s i d e me another hard t h i n g grows  li&£. Q/iiyinia ^Woolf'i. <J$ioda.  hard unmelting formed s t i l l growing a tumour of despondency <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. t4e  UKU&I  to> <* loom, it-  t&e  i n s i d e me t h i s tumour l i v e s repeated i n t h r e e s  another hard t h i n g grows unsheared 131  V i r g i n i a W o o l f s A l i v e and Well and Living i n a Co-op i n False Creek V i r g i n i a Woolf i s n ' t dead she's p l a y i n g the pink g u i t a r w r i t i n g f o r the sexes r e w r i t i n g women's l i v e s s p i n n i n g through g y n e c o l o g i c a l time (untouched) not an u n l i k e l y s t o r y she's t h e o r i z i n g f e m i n i s t fandango i n c a l y p s o classrooms Edward you're a f r a i d of V i r g i n i a Woolf scrawled on u n i v e r s i t y bathroom w a l l s scrubbed u n i v e r s a l l y i n bathroom s t a l l Virginia menstrual m i n s t r e l s p i r i t u a l specter death by d y i n g defied Posed and p o l i s h e d on pages of Daring Doctrine caring Daunting D o c t r i n e flaunting Escaped at l a s t from her own the k i t c h e n of t i l e d time  round-rugged  room  Virginia's building motorcycle memories i n the word workshop composing computer programs of c e n t e n n i a l sentences bungee jumping from bookshelf t o bookshelf mass murdering male Mensa mainbrains V i r g i n i a i s n ' t dead t e m p o r i z i n g temptress  temporal-airily temper-rarely temporarily interred  132  P O L Y L O G : Re-configciring Drumheller Landscape Another Mad Poet Eroding with Words Twirling An Educated Person Curriculum as Dream Are You a Real Teacher When Tomorrow Turns to Today? An/other Return  134 135 136 138 139 140 142  Drumheller Lands parched e a r t h s t o n e - f i l l e d paths caked c l a y d i r t enmeshed w i t h c h a i n - l i n k s of the past red-white-black s t r i p p e d 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 i n t o another f o s s i l on a rock and I am awed by a l l t h a t preceded me here another q u i c k gust of wind blows my wide-brimmed sunhat upon the l a n d where once m a j e s t i c d i n o s a u r s roamed we are a l l one landscape t h a t simply changes shape and c o l o r every millennium o i l - p a i n t e d by the eyes of the sky  Another Mad Poet E r o d i n g with  Words  t a n g l e d dark c u r l y h a i r ( l i k e mine) s t a n d i n g f a r too c l o s e f o r a s t r a n g e r l i k e a tree wedging r o o t s i n t o rock and c a u s i n g e r o s i o n making i t a r i t u a l he wipes the p e r s p i r a t i o n o f f h i s brow a few long cosmic moments b e f o r e h i s mad words explode and s c a t t e r on our u n i v e r s e causing erosion another damn poet you comment ( l i k e me)  135  Twirling two o f my cousins on my mother's s i d e (her b r o t h e r ' s daughters) t w i r l e d batons f o r years when they were c h i l d r e n 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 o f them dressed i n l i t t l e s c a l l o p e d 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 a f t e r n o o n while we s a t mesmerized trapped on c h a i r s i n the back y a r d of y e t another c h i l d - r u n e x h i b i t i o n even then s i t t i n g by the pea v i n e s c r a w l i n g f u l l of pods out o f t h e i r d i r t box garden space I would wonder at my c o u s i n s ' s k i l l dexterity nerve before a crowd allegiance to a stick c o n v i c t i o n the baton would r e t u r n the baton s p i n n i n g round and round t h e i r r o u t i n e s always when a baton a c c i d e n t a l l y dropped a c o u s i n would p i c k 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 d e s p i t e the many hours of p r a c t i c e I used t o laugh inwardly at t h e i r d e d i c a t i o n 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 t h a t baton sometimes have a mind of t h e i r own s p o i l i n g my r o u t i n e s and me a n o n - b e l i e v e r once l a y i n g down my words at the a l t a r of my own a d d i c t i o n a p r a c t i c e of a l l e g i a n c e no d i f f e r e n t than the way my c o u s i n s d a i l y threw those batons i n t o the a i r  137  An Educated  Person  an educated person reads w r i t e s f e e l s passion intensely a f i r e within flames burn h o t b r i g h t spewspill scorching others fire felt not always seen t h e r e i s h u m i l i t y here more q u e s t i o n s t o be asked i n t e r r o g a t e a l l t h o s e answers t o u c h the f i r e strength overrides passion a l e n g t h of s t e e l upright hard t o bend glinting the s h i n e mesmerizes me a r o d s t r i k e s the ground with p r e c i s i o n decision derision put out t h a t f i r e f e e l i n g tempered by f a c t prove i t i t c a n ' t be t r u e f i r m c o u r s e ahead resolve that uncertainty take the path use the map e n t e r the room use the map b e g i n the journey use the map check t h a t course who's l o s t a l o n g the way? add the changes t o the map r e c o r d t h a t journey f o r the next c o u r s e the next procedure walk around the f i r e the f i r e s t i l l burns hotbright t o u c h the f i r e  138  C u r r i c u l u m as Dream c u r r i c u l u m i s a dream I teach dreams l e a r n them too days pass f i l l e d w i t h steps b r i n g i n g me c l o s e r c l o s e r t o the dream never q u i t e t h e r e always the dream i s i n f r o n t of me i n the d i s t a n c e j u s t 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 like a fiddler I p l a y on wanting them to hear the music not the p i e d p i p e r I want them dancing to t h e i r dreams want the caves t h a t imprison them empty a l i e n a t e d and b e r e f t we seek the dream seek the awe and t a s t i n g i t change f o r e v e r i f c u r r i c u l u m 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, E r i n , asks me. I t h i n k about t h i s q u e s t i o n f o r a while, t r y i n g to view i t from a f i v e - y e a r - o l d ' s p e r s p e c t i v e . A f i v e - y e a r - o l d attending p u b l i c s c h o o l f o r the f i r s t time, eager f o r what the next day b r i n g s , e x c i t e d to be going where her o l d e r 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 p a r e n t a l p r o x i m i t y . Yes, I f i n a l l y r e p l y , tomorrow i s today, intuitively understanding t h a t my daughter wants to know i f t h i s i s the day she w i l l stay f o r "a long t u r n " i n her Kindergarten class, f o l l o w i n g a week of gradual e n t r y which eased her i n t o school and r o u t i n e s . . . / 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 thefirsttime 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 f i v e - y e a r - o l d s . They are wacky, so f r e s h 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 c h i l d r e n , a language f i l l e d w i t h 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 o f a l a r g e world i n h a b i t e d with l a r g e people. My daughters love to hear the humourous s t o r i e s I have c o l l e c t e d over the years, adding them to t h e i r storehouse of f a m i l y f a v o r i t e s . L i k e the time I c a l l e d , "Freeze!" to a c l a s s of f i v e - y e a r - o l d s . We were moving around the room w h i l e I beat a hand drum w i t h v a r y i n g rhythms, e v e n t u a l l y c a l l i n g out a t e a c h e r ' s g e n e r i c stop s i g n a l : FREEZE! And t h a t ' s e x a c t l y what one l i t t l e g i r l d i d . She stood i n f r o n t of me, hugging h e r s e l f w i t h her own l i t t l e hands, shaking j u s t enough to suggest she was indeed c o l d , and u t t e r e d : 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 a r r i v e t e n minutes e a r l y and decide t o walk around the schoolground, l o o k i n g f o r her s i s t e r s . E r i n refuses to h o l d my hand, and I can t e l l by the way she p l a c e s her new red knapsack on her s h o u l d e r s , l i f t s her c h i n and g l a n c e s at the o t h e r c h i l d r e n , she wants t o be a b i g g i r l , independent and f r e e of mother's p r o t e c t i v e hand. But when I t u r n t o l e a v e once she has donned her i n d o o r shoes i n her own classroom, she runs t o me f o r 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 f r i e n d , she e x p l a i n s . She's French, but speaks E n g l i s h l i k e me. (Some p i e c e o f i n f o r m a t i o n o u t - o f k i l t e r here. I make a w i l d guess.) Do you mean your new f r i e n d i s Chinese? I ask. Yes, my daughter r e p l i e s . I l i s t e n e d t o music w i t h those r a i l s , she c o n t i n u e s . (Ah! Headphones, I t r a n s l a t e . ) We saw the p r i n c i p a l today, she s u p p l i e s h a p p i l y . She's a g i r l . But not a teenager w i t h long h a i r . (OK. I'm f o l l o w i n g . The teenager w i t h long h a i r i s her K i n d e r g a r t e n t e a c h e r , a young woman). What e l s e d i d you do? I inquire. C i r c l e . You g o t t a do c i r c l e when you come i n and a f t e r you p l a y , E r i n expounds. What d i d your t e a c h e r say at c i r c l e ? I probe. Nice s t u f f , E r i n responds. I s m i l e , t h i n k of some more n i c e s t u f f we can s i n g when my own next teaching-tomorrow becomes today, and s e l e c t another b e a u t i f u l s k i r t t o 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 s p i n round and round the ramp pieces of l i v e s z i p p e r e d away f o r s a f e k e e p i n g transported a c r o s s a country f i n a l l y claimed and brought t o l i f e once again hung out on hangars limp wrinkled fabric blowing in the breeze a clothesline full of flat lifeless colors  o n l y f l e s h f i l l s out these garment ghosts silent w i t h a l l they have j u s t the s u i t c a s e c l o s e d on o t h e r s t o r i e s  been  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 c l o t h e s are worn again and rub t o g e t h e r the threads remembering other l i v e s  142  POLYLOG:  Re-constructing  Wedding Dance Post-modern WHAT-DID-YOU-CALL-IT Post-modern Life Crisis Post-modern Feminist Film M(other) of the Text  144 145 146 147 151  Wedding Dance:  deCONstructing marriage  smash the sound of broken g l a s s d e s t r u c t i o n of the temple Jewish marriage b e g i n n i n g one g l a s s underfoot under the f o o t to my l e f t r i g h t l e g r a i s e d & brought down hard  **smash**  shards of g l a s s neatly collected i n a cloth napkin s i g n i f y i n g remembrance (the re-member-dance) t h a t which i s whole can be broken t h a t which walks a l s o tramples t h a t which i s tender can a l s o d e s t r o y t h a t which i s a v e s s e l holds nothing at times not even a i r t h a t which f i l t e r s the r e a l can be d i s t o r t e d t h a t which begins a l s o ends t h a t which i s happiness & l i g h t n e s s o f b e i n g can be ruptured w i t h the sound of breakage lessons learned (more than a temple at stake here) I dance b a r e f o o t midst the p i e c e s o f g l a s s shattered a deCONstruction of the temple s a n c t i f y i n g love s a n c t i f y i n g attachment s a n c t i f y i n g a marriage I am the temple I am the g l a s s I am the f o o t  smash s(mash) sm(ash)  —a  Post-Modern WHAT-DID-YOU-CALL-IT response t o Postmodern E d u c a t i o n by Giroux and A r o n o w i t z —  Stanley. Henry. Boys. (I can't seem t o pronounce your l a s t names.) T h i s i s not your mother speaking. BUT— Did you l e a r n Paragraphs?  to  write  in  the  Province  of  Impenetrable  Were you schooled i n the School o f O b s c u r i t y ? Were you h a l l monitors mouthing m u l t i v o c a l mumbo-jumbo messages to mutants C r u i s i n g down the c o r r u g a t e d c o r r i d o r s o f crap, Pausing t o pee post-modern pomposity p o l e s now p o l l u t e d by adynamic a d v e r s a t i v e adverbs neuropsychotic nouns and s e x p a r t i t e sentences?  upon ponderous portentous  the v o i c e - t h e v o i c e - t h e v o i c e of-otherness-smothered-andbordered-and-decentered-in-thehuman-subject-of-meaningfuldid-you-mean-meaning-fullcurriculum-for-studentswhose-social-politicalcultural-gender-identityOh, r e a l l y ? T h i s r e a l l y cannot p o s s i b l y mean t o be i d e n t i f i e d here by me. Not i n those p a u s e l e s s p r e t e n t i o u s p a n d e r i n g p a r a g r a p h s perused by this publically unintellectual 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 d i s r u p t i v e d i s c o u r s e I now c a s t a l l rhyming words from my l e x i c o n o f 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 c o n t r a d i c t o r y c o n t e n t i o n s I now v a c i l l a t e between p o l a r i t i e s as i n c o n s i s t e n t l y as I can s u s t a i n Note*  Can i n c o n s i s t e n c y be  sustained?  In the post-modern r e a l i z a t i o n of no r e a l r e a l i t y I now seek the t r u t h 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 c o n f i n i n g conventions I now fuse my fondest f a n t a s i e s with m e t a f i c t i o n a l f r i c t i o n Note*  Can a mass o f m e t a f i c t i o n become c o n f i n i n g ?  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 w i t h post-modern p a s s i o n and Note*  Repudiate the post-modern mantra.  Note*  F a r too dominant f o r the c u l t u r e s t h a t I wish t o c r e a t e .  146  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 u r i n e hands s p l a y e d and t i e d by a man running running escaped and chased to swarming bees grating voice droning beebuzz v o i c e (here I stumble over f e e t b o l t t o bathroom) r e t u r n t o bees s t i l l swarming over S y l v i a P l a t h ' s words which run i n t o B a r b i e mothers and baby d o l l s daughter mourning mother s death s t e p away from a t r a i n I listen watch i n 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 s l o s h of water never stops g r a t e s on my nerves as the c h i l d p l a y s w i t h the B a r b i e 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 s l o s h i n g loud slapsloshslap l a s t few g r a i n s of mother ash s l i p out of daughter grasp to j o i n a l l the o t h e r g r a i n s of sand f o r e i g n v o i c e next immigrant mother 1  147  admits w i t h an accent t h a t she r e l i s h e s f r e e i s not motherly i s not a bad mother mother tongue from another time another c u l t u r e repeats repeats repeats and b l e a t s the unmother mantra good mother not-good-enough mother tip of her mother tongue black dressed i n white dress white shoes white t i g h t s white hat covers b l a c k body playing i n a grass f i e l d b e a u t i f u l b l a c k face image underneath w h i t e t i p p e d top overtop w h i t e c l a d longlegged body of b l a c k hidden by white words spoken which r e v e a l pain i n school t e l l i n g tales a child c a l l s her n i g g e r a teacher p r i n t s niggardly on the board a l l black c l a s s a l l white teacher j u s t d i d n ' t care anymore say b e a u t i f u l b l a c k eyes of p a i n woman speaks of b e i n g bussed 148  and not speaking not s a y i n g one s o l e word a l l year not r e a d i n g not w r i t i n g just s i t t i n g all C s b i g g e s t r a c i s t crime o f a l l cheated of her e d u c a t i o n cheated of a l l those words words t h a t c o u l d l i f t them out o f p a i n out o f l o n g i n g i n t o the world out o f the f i l m images bleak s t a r k depressing hopeless ends w i t h two women l i v i n g alone on the s t r e e t apart from f a m i l y drifting c o l l e c t i n g the d e b r i s of an a l i e n alienated city breaking i n t o a Kotex machine f o r two pads and some n i c k e l s begging f o r f i v e d o l l a r s t o buy a c a r p a r t t o get her c h i l d r e n from the b a b y s i t t e r some man g i v e s 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 t h a t same c o r n e r trying 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 b l a c k s u f f o c a t i n g despair w h i l e people eat hot b u t t e r e d popcorn and the b l o o d from those i n t e s t i n e s drips on the s c r e e n drips these images of hopeless hapless helpless heathen post-modern women f i l m s l i g h t s on curtains rise popcorn consumed we r e t u r n to our p a i n f u l ( 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) o f the Text the blank page no t a b u l a r a s a t h i s but white space Monique W i t t i g ' s workshop to p l a y w i t h sub/text i n t e r / t e x t words sounds images voices visions i n / s c r i b e d upon the blankness even the s i l e n c e i s a mirror c r ( e a t ) o r of page t e x t entered c(entered) dec(entered) a stage a r e e ( a ) l of f i l m a canvas ( p o s i t ) i o n of an i n ( s t r u m ) e n t collabor(ate)d i n silence trans(form)ed i n text b(ordered) by margins no c ( e n t r e ) to the page found w ( o r ) l d between the l i n e s : self i/magined for/gotten re/membered un/known m(other) of the t e x t inter/dependent but s e p a r ( a t e ) too I am a blank page about t o t u r n  151  POLYLOG:  Re-centering  Air Supplies And Now, Ah-ee I/eye/i/aiii/ah-ee Again Trinh Minh-ha & Me Asian Women: A Tribute Renee's Story Middle Place Healing the Split Subject  153 156 157 158 159 160 161 162  152  Air  Supplies  I'm so s i c k o f myself. I mean s e l v e s . The t r o u b l e with a l l my post-modern p o s t u r i n g , my c o l l e c t i v e consciousness, my s e l f - a b s o r b e d something-or-other, i s t h a t I am becoming so i n t r o s p e c t i v e and focused on my i n t e r i o r , t h a t I am beginning t o want t o g i v e myself ( s e l v e s ) a good s w i f t k i c k i n t h e posterior(s). So when I r e c e n t l y sat w i t h i n t h e c i r c l e o f a conference p r e s e n t a t i o n t h a t sought t o d e s c r i b e s t r a t e g i e s f o r b u i l d i n g a l l i a n c e s between "Women o f C o l o r " and "White Women," I attempted t o understand my response t o the p r e s e n t a t i o n i n l i g h t of my own post-modern angst. I l i s t e n e d t o the Women o f C o l o r o u t l i n e t h e i r r u l e s f o r a Mixed Group workshop. I l i s t e n e d t o t h e White Women d e s c r i b e t h e i r f e e l i n g s o f 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 t o a d e s c r i p t i o n o f a workshop e x e r c i s e t h a t i n v o l v e d one person h o l d i n g h e r hand t o t h e t h r o a t o f h e r p a r t n e r , c u t t i n g o f f h e r a i r supply, u n t i l t h e p a r t n e r broke t h e h o l d . Apparently meant t o be a g r a p h i c symbol o f how i t f e l t t o be a Woman o f C o l o r — g a s p i n g f o r a i r . Excuse me, I thought s i l e n t l y t o myself, r e a c t i n g t o such an e x e r c i s e as a v i o l a t i o n a g a i n s t my body, my r i g h t t o breathe. I don't want anyone c u t t i n g o f f my a i r supply. Even as an exercise. Even i f I decide when t o break the h o l d . I have enough t r o u b l e coming up f o r a i r as i t i s . And I t h i n k I can l e a r n t o r e l a t e t o other women—any women—with empathy and compassion. Regardless o f l i v e d experience. When I f i r s t walked i n t o t h a t conference room, I d i d n ' t see A s i a n Women, Black Women, F i l i p i n o Women, A b o r i g i n a l Women and White Women. I saw a roomful o f women. I s t h i s u n d e s i r a b l e , I wondered. Should we be a c c e n t u a t i n g o u r d i f f e r e n c e s t h i s way i n s t e a d o f c e l e b r a t i n g what we h o l d i n common? I f e l t an a f f i n i t y towards a l l t h e women i n t h a t room, but a f t e r t h e p r e s e n t a t i o n , I had the women a l l n e a t l y compartmentalized i n my mind. And I had immediately n o t i c e d 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 o f n o t i c i n g the men i n our midst. I f e l t confused. I don't want t o homogenize a l l women, or minimize t h e i r l i v e d experiences i n the world as a r e s u l t o f race, s k i n c o l o r , h i s t o r i c a l o p p r e s s i o n . But I don't want t o be labelled—as one t e a c h e r friend told me i s t h e c u r r e n t p o l i t i c a l l y c o r r e c t t e r r a — a Woman o f P a l l o r . What an anaemic v i s i o n t h a t t i t l e conjures up, c o l o r l e s s and i n e f f e c t u a l , a whitewashed, wishy-washy, washed-out p a l e f a c e . Ugh. And what am I anyway, I wondered a t t h i s p r e s e n t a t i o n . I'm Jewish. Where do I f i t ? Woman o f I n v i s i b l e Color? Jewish White Woman? C u r l y - h a i r e d Woman? Woman with Husband and Three Children? T a l l Woman? Where do we draw the l i n e ? Why do we even draw the l i n e s ? S i t t i n g i n a r e s t a u r a n t with two women f r i e n d s , slaphappy and giddy, we r a t e d o u r s e l v e s on t h e Oppression S c a l e . Well, I'm Chinese, and a woman, s a i d one f r i e n d . I'm h i g h e s t on t h e 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 a t home. That should g i v e me some Oppression P o i n t s . Well, I'm Jewish, I countered. We have a long h i s t o r y o f oppression. That should be good f o r a few p o i n t s . The Queen o f England, s a i d one o f these f r i e n d s . What about the Queen? A l l t h a t s t a t u s , power and p r i v i l e g e . She's not oppressed. Ha! I countered. I f she were a King, she wouldn't have t o answer f o r a l l her c h i l d r e n ' s f a i l e d marriages. I want t o laugh a l i t t l e b i t . Laugh and h o l d hands (not t h r o a t s ) and gurgle (not gasp) w i t h the unsuppressed l a u g h t e r o f what i t means t o be women t o g e t h e r i n t h i s world. Searching f o r the j o y out o f the sorrow. U n i t i n g , not s u b d i v i d i n g , i n d i v e r s i t y and d i f f e r e n c e . The t r u t h i s , I need t o laugh more. Laugh and be s i l l y . I don't want t o always take myself ( s e l v e s ) so s e r i o u s l y . I don't want t o p a r t i c i p a t e i n workshop e x e r c i s e s t h a t p o r t r a y what I should be communicating p o i n t b l a n k o r p e r c e i v i n g w i t h h e a r t f e l t empathy. I need t o laugh and count those Oppression P o i n t s l i k e the b a t t l e s c a r s of l i v i n g t h a t C l a r i s s a E s t e s says mark her years. Count them and mark them. Together. In one c i r c l e . I don't want t o 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 i n n e r c i r c l e s . But nothing i s ever t h a t uncomplicated. I knew my c o n f u s i o n about the p r e s e n t a t i o n I attended s i g n a l l e d t h a t I needed t o i n v e s t i g a t e f u r t h e r . I knew t h a t my r e a c t i o n c o u l d be c o n s i d e r e d o f f e n s i v e t o groups I had no wish t o o f f e n d . When I shared my views with o t h e r s , I was s u r p r i s e d a t t h e d i v e r s i t y o f responses I r e c e i v e d . Two women s a i d they found my n o t i o n of u n i t i n g i n j o y and l a u g h t e r u p l i f t i n g . L i k e me, one woman i s Jewish. L i k e me, both women are p r i v i l e g e d i n economic and e d u c a t i o n a l terms. One woman (white) a l s o worried about offending other groups who make distinctions based on differences. When I approached a f e m i n i s t f r i e n d f o r a r e a l i t y check, he suggested I had more work t o do i n understanding a l l the i s s u e s . There can be l i t t l e t o laugh about i n other people's experiences. Not content t o stop here i n my e x p l o r a t i o n , I phoned a Woman o f C o l o r who had attended the p r e s e n t a t i o n and whose philosophy I r e s p e c t immensely. I r e l a t e d my c o n f u s i o n t o her, my worry about l a b e l l i n g , my wish t o c e l e b r a t e and look f o r some joy. She emphasized the importance o f naming who we a r e and a l l o w i n g space f o r nonmainstream groups t o 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 c o n f e s s i o n a l way t o begin with, and as a step i n coming t o terms with p a i n . In order t o break l o n g h e l d s i l e n c e s . There i s n ' t always t h a t much t o c e l e b r a t e , she added. And she considered the workshop e x e r c i s e powerful and potent. D i d I not n o t i c e t h a t the Women o f C o l o r 154  who spoke d i d not smile a t a l l o r look happy, she enquired. Yes. I noticed. When we walk down the s t r e e t past the c o n s t r u c t i o n crew; when we have t o decide upon whether o r not t o abort o r keep the babies; when we watch our ex-husbands ignore our c h i l d r e n w h i l e they l a v i s h money and a t t e n t i o n on t h e i r new f a m i l i e s ; when we have t o c a l l 9-1-1 because our ex-partners broke i n t o our houses; when we s i t w i t h t h e men and t r y t o get a word i n edgewise, hoping a g a i n s t hope t h a t j u s t one o f them w i l l care what we do, what we t h i n k ; when we t a l k about poverty and v i o l e n c e and women who are n o n e n t i t i e s i n s o c i e t y because of race o r c l a s s o r age o r d i s a b i l i t y , there i s n ' t much t o laugh about and a i r s u p p l i e s are c u t o f f . C e r t a i n l y I have more t o l e a r n . I'm w i l l i n g t o l i s t e n . And I have d i s c o v e r e d I can and should l e a r n some o f i t by c o n t i n u i n g the d i s c u s s i o n s I began w i t h a v a r i e t y o f o t h e r s . I have t o b e l i e v e , though, t h a t I must keep i n mind the v a l i d i t y o f my own experiences as a woman, r e g a r d l e s s o f my own privilege. I have t o b e l i e v e t h a t d e s p i t e the f a c t t h a t there i s n ' t always a great d e a l t o c e l e b r a t e , we must a l s o search i n s o l i d a r i t y f o r some j o y and l a u g h t e r i n a l l t h i s l i v i n g t h a t can e l e v a t e us above o u r s e l v e s , past the post-modern p a r a p h e r n a l i a and workshop wizardry. E l e v a t e us and u n i t e us and f i l l us w i t h good, c l e a n , deep b r e a t h s o f f r e s h a i r . Breaths o f f r e s h hope and v i s i o n . So I don't have t o be so s i c k o f 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 c l o s e t . . . dark s i l e n c e s i f the s e l f i s a bowl of c h e r r i e s . . . fruit flesh 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 aiii ah-ee  *Hebrew l e t t e r s "yud" and "aleph" w i t h the Hebrew p h o n e t i c markings underneath; pronounced [ah-ee], not an a c t u a l word 156  I/eye/i/aiii/ah-ee Again I and not-I inscribing difference the meanings endlessly deferred i n Others ah-ee (^X) the 5th ah-ee of my q u i n t u p l e t s e l v e s a pinch (reminding me the f l e d g l i n g i ' s are awake not dreaming) a shout ( e x c l a i m i n g t h a t the a c t i o n hurt a small p i n p r i c k of r e a l l i v i n g a jab at l i f e ) a shout t o be touched ah-ee ah-ee i n / v o l u n t a r y g u t t u r a l keening (tasting  a shout t o be seen of f l e s h between f i n g e r s )  the echo of not-I z i n g i n g past Others' ears  157  T r i n h Minh-ha & Me the the the the the an  same f e a r s self-same g u i l t d e s i r e f o r words l i v i n g a t the masters' t h r e s h o l d s search f o r the p o e t i c ethnic feminine elusive illusive I-dentity the blood o f our pens s P i 1 1 i n g onto the blank pages of Woman Poet Other's time no n a t i v e I but Jew Jew & not-Jew still  wo/andering where such I - d e n t i t y d i s / p l a c e s 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 p h i l o s o p h y ) I — J e w & not-Jew Western woman do not know about the v i t a l i s t h a t why I f e e l so empty  158  A s i a n Women:  A Tribute  i f I were an a r t i s t I would draw these women w i t h deep l i n e s o f l i s t e n i n g eyes the c o l o r o f pure a t t e n t i v e n e s s b e a u t i f u l dark h a i r 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 w i t h words p i n n i n g them l i k e b u t t e r f l i e s to a i r  Renee s S t o r y 1  Anjin's story i s my s t o r y , t o o the l o v e a f f a i r i s w i t h words ( b e ) l o n g i n g i n a poem a d e s i r e so p a s s i o n a t e the teacher waters the poems u n t i l they bloom w i t h (e)motion & milady's face w i l t s j e a l o u s o f the time spent on t e a c h i n g even i n death the t e a c h e r s t i l l w a t e r i n g the wo with Anjin's tears  Middle Place ( f o r Ted Aoki) D w e l l i n g with Ted i n the and where the teacher disappears the I's d i s s o l v e and i n t h e i r p l a c e : a word seen again spun i n t o 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 t o meet the s t i c k i n e s s at the merest breath o f movement a v o i c e heard t h a t now echoes e n d l e s s l y bouncing o f f the w a l l s p l i t t i n g i n t o atoms a deed honoured & shared hopeful c e l e b r a t i o n i n a l r e a d y knowing eyes a d i s s e n t respected the remnant of a whisper c r y i n g an unformed thought encouraged t o f l o u n d e r entered i n t o emptiness an i d e a recaptured and r e f l e c t e d back hopeful dreaming a vision cultures f e l t through language people thoughts & l a u g h t e r and the middle p l a c e i s home t o a l l Hush f o r a moment. Do you hear the memory s i n g i n g ?  161  H e a l i n g t h e S p l i t Subject I see Her w a i t i n g purse hanging s t u p i d l y round her neck by Her s c h o o l l o c k e r hoping f o r h i or a smile some s i g n o f r e c o g n i t i o n evidence o f 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 t o be i n v i s i b l e embarrassed m i s s i n g some p r o t e c t i v e l a y e r moving through symbolic days peopled w i t h — t h a t p l a i n g i r l by the l o c k e r t h a t young woman walking down s c h o o l b o a r d / h a l l s t h a t 4 0 ' i s h woman c l i m b i n g u n i v e r s i t y s t a i r s . . . u n s e e n - t h r o u g h - t h e - m i s s i n g - 1 ay e r - o n e - h e a r t - b e a t i n g - l i k e - 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 flying back t o t h a t g i r l t h a t imaginary c h i l d s t a n d i n g by the l o c k e r l i f t t h e purse from around Her neck g e n t l y l e a d Her from l o c k e r s e n t r y plant a kiss firmly on Her forehead w h i s p e r i n g 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 h i g h purse unlocked swinging by Her s i d e not w a i t i n g waiting I f l y i n t o Her & weareone 16  INTER LOG Re-thinking On Second Thought Wait a minute! A t h e s i s i s a p u b l i c document, you say? A copy occupies a space on the l i b r a r y s h e l f ? J u s t a sec. I have to make a few  changes.  Let me j u s t take out t h a t l i n e about the s e n i o r a d m i n i s t r a t o r of s c h o o l s . I wouldn't want some a d m i n i s t r a t o r l e a f i n g through t h i s . And I'11 e d i t out the l i n e about t a u t b r e a s t s . Too s e x u a l . W e l l , then, I'd b e t t e r remove the p a r t s about the male dancers. The Power Games p i e c e . Let me j u s t f i x t h a t 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 t o 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, d i d Leonard ever do the dishes? Short and t o the p o i n t . Oh, urn, the P r o d i g a l Mother poem. That has to go completely. And Everywomen, and the Happy B i r t h d a y t o my daughter 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 c h i l d r e n .  one.  L e t ' s see. The response to Mary Daly's book. No, too emotional. I used the word porno at l e a s t twice. J u s t keep the l a s t sentence: " I ' l l never be the same again." That says e v e r y t h i n g i n one b r e a t h . The t i t l e of my scene about the m i s c a r r i a g e . I ' l l change t h a t to U n t i t l e d . And I ' l l add more p a i n , s u f f e r i n g , l o s s , t e a r s , and a female d o c t o r . 163  The t h r e e poems to my daughters can s t a y as i s . As w e l l as C o l l e c t i o n s of Home. W e l l , on second thought, t h e y ' r e s o r t of on the l i g h t s i d e j u s t t h e r e by themselves. Too l i g h t , maybe? A l l right. Keep the t h r e e daughter poems and C o l l e c t i o n s but put back the l i n e about t a u t b r e a s t s , OK? Hmmm. Doesn't sound r i g h t u n l e s s the male dancers dance, so t h e y ' r e back, too. Do you r e a l l y t h i n k I can a c c u r a t e l y convey a l l the complex aspects of f i l i a l l o v e without i n c l u d i n g these o t h e r mother poems? Put them back. And put back the e n t i r e Power Games p i e c e . I had something important t o say. The Daly response. Put i t back whole. Put e v e r y t h i n g back the way  i t was  before.  Maybe I c o u l d use a pseudonym. (The names must be changed to p r o t e c t the and the g u i l t y . )  innocent  MONOLOQ  165  Re-vealing A Woman W r i t e r ' s  Diary  EARLY JANUARY: Is t h i s r e a l ? The f i r s t n i g h t o f t h e second h a l f o f my graduate w r i t i n g course, and i n walks C a r l Leggo, t h e p r o f e s s o r who teaches t h i s p a r t o f t h e term: a p o e t / w r i t e r with long h a i r , e a r r i n g s , and a s e n s i t i v e f a c e ; a post-modern Lord Byron i n a cream-colored f i s h e r m a n - k n i t sweater. My s u r p r i s e a t h i s a p p e a r a n c e — t h i s 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 a t t h e major assignment f o r t h e term, a p o r t f o l i o o f c r e a t i v e w r i t i n g . Is t h i s a figment o f my i m a g i n a t i o n , o r some s a r c a s t i c dean's? I am d e l i g h t e d and c h a l l e n g e d and astounded. F i n a l l y some time t o devote t o " r e a l w r i t i n g , " something t h a t seems t o beckon t o me now almost as i f I had been w a i t i n g f o r t h i s o p p o r t u n i t y . Growing up female d i d not i n c l u d e the p o s s i b i l i t y o f w r i t i n g f o r me, p a r t l y due t o a d i s t i n c t f e a r o f f a i l u r e and p a r t l y due t o a d i s t i n c t l a c k o f encouragement i n t h e p a s t . I do not t r u l y b e l i e v e I am a " w r i t e r " i n any sense o f the word. My one and o n l y attempt t o take a c r e a t i v e w r i t i n g course when I f i r s t attended u n i v e r s i t y as a naive young undergraduate was thwarted by t h e r e j e c t i o n o f my manuscript. What d i d a s h e l t e r e d s e v e n t e e n - y e a r - o l d g i r l from t h e p r a i r i e s have t o say anyway? L i k e so many other women who were born i n t h e 50's, I became a teacher. But somewhere deep i n s i d e my head were dreams and images and words b e i n g turned over and over. T u r n i n g u n t i l someone s a i d , "Write them!" T u r n i n g u n t i l something happened so I would. D e s p i t e my i n s e c u r i t y , I have l a t e l y determined t h a t 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 t h a t c r e a t i v e w r i t i n g i s something I always wanted t o do. C a r l l a t e r comments t h a t he can f e e l the p a l p a b l e " f e a r " i n t h e room i n r e a c t i o n t o b e i n g asked t o w r i t e c r e a t i v e l y and share t h i s w r i t i n g , but I do not f e e l a f r a i d t o n i g h t . I f e e l e x u l t a n t , s t i m u l a t e d , e x c i t e d , somehow r e l i e v e d t h a t here a t l a s t i s the o p p o r t u n i t y I seem t o have been w a i t i n g f o r , and c u r i o u s l y , I f e e l very emotional about the prospect o f g e t t i n g down t o t h e b u s i n e s s o f w r i t i n g — a t long l a s t . MID-JANUARY: I w r i t e my f i r s t poem f o r t h e course, my f i r s t p i e c e o f w r i t i n g , and i t i s a l l about my s i l e n t v o i c e s , my hoarse v o i c e s , my l o s t v o i c e s , my drowned-out v o i c e s , my unsanctioned v o i c e s , my d r i f t i n g v o i c e s , my "unspoken, unshapen, unbidden, underneath my tongue" v o i c e s . . . I ask who w i l l r e a l l y l i s t e n t o my v o i c e s and s i n g back my words. I r e s o l v e t o w r i t e what I want t o w r i t e . But i t f e e l s as i f someone i s s t r i p p i n g away l a y e r s o f my many outer, p r o t e c t i v e 166  s k i n s and i t h u r t s . I t i s f r i g h t e n i n g , i t i s fraught w i t h emotion, and i t i s f r e e i n g , t o o . I w r i t e a scene about my f i r s t m i s c a r r i a g e which I have not d e a l t With f o r years, but I do not submit t h i s scene j u s t y e t . Perhaps next time. We'll j u s t see. And I w r i t e more poems about how I w r i t e i n my s l e e p , i n my dreams, i n my head, at the k i t c h e n s i n k ; how I have a whole o t h e r l i f e t h a t wants t o be w r i t t e n ; how I want t o w r i t e t h i s s t o r y awake. I w r i t e about my apparent r e b i r t h a f t e r my daughters were born. I w r i t e about the f e m i n i s t w r i t i n g I b e g i n t o read. I w r i t e about b e i n g a f e m i n i s t w i f e w i t h t h r e e c h i l d r e n , and I w r i t e about the p r e s e n t joy i n my l i f e w i t h my f a m i l y . L i t t l e do I know a t t h i s j u n c t u r e j u s t where t h i s p r e s e n t joy w i l l l e a d me, o r what new s k i n s I w i l l be wearing next w i t h each o l d (tough, worn-out, mottled) s k i n t h a t 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 life. 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 t o share some w r i t i n g w i t h the c l a s s tonight. I have my f i r s t submission ready t o hand i n t o C a r l f o r response. When he asks me i f I am going t o share a n y t h i n g t o n i g h t , I answer, "yes, but I don't y e t know what," and I don't. I am s t i l l unsure of the group, unsure of myself, unsure of the i n s t r u c t o r . At t h i s p o i n t , s n a r i n g my w r i t i n g i s l i k e s h o u t i n g i n t o a wide canyon f o r me, and I don't want my words t o reverberate that loudly. I am having enough t r o u b l e l i s t e n i n g to the words w i t h my i n n e r h e a r i n g and g e t t i n g used t o t h a t , never mind l e t t i n g n e a r - s t r a n g e r s and classmates who I've o n l y 167  known a few weeks hear my words. Should I read r e f l e c t i o n s on w r i t i n g or one of my poems? Which poem? Which r e f l e c t i o n on w r i t i n g ? Am I ready t o r e v e a l myself and p a r t s of my l i f e t o these people? I am u s u a l l y very private. I am f e e l i n g very s e l f - c o n s c i o u s and agonised, and yet, I want t o share some of my w r i t i n g , too. Shouting my words i n t o t h a t canyon makes the words come a l i v e , g i v e s them a r e a l , p u l s i n g l i f e , and I sense t h a t i f the words remain unexposed and hidden on the paper, never shared with anyone, then they w i l l d i s a p p e a r from my l i f e and I w i l l be b e r e f t . I w i l l have l o s t something f o r e v e r . Two o t h e r s share some w r i t i n g . The f i r s t p i e c e i s funny and t o u c h i n g and w e l l - w r i t t e n , and so i s the second, and everyone responds p o s i t i v e l y . C a r l honors each reader w i t h some a f f i r m a t i v e comments, i n c l u d i n g the remark t h a t one poem i s p u b l i s h a b l e , even. I am f e e l i n g more r e l a x e d , although the l a t t e r remark rocks me somewhat, because I f e e l shaky enough i n c o n f i d e n c e t o b e l i e v e t h a t I w i l l never, ever hear such a comment d i r e c t e d t o me. But I want t o hear i t , I r e a l i z e , and I am s u r p r i s e d at myself, because t h i s d e s i r e seems t o have w e l l e d up suddenly out o f nowhere. No, not nowhere, out o f a past t h a t bypassed w r i t i n g i n any s e r i o u s , very committed manner, and I wonder why my commitment i s beginning t o s u r f a c e now, so l a t e ! I decide t o read my f e m i n i s t poem. I read, but I am a f r a i d to gauge the c l a s s 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 , s p e e c h l e s s , l o o k s shocked t o me. There are s e v e r a l such moments of complete s i l e n c e , d u r i n g which time I f l i n g myself s u i c i d a l l y i n t o my m e t a p h o r i c a l canyon, c l i m b i n g up r e l u c t a n t l y t o hang from the edge w i t h t r e m b l i n g f i n g e r s , w a i t i n g f o r someone to step on my hands. The shocked-looking student speaks, s a y i n g he doesn't want t o c l o u d the r i c h words w i t h any other words. Others d i s c u s s the f e m i n i s t aspects of the poem f o r a time, e s p e c i a l l y the women. C a r l speaks of how important such f e m i n i s t w r i t i n g i s , and adds t h a t t h e r e 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 v i c t i m 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 s k i n f e e l s so red and raw. I am g l a d I have shouted i n t o the canyon. I am even g l a d t h a t I have jumped r i g h t i n t o the canyon, and I am g l a d t h a t I have climbed back t o the edge t o l i s t e n . My words have been entered i n t o the echoes of time and p l a c e , and I know they w i l l not v a n i s h now. So why do I wish t h a t these echoes were not r i n g i n g i n my ears, and why do I f e e l as i f I have j u s t g i v e n something away t h a t I r e a l l y s t i l l needed? At the end of the c l a s s I b r a v e l y hand i n my first submission o f w r i t i n g , t r y i n g not t o t h i n k about a l l the p e r s o n a l , p r i v a t e , r e v e a l i n g aspects of my o r d i n a r y l i f e and about my b o r i n g s e l f t h a t a n e a r - s t r a n g e r i s going t o read. I am s l e e p l e s s f o r 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 life.  ***  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 r e t u r n s my first submission of w r i t i n g at the b e g i n n i n g of the c l a s s . (I am g l a d I don't have t o s i t f o r two and a h a l f hours s t a r i n g at the f o l d e r on the t a b l e i n f r o n t of him, wondering about i t . ) I read h i s comments, immediately n o t i c i n g t h a t he has indeed sung my words back t o me. He has a l s o shared some of h i m s e l f and h i s own l i f e as a w r i t e r through some of h i s comments. I e s p e c i a l l y a p p r e c i a t e these p e r s o n a l responses because I have come t o w r i t i n g l a t e i n my l i f e , without a background of experience. As I begin t o get a sense of myself i n my w r i t i n g , the comments a c t as a s o r t of sounding board and a means of comparison. These open comments encourage my own r i s k - t a k i n g i n w r i t i n g because he r i s k s l e t t i n g me begin to know him as a w r i t e r and a person. L a t e r when I go t o h i s o f f i c e t o borrow a book, he says my w r i t i n g i s wonderful. I f e e l encouraged, and l e s s wary, but even so, u n b e l i e v i n g .  ***  The next time I read a poem aloud i n c l a s s I know e x a c t l y what I w i l l read, and i t i s a p r o v o c a t i v e , c o n t e n t i o u s f e m i n i s t piece. I am c o n f i d e n t o n l y t h a t 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 t o b l e e d a l l over my paper when I f i n i s h r e a d i n g the poem aloud, and even worse a f t e r the poem i s d i s c u s s e d . I n o t i c e those f i r s t few seconds of s i l e n c e once again, and t h i s time f i l l them myself, n e r v o u s l y , w i t h some anecdote r e l a t i n g t o 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 s t o r y . I am l e f t w i t h the impression t h a t the poem has caused some acute d i s c o m f o r t , e s p e c i a l l y f o l l o w i n g the f i n a l statement: "You c e r t a i n l y s t r u c k a chord." Again, I i n t e r p r e t these f a i r - e n o u g h remarks n e g a t i v e l y . Have I gone too f a r ? Have I i n s u l t e d anyone? Have I presented the i s s u e s i n a balanced way? While I am d e l v i n g i n t o i s s u e s t h a t I f e e l are important and t r u e , I am not used t o my own s t r o n g emerging v o i c e , or the r e a c t i o n of o t h e r s . And i t seems t o me l i k e I am r e a d i n g my work as i f I am t r y i n g t o j o i n some e x c l u s i v e men's c l u b , and once again, never q u i t e make i t . I'm c e r t a i n t h i s impression emanates from my experiences as a woman and a student, but i f I am supposed t o be h e a r i n g how important f e m i n i s t w r i t i n g i s , e t c . , and how these i s s u e s should be opened up, e t c . , I keep h e a r i n g some v o i c e i n the past s a y i n g , "Boy, what a b i t c h ! " underneath the s u r f a c e of i t a l l . I submit the scene I have a l r e a d y w r i t t e n about my f i r s t m i s c a r r i a g e w i t h my second batch of w r i t i n g . I am beginning t o t r u s t my r e a d e r s — a n d 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. MID—FEBRUARY:  I f e e l a breakthrough i n my w r i t i n g t h i s week. I try a s t o r y based on a b i z a r r e i d e a t h a t j u s t came t o me, another one of those i n s p i r a t i o n s t h a t v i s i t me at the oddest moments, when i n the bath, f o r i n s t a n c e , or down on the f l o o r w i p i n g up grape juice. The s t o r y seems t o w r i t e i t s e l f , and I f e e l so p l e a s e d w i t h myself when i t i s done. I i n c l u d e some ( t a s t e f u l l y w r i t t e n ) sex scenes. At f i r s t , I am shocked t h a t they seem to want t o be w r i t t e n i n the s t o r y , then embarrassed when I t h i n k of anyone e l s e r e a d i n g them. As I w r i t e the words, I f e e l myself s t r u g g l i n g t o c r o s s some l i n e of s e l f - i m p o s e d p r o p r i e t y , and y e t I c o n t i n u e . When I f i n i s h w r i t i n g these scenes I f e e l c u r i o u s l y f r e e and abandoned and even can admit t o myself t h a t w r i t i n g these scenes g i v e s me an i n c r e d i b l e sense of c o n t r o l and pleasure. I n o t i c e my w r i t i n g i s b e g i n n i n g t o change. I am w r i t i n g more i n t i m a t e l y w i t h l e s s concern about b e i n g p r i v a t e and guarded. I e a r l i e r wrote i n one p i e c e : Hey, that's private! There are some things I will never write about. So much f o r t h a t . 171  But b e s i d e s w r i t i n g about more p r i v a t e matters, I have begun to w r i t e about more past p a i n f u l events t h a t I thought were w e l l - f o r g o t t e n and f o r e v e r b u r i e d . So much f o r b u r i e d p a s t . I am aware of my readers, but t h i s i s not s t o p p i n g me from w r i t i n g what I want and seem t o need to w r i t e . I t h i n k I t r u s t them now, w r i t e r to w r i t e r , w r i t e r to reader. Some of the c l a s s responses have given me a c l e a r i n d i c a t i o n of the group's integrity, professionalism, sense of responsibility and trustworthiness. C a r l c a l l s me a poet and a w r i t e r i n some of h i s recent responses. I have never been c a l l e d e i t h e r b e f o r e . I realize t h a t I have always wanted someone to name me poet and writer. I have not been able to name myself. I d i d not have the confidence. I r e a l i z e I want t o be a poet and a w r i t e r . It means e v e r y t h i n g to me. L A T E  F E B R U A R Y :  Tonight I read some of my w r i t i n g to the class> and again I f e e l so v u l n e r a b l e and exposed. That b l e e d i n g wound opens again. W i l l I ever f e e l comfortable about s h a r i n g my work (and myself)? When I read the next s e t of w r i t t e n responses, C a r l w r i t e s t h a t he hopes I w i l l seek p u b l i c a t i o n , and o f f e r s to g i v e me advice and addresses. He a l s o w r i t e s , 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 d i d n ' 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 d i d n ' t know. Again, I am amazed at how r e a d i l y I am embracing an i d e n t i t y as a w r i t e r , how a d d i c t e d I am becoming to w r i t i n g , how committed I f e e l to seeking p u b l i c a t i o n . I am t a k i n g more r i s k s , growing s t r o n g e r and more f e a r l e s s i n my w r i t i n g , 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 p e r s o n a l n a r r a t i v e , another very i n t i m a t e p i e c e of w r i t i n g which has taken me deeper and deeper i n t o myself. I am a s t o n i s h e d t h a t I am even w i l l i n g to l e t anyone read t h i s p i e c e of w r i t i n g . I am a s t o n i s h e d t h a t I wrote i t . I am a s t o n i s h e d t h a t 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 p i e c e . I am f e e l i n g l i k e s a l t was poured i n t h a t open wound as a r e s u l t of w r i t i n g the n a r r a t i v e . At times I w r i t e and open up my wounds, and i t seems l i k e I am p u t t i n g myself at other human beings' mercy, p r a y i n g t h a t the wounds don't get i n f e c t e d . I become angry and annoyed and b i t c h y and d i s s a t i s f i e d and d i s s e n t i n g and d i s a g r e e a b l e t h i s n i g h t . I a r d e n t l y v o i c e my d i s s e n t 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 t r o u b l e a c c e p t i n g the approach of the end of t h i s w r i t i n g 172  course, and b e i n g 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? I t takes a great d e a l of t h i n k i n g and s o u l - s e a r c h i n g to s o r t out a l l of my thoughts about t h i s n i g h t . I w r i t e some b i t c h y , s t r o n g , p a s s i o n a t e words. I submit these words f o r response.  SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER THE COURSE ENDS:  The w r i t i n g has been a l i f e l i n e f o r me, one t h a t extended from my o r d i n a r y woman-cloistered e x i s t e n c e to another world where thoughts, impressions, images, symbols, i d e a s , language were a l l churning t o g e t h e r i n a tumultuous k e l p - f i l l e d , murky sea. The w r i t i n g c l e a r e d the seawater somewhat, so I c o u l d see where I was swimming. The w r i t i n g p a r t e d the waters, too, so I c o u l d swim unhindered, at l e a s t f o r a while, u n t i l I knew where I was heading. Sometimes the w r i t i n g d i s t r e s s e d me, uncovering some sharp c o r a l or (to my mind, at l e a s t ) some b e a u t i f u l but poisonous sea c r e a t u r e there i n the underwater. Sometimes the w r i t i n g confused me, muddying the waters where I b e l i e v e d I had c l e a r e d them as I swam. I b e l i e v e my c o n f u s i o n o f t e n stemmed from my own p e r c e p t i o n t h a t I d i d not know e x a c t l y what the words I wrote were t r y i n g to communicate. And I d e s p e r a t e l y hung on to any responses I r e c e i v e d because I was not y e t a s t r o n g enough swimmer. C a r l s a i d t h a t language s l i p s and s l i d e s , t h a t we are never s u c c e s s f u l i n w r i t i n g / s a y i n g e x a c t l y what we mean, but s t i l l , I w r i t e and attempt to get c l o s e . I t h i n k words a l l have l a y e r s of h i s t o r y 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 t o read a l l I had w r i t t e n and w r i t e back so many words of response, too. Yet I don't t h i n k I would have grown as a w r i t e r 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 s t r o n g e r i n w r i t i n g c o n v i c t i o n and confidence, and I know I am not yet as secure as I c o u l d be. As the course drew to a c l o s e , I was a l s o conscious of how dependent I c o u l d be on o t h e r s ' responses, but how important i t was going t o be t o l e a r n to w r i t e without them, too. Time t o 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 l e a r n to swim as l a t e as I have, and are not even c e r t a i n you t r e a d water w e l l ! I am a w r i t e r and I w r i t e , and although the course has ended, I w i l l keep w r i t i n g . 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 life. 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 p e a c e f u l and content than I have i n y e a r s . But t h i s i s s h o r t - l i v e d . I then f e e l at loose ends, u n c e r t a i n where I am going next on my w r i t i n g journey. So I w r i t e . Some days the w r i t i n g flows. Some days I throw away what I have w r i t t e n . And some days I cannot w r i t e at a l l . I am a f r a i d not t o w r i t e . I don't want to l e t i t go now t h a t the course has ended. So I w r i t e again, and keep w r i t i n g . I cannot seem to a c c u r a t e l y gauge what i s good and what i s not. But I check the mailbox d a i l y , i m p a t i e n t , f o r r e j e c t i o n o r acceptance letters. My husband remarks to me: "You are i n your power mode, entering a positive f i e l d . " My c h i l d r e n stop a s k i n g : "When w i l l you be f i n i s h e d your writing?" I am a w r i t e r . I am a w r i t e r .  175  INTERLOG Re-locating Doctor,  Help!  My husband won a c r u i s e f o r us when I was nine months pregnant w i t h our t h i r d c h i l d , and h i s parents got to go. The r e c e p t i o n i s t at my d o c t o r ' s o f f i c e wants me to b r i n g c h i l d w i t h a pounding earache i n a t 12:45 and the o t h e r two are coughing i n at 3:45.  one who  The c u s t o d i a n at the s c h o o l where I teach opens the door f o r me i n the morning so I don't drop my boxes of p a r a p h e r n a l i a and b r i n g s me my m a i l a f t e r s c h o o l . (What a c a r e t a k e r ! ) The h e a d l i n e : 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 t h a t c o n s e r v a t i o n o f f i c e r l i e d to me. I now w r i t e m a t e r i a l l i k e t h i s on papers propped up a g a i n s t the back of Cheerio boxes while I'm w a i t i n g f o r the Safeway computers t o s t a r t working again. I now o f t e n look back t o check i f what I a l r e a d y wrote was w r i t t e n by somebody e l s e f i r s t , and I can't b e l i e v e i t i f I can't f i n d my w r i t i n g somewhere e l s e , I j u s t keep l o o k i n g . L i k e 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 w i t h a l l i t e r a t i o n ) , i f I c o u l d j u s t f i n d i t . People r e a d i n g t h i s t h e s i s probably know more about me a f t e r r e a d i n g my w r i t i n g i n t h a t 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 f a c t , 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 P o l y l o g , l i k e a b o u l d e r r o l l i n g down a h i l l , and unearthing other rocks, but the boulder comes t o a stop a t p o i n t s . F u l l stop, and transforms, changing shape, c o l o r , texture...A c r y s t a l b a l l t h a t r e f l e c t s your world from underneath t h e g l a s s and t h e s m a l l rocks bounce o f f the domed globe. Renee: That's very p o e t i c . Yes, I guess you c o u l d say t h a t . You c o u l d say anything. The P o l y l o g r e p r e s e n t s the past few y e a r s o f my w r i t i n g l i f e , o f w r i t i n g about my l i f e , and I look back now t o the b e g i n n i n g and I am amazed a t how my w r i t i n g has unfolded. Keep i n mind, t o o , t h a t I played w i t h the p o l y l o g a great d e a l . Some o f i t i s c h r o n o l o g i c a l l y ordered, l i k e my poems and r e f l e c t i o n s on coming i n t o w r i t i n g , on b r e a k i n g silence. More r e c e n t l y , much o f the w r i t i n g bears a m e t a f i c t i o n a l , post-modern f l a v o u r . But some o f the w r i t i n g i s p o s i t i o n e d i n the P o l y l o g where i t seemed t o f i t . F o r example, the three poems about my daughters (Snapshot; Cameo; Pencil Sketch) a r e more r e c e n t l y w r i t t e n . They seemed t o belong i n the Re-joy/sing s e c t i o n . I'm sure you n o t i c e d the r e f e r e n c e t o Heidegger's term: "always a l r e a d y " i n Cameo, a r e s u l t o f the r e a d i n g I have been doing about Helene Cixous i n Conley's book, and about post-modernism i n Somer Brodribb's book. The t h e 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 t o the poetry and n a r r a t i v e , re-nee i n the poem's pores, a poem i n the Prolog, a t t e s t s t o t h a t . By the way, I wrote Cameo before r e a d i n g David J a r d i n e ' s t e x t : Speaking with a Boneless Tongue (1992b). I was g r e a t l y i n t r i g u e d w i t h how o f t e n J a r d i n e uses the term, "always a l r e a d y , " throughout h i s book. I t wasn't u n t i l I read Somer Brodribb t h a t I n o t i c e d the phrase r e c u r r i n g and r e p e a t i n g i n so many o f the books I had been reading. That term was not acknowledged i n many t e x t s , e i t h e r . I t h i n k Conley i s the f i r s t author I read who a t t r i b u t e s i t t o Heidegger. I've gone o f f on a tangent, I know, but I wanted t o i l l u s t r a t e t h a t behind two seemingly simple words i n a poem, there i s a context and h i s t o r y t h a t i s o n l y ever i n s i n u a t e d . Behind the placement of a poem o r n a r r a t i v e between other poems and n a r r a t i v e s a r e a r t i s t i c d e c i s i o n s t h a t d i s / p l a c e the t e x t u a l s i g n s which appear d i f f e r e n t l y t o readers; which, i n f a c t , a l t e r and d i s t o r t the s o - c a l l e d t r u t h of a t e x t . None o f t h i s takes away from the movement you n o t i c e i n the P o l y l o g . I t complicates that movement w i t h t e x t u a l and c r e a t i v e c o n s i d e r a t i o n s t h a t c o n s t r u c t the t e x t , and the l i f e w r i t t e n about i n the t e x t . R e c a l l Ted A o k i ' s comment about the s a i d and the unsaid i n poetry (page 20 i n the P r o l o g ) . There i s so much i n any w r i t i n g t h a t i s unsaid. So much t h a t has t o remain unsaid. I l i k e Gary Snyder's d i s c u s s i o n o f t h i s c i t e d i n Speaking with a Boneless Tongue. He w r i t e s t h a t a poem "walks the edge between what can be s a i d and t h a t which cannot be s a i d " (1992b, 115). The P o l y l o g walks t h e 178  edge between what can be s a i d and t h a t which cannot be s a i d . Words, spaces, s i l e n c e s , meanings, g r a p h i c s , chronology, order, a l l l i v e on t h i s edge. By the way, you may have n o t i c e d Ted A o k i s i n f l u e n c e i n Cameo, too. The r e f e r e n c e to my middle daughter i n these l i n e s i s c e r t a i n l y i n f l u e n c e d by A o k i ' 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 g i v e s e v e r y t h i n g away i n her f e a t u r e s / but s t a y s o u t - o f - f o c u s . " A o k i speaks of l i v i n g i n a middle p l a c e of c u l t u r e , one which i s n e i t h e r t h i s or t h a t , but t h i s and t h a t , w i t h the e g o c e n t r i c I/eye de-centered (and so the f e a t u r e s are o u t - o f - f o c u s ) . Less I, as Ted would say. My generous middle daughter embraces such a de-centered ego. She i s deeply p h i l o s o p h i c a l f o r someone so young, c o n s i d e r i n g others before h e r s e l f , a l r e a d y l i v i n g , I b e l i e v e , i n Ted's middle p l a c e . 1  Unknown Poet: That's a great d e a l of h i s t o r y and context behind one small poem. I think I am b e g i n n i n g to sense how overwhelming the unsaid can be. As a poet myself, I am c o n s c i o u s 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 e l u s i v e and b u r i e d . The s i l e n t unsaid. Some of t h i s unsaid becomes apparent t o me y e a r s 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 d i s c u s s i n g any w r i t i n g . We shouldn't a t t r i b u t e too much t o the w r i t i n g i n an e f f o r t t o i n t e r p r e t and analyze, to p i n words down to meanings. Perhaps some t h i n g s are best l e f t unsaid, and t h i s s i l e n c e speaks to us i n a manner h e a v i l y endowed w i t h important meanings. Renee: That's very m y s t i c a l and I agree. There i s a tendency t o want to analyze and t h e o r i z e every aspect o f the w r i t i n g . This i s impossible—the nature of the writer/reader/text r e l a t i o n s h i p i s such t h a t the w r i t i n g changes c o n s t a n t l y , as does the w r i t e r and reader, f o r t h a t matter. Not o n l y t h a t , such a n a l y s i s sucks the breath out of the poetry and n a r r a t i v e , l e a v i n g f l a t , d e f l a t e d words. Recently i n a w r i t i n g course I was t a k i n g , we d i s c u s s e d a p o r t i o n of the t e x t from Touch the Dragon, a T h a i J o u r n a l . The w r i t i n g i s b r e a t h t a k i n g , f u l l of v i v i d images and d e t a i l s t h a t evoke the e a r t h , the people, the author's b i c y c l e r i d e . I found the language i n the excerpt b e a u t i f u l and r i c h , e v o c a t i v e and l o v e l y . By the time we had d i s s e c t e d the w r i t i n g , the w r i t e r ' s i n t e n t and the techniques, my i n i t i a l sense of wonder and a p p r e c i a t i o n had faded. Our a n a l y s i s s p o i l e d the freshness of the j o u r n a l excerpt f o r me, i t s beauty and a u t h e n t i c i t y . P a r t l y t h i s seemed due to a p r o p e n s i t y to f i n d f a u l t , but I wondered at the time i f t h e r e should be a c a r e f u l balance s t r u c k between a n a l y s i s and a p p r e c i a t i o n , between w r i t i n g and t h e o r i z i n g . Unknown Poet: Yes, but I t h i n k good w r i t i n g makes us c u r i o u s , too, about the w r i t i n g , the w r i t e r . On t h a t note, I wanted t o get back to something you s a i d e a r l i e r , how your w r i t i n g has 179  u n f o l d e d s i n c e you began w r i t i n g .  Could you e l a b o r a t e on t h a t ?  Renee: T h i s i s d i f f i c u l t t o put i n t o words. When I began t o w r i t e , I p e e l e d back many l a y e r s o f s k i n . I r e f e r t o t h a t many times i n the f i r s t s e c t i o n of the P o l y l o g . As I wrote about my l i f e , my e x p e r i e n c e s , my w r i t i n g , i t f e l t as i f I were f a l l i n g down a b l a c k hole at times, deeper i n t o myself, uncovering past events and emotions. I t 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 p o i n t where I c o u l d f e e l I was not p i t c h i n g headlong anymore (your m e t a p h o r i c a l boulder coming t o a s t o p ) . The words were slower, more considered. T h i s 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 j u s t a shade away from i n s p i r e d always j u s t a tone away from m u s i c a l always j u s t a minute away from f i n i s h e d always j u s t a stamp away from p u b l i s h e d always j u s t a word away from what I want t o say my words of poetry are slower now a d u l l ache i n the s i d e of the page a margin a hyphen an empty l i n e an unspoken s i l h o u e t t e my words of p o e t r y are slower now slower and slower until they finally stop Of course the poem i s a l s o about the d i f f i c u l t y of p u t t i n g i n t o words what we hope t o express, and of course, my words d i d not s t o p . Nor w i l l I l e t them. I had broken through my l a y e r s w i t h the w r i t i n g , t o the poet and w r i t e r . To an i d e n t i t y as poet and 180  w r i t e r , i n a d d i t i o n t o a l l my o t h e r r o l e s and s e l v e s . 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 r e a d i n g and l e a r n i n g . The w r i t i n g began as a b r e a k i n g of s i l e n c e , a d i s c o v e r y of another i d e n t i t y , a s s i s t e d by f e m i n i s t t e x t s such as Room of One's Own and Writing a Woman's L i f e . The w r i t i n g then developed as a p r a c t i c e , an a d d i c t i o n , an o b s e s s i o n , a way of l i f e , shaped and formed by the l i f e t h a t I l i v e as a graduate student and s c h o l a r , r e a d i n g and s t u d y i n g (always i n a d d i t i o n t o my o t h e r i d e n t i t i e s as a woman). I became a poet and w r i t e r . I sought and found p u b l i c a t i o n f o r some of my w r i t i n g . I send my words out i n t o the world everywhere. T h i s c o n t i n u e s t o t h i s day. As does the c o n t i n u a l c o n f l i c t between s c h o l a r and p o e t / w r i t e r , e x e m p l i f i e d by t h i s poem:  Where the Words Come again I r e t u r n t o these pages words s p i l l i n g from my pen away from works c i t e d q u a n t i t a t i v e mind games graduate hoops and h u r d l e s can I cope w i t h the s t r u g g l e I am not Jeremiah I don't have the answers to any of the q u e s t i o n s the academic s o u l feeds supports my c r e a t i v e muse which n u r t u r e s the a b i l i t y I know I acknowledge the a b i l i t y I question the d e s i r e abandon a l l thoughts: academic g o a l s simply pursue the pages: words someone whispers t o my c o n f u s i o n w r i t e your way through l i f e ask from where do a l l the words emanate would I j u s t explode and s c a t t e r a l l over the u n i v e r s e am I h e l d t o g e t h e r 181  by the s t r u c t u r e of t h e i n t e l l e c t would I s t i l l have words substantial anywhere t o go or g o s s a m e r - l a c e - f i l m pillow-feathers blowing by my b r e a t h s h o r t gasps I form no s t r u c t u r e f o r the form disappearing i n the words falling down b l a c k holes overwhelmed emotionpassionneeddesirepain both halves make a whole courageous o n l y i f the words are backed by deeds t h a t take me from the words u n t i l I run home to the words nothing can wrench me away again courageous o n l y i f I l o s e myself i n the words o n l y the words always the words the p a i n / p l e a s u r e of the words n o t h i n g in-between devoting everything would they mean as much would I have anything t o give would I l o s e my s e l f i n the words I can walk away from e v e r y t h i n g i f I can keep the words i f t h e words keep coming I should mention, t o o , t h a t I reached an a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l p o i n t 182  where I f e l t s i c k o f my s e l v e s , wanting and needing t o branch out t o other i s s u e s , other people. Of course such w r i t i n g i s a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l , too, s i n c e r e g a r d l e s s of t o p i c , the w r i t i n g says something o f the w r i t e r . But I a c t u a l l y f e l t f o r a while as i f I had no more s t o r i e s t o w r i t e about my s e l v e s , my l i f e . I f e l t I had reached the end, and I was both r e l i e v e d and horrified. I t h i n k p o e t i c and a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l w r i t i n g l e a d s one t o focus upon one's s e l v e s , e s p e c i a l l y the dark moments. T h i s can get r e l e n t l e s s . At one p o i n t I t h i n k I recorded every dark moment I ever had i n a new poem, and f r a n k l y , I got s i c k o f such indulgence, even i f i t d i d r e c o r d the d e t a i l s o f my womanly e x i s t e n c e . S i c k enough t o t u r n a corner. What i n f a c t happened was t h a t my w r i t i n g took a new t u r n . Instead of w r i t i n g about each and every dark moment, I became more de-centered, l o o k i n g beyond ego t o the world a t l a r g e , and happier and more content i n my w r i t i n g f o r the change. I s t i l l w r i t e about my s e l v e s (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 a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l p o s s i b i l i t i e s . A f t e r a l l , there i s a whole world out there t o w r i t e about. We l i v e i n r e l a t i o n s h i p t o e v e r y t h i n g i n our world. I got past f e e l i n g I had no more t o say about my s e l v e s by opening up more t o the world around me. Perhaps t h i s i s a k i n t o what Ted Aoki means when he d i s c u s s e s overcoming the Western primacy o f the I/eye. Or what T r i n h Minh-ha means when she w r i t e s t h a t " w r i t i n g i s born when the w r i t e r i s no longer" (1989, 35). Beyond the I/eye o f our s e l v e s , our a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l s t o r i e s , we can w r i t e a l i f e t h a t i s populated with many I/eye's.  183  INTERLOG Re-inscribing Metaphorical  Madness  Did you know— — t h a t Pears shampoo r e s i d u e works best f o r producing great towers o f bubble mountains when you t u r n on t h e J a c u z z i j e t s fullstrength. 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 p l a c e t o be alone and t h i n k i s shopping a t t h e m a l l , i f you leave your f a m i l y a t 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 e a s i e r t o p i c k up o f f the f l o o r the next day when i t s dry. 1  ^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 t h e crunch you hear when the c h i r o p r a c t o r a d j u s t s your neck i s not bones c r a c k i n g , but n i t r o g e n , and i f you p l u g 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 t h e week when everyone was home s i c k with t h e 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 f o r once not t o be enslaved by the c l o c k . <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 " I f I C a l l Myself"  The New Feminist C r i t i c i s m .  a f t e r I read E l a i n e Showalter's  I wrote "Women Who Write" a f t e r I read Sudden Miracles and  Language i n Her Eye. I wrote "Repeated i n Threes" a f t e r I read Waves. Several people I knew were w a i t i n g f o r news o f p o s s i b l e "tumours," and t h i s made me face my own p o s s i b l e "tumours." In Waves V i r g i n i a Woolf i n t e r r u p t s the n a r r a t i v e s o f the main c h a r a c t e r s with s e c t i o n s t h a t d e s c r i b e the waves, the b i r d s , and the sun f i l t e r i n g upon the house. These p o e t i c i n t e r r u p t i o n s a r e 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 r e t a i n s the t h r e a d o f the waves, the b i r d s , the sun. I wrote " T r i n h Minh-ha & Me" a f t e r I read Native Woman Other. I ended the poem a s k i n g : " i s t h a t why I f e e l so empty," and t h i s emptiness i s double-edged. I meant the words t o s i g n i f y a bleak, d e s p a i r i n g emptiness as w e l l as an emptying out i n o r d e r t o begin again and f i l l . I wrote my " B i t t e r M i l k " a f t e r I read Madeleine Grumet s B i t t e r Milk, d u r i n g the time I p u l l e d one daughter out o f s c h o o l and homeschooled her f o r a year. 1  I wrote "Pedagogy" a f t e r checking on my s l e e p i n g daughters l a t e at night. They are always f u l l o f questions, and as I frame some answers, some more q u e s t i o n s , we w r i t e and r e - w r i t e the world t o g e t h e r . I wrote "Judgement appointed a judge.  Day"  after  I wrote "Moodpiece" when I l e a r n e d dying. I wrote fiction.  "Travel"  when  I wanted  my  cousin  Adelle  was  a woman c o l l e a g u e was t o attempt  some  short  I wrote "Post-modern F e m i n i s t F i l m " when I wanted t o respond t o 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 F r a n c i s c o Bay Area. In p e r f e c t p o s t modern f a s h i o n , o r so i t seemed, the people s i t t i n g t o my l e f t and r i g h t a t the t h e a t r e a t e popcorn as the images played a c r o s s the s c r e e n : a j u x t a p o s i t i o n o f hot, b u t t e r e d p l e a s u r e a g a i n s t the bleak post-modern landscape p o r t r a y e d through the c o l o r s , 186  shapes, images, p r o j e c t e d on Deleuze's "white w a l l " (1987, 17). I wrote language.  "Re-nee"s R h e t o r i c " when  I wanted  t o p l a y with  I wrote "Knowing V i r g i n i a " a f t e r l e t t e r s t o the e d i t o r appeared i n the newspaper, c a s t i g a t i n g my p r e v i o u s l y p u b l i s h e d "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 L i v i n g i n a Co-op i n F a l s e Creek" a f t e r I c h a r t e d a l l the f e m i n i s t 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 t o V i r g i n i a Woolf. I wrote " T h i s i s How the W r i t i n g ' s Going" asked me: How's t h e w r i t i n g going? I wrote "Passage"  a f t e r someone  a f t e r I dreamed i t .  I wrote "Endings of Beginnings" s i t t i n g on a c l o s e d seat i n a h o t e l room bathroom i n D i s n e y l a n d .  toilet  I wrote "Shadow" a f t e r a c o n v e r s a t i o n with one o f my s i s t e r s , which i n t e n s i f i e d a complex s e t of f e e l i n g s . The words of the poem were i n my head. I simply wrote them down and changed n o t h i n g . 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 t h a t poem f o r days. I wrote "Asian Women" d u r i n g a summer course I took w i t h Ted A o k i , and the words f e l l i n t o p l a c e l i k e the summer rose p e t a l s t h a t had f a l l e n on the ground i n our flower garden. I wrote "M(other) o f t h e Text" d u r i n g a c u r r i c u l u m course and r e f e r r i n g t o a conference l e c t u r e d e l i v e r e d by Monique Wittig. I shaped and changed the poem many times, the s l a s h e s and b r a c k e t s and dashes speaking t h e i r own poem w i t h i n the words of the whole poem. I h i g h l i g h t e d (eat) and (ate) i n the poem because when I w r i t e and the words are entered (centered, decentered), they seem t o eat up t h e space o f t h e page, r e c r ( e a t ) i n g 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, r e m i n i s c e n t o f Deleuze's l i n e o f f l i g h t on a white w a l l (1987, 17-31). The page has a k i n d o f depth p e r s p e c t i v e t h a t Homi Bhabha d i s c u s s e s (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 o f strangeness d u r i n g a f a m i l y g a t h e r i n g . My Jewishness i s p a r t o f the f a b r i c o f my Be/ing and Be/coming. My Jewish I d e n t i t y d i s / p l a c e s me i n t h e midst o f my husband's f a m i l y . I am a f o r e i g n e r among f a m i l y . T h i s strangeness e x i s t s at o t h e r 187  l e v e l s , t o o . 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 i n t e n s e , i n t e r n a l a l i e n a t i o n , a sense t h a t i n the midst o f be/longing, I don't belong; a sense t h a t I am not anchored i n any way t o my s e l v e s ; a f e e l i n g of Otherness, deep, i n t e r n a l , and desperate. These moments occur a t the oddest times, even surrounded by l o v e , intimacy, family. The r e f e r e n c e t o l ' e t r a n g e r i n the poem i s my way o f making meaning o f the strangeness, the i s o l a t i o n w i t h i n I - d e n t i t y and because o f I dentity. T h i s r e f e r e n c e i s a l s o an a l l u s i o n t o Camus' n o v e l : L'etranger. K r i s t e v a speaks about etrangete, about f o r e i g n n e s s , about the other w i t h i n our s e l v e s ( C l a r k & H u l l e y 1990/91). THE  UNSAID:  I don't always know what's good, except the odd time when I f e e l very e x c i t e d about what I have w r i t t e n . Some o f my poems and n a r r a t i v e s have t r a v e l l e d across the country s e v e r a l times, and I keep a r e c o r d o f t h e i r f l i g h t on the back o f the hard copy, the words s c r i b b l e d there t e l l i n g a s t o r y o f hope and l o n g i n g , commitment and obsession, f a i t h and blindness. Sometimes a response t o something I have w r i t t e n s u r p r i s e s me, rocks me, shocks me, annoys me, p l e a s e s me... Sometimes I have worked on one sentence f o r an hour, thought a l l n i g h t about a word, and w r i t t e n t e n pages i n the space of time between emptying the a f t e r s c h o o l remains o f my c h i l d r e n ' s l u n c h k i t s and p r e p a r i n g d i n n e r f o r f i v e . RE-WRITING: As I w r i t e myself deeper and deeper i n t o w r i t i n g , I f e e l myself come c l o s e r and c l o s e r t o my c e n t r a l core. As t h i s core i s newly examined with each word and sentence I w r i t e , I come c l o s e r and c l o s e r t o t h a t which has formed me, de/formed me, mis/in/formed me, un/formed me. THE  UNSAID:  "Renee's S t o r y " : I came l a t e t o w r i t i n g and d i s c o v e r e d i t was what I have always wanted. A teacher opened my way t o words, named me poet and w r i t e r , because I c o u l d not y e t name myself. " A n j i n ' s Story": I w i l l always f e e l a deep connection to my teacher, as I b e l i e v e A n j i n , p o e t / w r i t e r / s c h o l a r , f e e l s f o r her teacher (Aoki 1990). The "death" o f a teacher-student relationship i s a re-birth, a r e - c a s t i n g o f the i n i t i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p , l e a d i n g t o a new path.  188  RE-WRITING: Writing has been devoted, difficult, cleansing, amazing, f r i g h t e n i n g , rewarding, l o v i n g . W r i t i n g has been fraught with pain, s u f f e r i n g , self-doubt, lack of confidence. W r i t i n g has been no r e a l substance l i k e the d a n d e l i o n f l u f f t h a t blows i n the breeze. And w r i t i n g has been a rock, immovable, s o l i d , s l o w l y eroding. W r i t i n g has b i t t e n me, i n f e c t e d me. W r i t i n g i s spreading through me un/checked and un/blocked. U n / d e r l y i n g my days. THE  UNSAID:  ...these words out o f the body of the t e x t , body words, bawdy words, words connected t o the body o f experience, o f f e m i n i n i t y , o f me...the blank page of woman's time i s b e i n g w r i t t e n by many f e m i n i s t women with a v i s i o n o f a l l t h a t has gone b e f o r e , a l l t h a t i s now i n a c t i o n , a l l t h a t should come i n time...women thinking, re-thinking, writing, re-writing, countering, re-countering, s t r u c t u r i n g , r e - s t r u c t u r i n g . . . 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. THE  UNSAID:  ...I f i n d t h a t when we w r i t e and remember, t h i s p r o c e s s i s c o l o r e d by present moment, and j u s t how much w r i t i n g and remembering we a r e doing...memories can be suppressed, f o r g o t t e n , f i l t e r e d by time i n t o what we want o r need a t the moment...it takes a great d e a l o f w r i t i n g and i n t r o s p e c t i o n t o uncover a " t r u t h " . . . w r i t i n g a memory may o n l y be a t i n y b e g i n n i n g k e r n e l o f a " t r u t h , " o r an u n t r u t h w a i t i n g t o be r e sifted. . . I remember sitting in the junior high school basement lunchroom, eating a tuna sandwich, and the viceprincipal 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 where he visited his dying brother, commenting hold on to l i f e , no matter what.  hospital that we  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 highpitched 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: . . . w r i t i n g b r i n g s my emotion c l o s e t o the s u r f a c e . . . but i t calms me t o get the words out, s p i l l i n g out of my pen, out of me...I f i n d when I am f e e l i n g emotional and tender t h a t I w r i t e from " f i r s t thought" as N a t a l i e Goldberg c a l l s i t . . . t h a t i s a l s o when my w r i t i n g seems t o come out of me s t r a i g h t from my heart to the paper, as i f the pen i s w r i t i n g a l l by i t s e l f , and i t i s o n l y my job t o h o l d the instrument u p r i g h t so the words can appear upon the paper...when I w r i t e the poem, i t i s another one of my w r i t i n g 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 f o r a w h i l e and I was b e g i n n i n g t o wonder i f these experiences were t o be temporary... I d i d n ' t s l e e p a l l n i g h t . . . t h i s has put me i n touch w i t h my i n s i d e s , and they are tender, but t h i s i s the p l a c e where much of my deepest (I t h i n k ) p o e t r y comes from...I wish t h e r e were more times t o b r i n g back those tender, i n s i d e p l a c e s and more time f o r w r i t i n g out of t h a t p l a c e . . . 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 his recess in the rain, threw his arms around me because he saw me in the hall.  from just 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 v o i c e of joy and wonder and s e l f - r e f l e c t i o n , then i n a v o i c e of p a i n and b i t c h i n e s s and i n t r o s p e c t i o n , and now, i n many d i f f e r e n t v o i c e s t h a t take t u r n s t a k i n g over and speaking, l i k e the m u l t i p l e p e r s o n a l i t i e s of some d i s o r d e r e d p s y c h i a t r i c p a t i e n t . . . a s I found my way i n t o w r i t i n g and allowed my v o i c e s to be heard, I l e t the words flow...I am a d j u s t i n g to the ups (few) and the many downs...I w i l l go on...I w i l l w r i t e and I w i l l continue t o w r i t e and I w i l l send my words everywhere and I w i l l endure...I w i l l w r i t e my s t o r i e s and my poems and the words t h a t come out o f my heart and my c r e a t i v e i m a g i n a t i o n . I w i l l not leave the words b u r i e d again underneath a l l the v o i c e s . . . I w i l l s i n g my words i n t o the a i r of d o u b t f u l , c r i t i c a l assessment, and I w i l l h o l d on t o those words as my l i g h t , the l i g h t t h a t w r i t e s me i n t o a c r e a t i v e e x i s t e n c e . . . I w i l l w r i t e and I w i l l s i n g what I w r i t e 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 oldworld 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 t r e e . . . the hope t h a t I added i s the broken branch, once a p a r t of me, but not l i v i n g i n s i d e of me on F r i d a y , b r e a k i n g o f f and dying...I w i l l need t o grow another new branch o f hope... perhaps when I added t h a t hope t o the poem I was t r y i n g t o grow t h a t 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 t o us, i n t e r p r e t s us, m i s / r e p r e s e n t s us. Language: guides us, sometimes down paths we'd r a t h e r not venture, sometimes i n ways we can't c o n t r o l . . . I want language t o be f r e e , f l u i d , ever-changing, female, p l a y f u l , i n v e n t i v e , emotional, p e r s o n a l , o b s e s s i o n a l , c o n f e s s i o n a l . . . I don't want language t o be c o n s t a n t l y d e f i n e d and judged by the dominant c u l t u r e , invariably clear-cut and understandable, p e r p e t u a l l y obscure and hidden. I want language t o be interpretable. Language: emotion behind the words, words i n f r o n t o f thoughts, thoughts made i n t o e x p l i c i t impressions, impressions turned i n t o 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 c r y , and I know a t t h a t i n s t a n t t h a t my words can reach o t h e r women, and t h a t moment l i n k s me t o a l l women everywhere i n time...women's t e a r s . . . t h e y c o u l d wash f l o o r s , move whole c i t i e s , f i l l swimming p o o l s , b a p t i z e b a b i e s , create s t e p p i n g 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 w i t h the memories of a thousand d e t a i l s and a hundred dreams... t e a r s t o grow on, t e a r s to remember, t e a r s to hope with, t e a r s t o rage a g a i n s t , t e a r s t o t e l l our many s t o r i e s . . . t e a r s f i l l i n g oceans, 193  f i l l i n g those empty spaces, s t o p p i n g 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 m o r e . . . V i r g i n i a , 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, i n s p i r e d by you?... ...I w r i t e from s e l v e s t h a t I have found again, t h a t I am forming anew, t h a t I am watching d e v e l o p . . . n u r t u r i n g others does not have to mean negating s e l f . . . H e l e n e Cixous w r i t e s : "And woman? Woman, f o r me, i s she who k i l l s no one i n h e r s e l f , she who g i v e s ( h e r s e l f ) her own l i v e s : woman i s always i n a c e r t a i n way "mother" f o r h e r s e l f and f o r the other" (1991, 50). I love my daughters more openly and more d e a r l y because I have o t h e r s e l v e s from mother ( s e l v e s who write)...Anne T y l e r w r i t e s : " I t seems to me t h a t s i n c e I've had c h i l d r e n , I've grown r i c h e r and deeper. They may have slowed down my w r i t i n g f o r a w h i l e , but when I d i d w r i t e , I had more of a s e l f to speak from" (1980,9). The bonded mother-daughter connection grounds me, c e n t e r s me, allows me to t h i n k , w r i t e , 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: W r i t i n g at the k i t c h e n s i n k ( t h i n k i n g the words down). W r i t i n g at the k i t c h e n t a b l e i n the middle of the chaos ( g e t t i n g the words down). W r i t i n g at the k i t c h e n f l o o r (hunting f o r the e l u s i v e words I want f o r a p a r t i c u l a r s e c t i o n and mopping up the grape j u i c e , too) . W r i t i n g as the k i t c h e n darkens ( r e - r e a d i n g and r e - s c r u t i n i z i n g what I've g o t ) . RE-WRITING: Home i n Calgary t h i s summer, p l a c e of c h i l d h o o d love and hurt, pleasure and pain, s e c u r i t y and repression, growth and r e g r e s s i o n , 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 f a d i n g graduation p i c t u r e on the w a l l , and I wondered how such a normal, warm environment c o u l d have produced a l l the dissonance and d e s p a i r sometimes i n me; wondered where my p o e t i c p a s s i o n o r i g i n a t e s . Not i n my parents' o r d i n a r y down-to-earth love and philosophy. Not i n the white p a i n t p e e l i n g o f f the fence t h a t surrounds our sturdy f a m i l y home. Not i n my f a t h e r ' s s u r p r i s e d look when he hears I want to see the f i l m , Orlando. Not i n my mother's s i n c e r e q u e s t i o n about my f i r s t poem about t o be p u b l i s h e d : Do you get p a i d f o r it? Perhaps my p o e t i c p a s s i o n commenced f a r back i n time, from some Czechoslovakian or Romanian ancestor, a woman i n a l o n g 194  d r e s s , who stood alone on a h i l l above some v i l l a g e , and wondered about the meaning o f i t a l l , pondered her f u t u r e , dreamt what l i f e would h o l d f o r her c h i l d r e n and her c h i l d r e n ' s children. RE-WRITING: I've reclaimed the " g i r l w i t h i n " (Hancock 1989), the " a u t h e n t i c i d e n t i t y . . . embodied as a g i r l . . . t h e inner girl, l o s t and r e c l a i m e d . . . " (4): the t e n - y e a r - o l d g i r l who sent a s t o r y t o 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 rejection slip. How strange t h a t I have o n l y recently remembered t h i s episode, s i n c e I b e l i e v e i t i n d i c a t e s my p r e adolescent d e s i r e s which were d i v e r t e d and thwarted i n the p r o c e s s o f l e a r n i n g t o be female. How very m y s t e r i o u s l y the threads are i n t e r l a c e d and knotted, and how remarkable i t i s when each thread seems t o be connected t o another thread, a l l the t h r e a d s woven t o g e t h e r i n a s t o r y t h a t emerges of i t s own making, w i t h me, one o f the main c h a r a c t e r s , always g l a n c i n g a t the p a t t e r n , musing about how i t f i t s , how i t seems t o come together so n e a t l y and p e r f e c t l y . Almost as i f someone i s sewing and l a c i n g my s t o r y , a few s t i t c h e s ahead of me, and then I l i v e i n the motif we both c r e a t e . RE-WRITING: L i k e N a t a l i e Goldberg, I am a f r a i d not t o w r i t e . W r i t i n g i s the a c t t h a t keeps me from sorrow, keeps me from g i v i n g up on a c r e a t i v e e x i s t e n c e and merely marking my way through l i f e by the meals I prepare, the number o f loads o f laundry I wash, o r the days I r i s e up out of my bed and r e t u r n t o i t (exhausted) each night. RE-WRITING: I worry c o n s t a n t l y about not w r i t i n g . Then I r e a l i z e t h a t I am always w r i t i n g : when I look out the window a t the f l a t heat o f the p r a i r i e ; when I remember through the busy y e a r s of not w r i t i n g (on paper); when I p l a c e the towels i n the d r y e r ; when I t h i n k o f the next poem o r a r t i c l e . Not w r i t i n g , the words s p i n i n my head, l i k e the wheel o f f o r t u n e , f i n a l l y l a n d i n g on paper. W r i t i n g , the words appear almost by themselves on the page, imprinted f o r e v e r i n my mind's eye. RE-WRITING: N a t a l i e Goldberg says t o shut up and w r i t e (1986). I have shut up and w r i t t e n , I w i l l shout out and w r i t e , I w i l l not shut down and not w r i t e , I w i l l not shut down when I w r i t e . S h u t t i n g up and w r i t i n g i s the s i n g l e , loudest a c t t h a t I have ever engaged i n , and t h i s q u i e t , s i l e n t , l o n e l y p l a c i n g of words on paper i s the n o i s i e s t , most p r e s s i n g t h i n g I have probably ever done, 195  apart  from g i v i n g b i r t h .  RE-WRITING: Somer Brodribb w r i t e s t h a t an " e s s e n t i a l p a r t o f f e m i n i s t s t r a t e g y " i s t o be aware t h a t "not a l l thought i s male" and t h a t "knowing t h i s i s . . . a s i g n i f i c a n t f e m i n i s t a c t i v i t y " (1992, xxix). W r i t i n g i s the most r a d i c a l , most t h r e a t e n i n g f e m i n i s t a c t i v i t y t h a t I have ever undertaken. RE-WRITING: I t h u r t s . A l l of i t . The hate l e t t e r s . The t e n s i o n i t causes. The way the t e n s i o n eats i n t o any sense o f s e c u r i t y o r peace o r the rhythm o f a day. The loud words invoked i n the heat o f a mis/understood, m i s / p e r c e i v e d , m i s / d i r e c t e d moment. I t h u r t s , and the s a l t of those l e t t e r s and words burn. RE-WRITING: I am l e a r n i n g t o take r i s k s , get k i c k e d as a r e s u l t , f e e l a b s o l u t e l y t e r r i b l e about i t , w r i t e i t a l l out, use the f e e l i n g s f o r my w r i t i n g , and use the w r i t i n g t o s o r t out my world and then c a r r y on. I j u s t wish I d i d n ' t f e e l t h a t k i c k , everyone's f e e t i n my f e e l i n g s , and I wonder i f I have t o keep walking around l i k e t h i s , a whole world o f f e e t i n my f a c e . RE-WRITING: I accomplished something i n my w r i t i n g t h i s week, something small but r e c o g n i z a b l e , something I had wanted t o do f o r a long time but hadn't y e t done, something t h a t would be a p u b l i c , e v e r l a s t i n g 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 a l s o a k i n d o f p a i n about what one very c l o s e f a m i l y f r i e n d o f my parents s a i d t o them: I had no i d e a t h a t Renee c o u l d w r i t e l i k e t h a t . Neither d i d I. N e i t h e r d i d I. RE-WRITING Random a c t s o f w r i t i n g . Senseless a c t s o f sentiment. Dreams and d u s t c l o u d s . P h i l o s o p h i c f e m i n i z i n g . A rainbow of w r i t i n g . Rainbow: any b r i g h t l y m u l t i - c o l o r e d arrangement o r d i s p l a y ; a wide v a r i e t y o r gamut. "The 're' a t work" (Aoki 1994).  196  INTERLOG Re-versing T h i s i s How I t ' s Going 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29  How's the w r i t i n g going? You're an ass f o r p u t t i n g t h a t much work i n t o i t He looked a t me l i k e I was from o u t e r space Do you have a poem i n your head? I wrote i t a f t e r sex And don't w r i t e t h a t i n one o f your poems You're p r o b a b l y p r a c t i s i n g I'd r e a l l y l i k e t o read your p o e t r y What do you need him f o r ? J u s t d u p l i c a t e them a l l and send them t o me t o read Are you working? That's very funny Why d i d you say t h a t ? I hope you d i d n ' t use her name What are you working on? I t sounds l i k e you're d y i n g Why d i d you phone him? Maybe you shouldn't be w r i t i n g then Are you s t i l l w r i t i n g poems? I d i d not d r i v e someone t o the emergency ward How i s he r e a c t i n g t o i t ? You never tuck us i n any more You sent i t t o the NEWSPAPER??? I l i k e the p a r t about the p i n k r i b b o n s Are you drugged? Y o u ' l l p r o b a b l y go home and w r i t e a poem about t h i s now Why don't you want t o spend time w i t h us anymore? A r e g u l a r P a u l i n e Johnson What i s b o t h e r i n g you? How's the w r i t i n g going? You're an ass f o r p u t t i n g t h a t much work i n t o i t Work i n t o i t (Repeat l i n e s 3 t o 28) What i s b o t h e r i n g you? How's the w r i t i n g going? You're an ass f o r p u t t i n g t h a t much work i n t o i t He looked a t me l i k e I was from o u t e r space Space (Omit l i n e s 3 t o 28) What i s b o t h e r i n g you? How's the w r i t i n g going? (Go over l i n e s 2 t o 5) And don't w r i t e t h a t i n one o f your poems One o f Your Poems 197  You're probably p r a c t i s i n g ( P r a c t i s e l i n e s 8 t o 24) Are you drugged? Y o u ' l l probably go home and w r i t e 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 b o t h e r i n g you? How's the w r i t i n g going? (Skip the next 2 l i n e s ) 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 t o d u p l i c a t e your p o e t r y you're an ass d y i n g poems t o the emergency ward b o t h e r i n g P a u l i n e Johnson to spend time r e a c t i n g t o the p i n k r i b b o n s funny you phone the NEWSPAPER t o tuck us i n from o u t e r space Space Repeat v e r s e  198  DIALOG T W O  199  Re-peating Women Who Write I t i s o n l y r e c e n t l y i n my l i f e t h a t I have found my v o i c e as a w r i t e r , an i d e n t i t y as a w r i t e r , and t h i s a f t e r some years of s i l e n c e . I t took me many months t o even g i v e myself t h e r i g h t t o c a l l myself a w r i t e r , a f t e r s e v e r a l others named me. My v o i c e s and the words o f those v o i c e s f i r s t s p i l l e d out of me once I broke my s i l e n c e , and I c o u l d be anywhere doing anything and f e e l the u r g e — n o , t h e n e c e s s i t y — t o stop what I was doing and w r i t e . My v a r i o u s v o i c e s rose t o the s u r f a c e from beneath a l l t h e l a y e r s o f my woman's l i f e and threatened t o 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) R e a l i z i n g one o f my poems was about t o be p u b l i s h e d , I c o u l d 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 d i s c o v e r e d her v o i c e s and her o p i n i o n s and is t i r e d o f h o l d i n g them back, keeping them t o h e r s e l f , defending them always, over and over. A poet who doesn't want t o be s i l e n t anymore, but doesn't want any more o f the anger and t e n s i o n t h a t accompanies the b r e a k i n g o f t h a t s i l e n c e . I have been s i l e n t so long. I have been s i l e n t t o o long. A q u e s t i o n never asked. A thought never put i n t o words, never spoken aloud. A poem never w r i t t e n . Listening, listening, l i s t e n i n g , t h e thoughts f i g h t i n g f o r space i n s i d e my head, s t o r e d there f o r y e a r s , 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 o f words, c i r c l i n g round and round memories, emotions, d e s i r e s , hopes... I am sometimes f i l l e d with p a i n and anger. And I sometimes wonder what I, who am so l u c k y and f o r t u n a t e , have t o be so angry about. The anger t h a t f e m i n i s t w r i t e r s w r i t e about: our 200  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 t o break my s i l e n c e once and f o r a l l , and move past t h e rage. But I can't, I can't. I am sometimes trapped i n the p a i n 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 b i t c h y 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 t h i n g s . But I have my own thoughts and I want t o t h i n k them, v o i c e them, h o l d onto them i f I want, even i f I am emotional o r dead-wrong o r absolutely ridiculous. 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) L a s t n i g h t I c r i e d and c r i e d about—what? About my empty p l a c e s t h a t w i l l never be f i l l e d . About those sweet and innocent f a c e s c u r l e d up a g a i n s t me, those s m a l l , warm, warming bodies i n f l a t i n g me with j o y and l o v e , t h e helium o f hope, a i r l i f t e d t o t h e empty p l a c e s , but never f i l l i n g them completely. Or i s i t t h a t 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 c r i e d about—what? I would g i v e a great d e a l t o have what I had b e f o r e . I would never again want what I had b e f o r e . I am a mass o f c o n t r a d i c t i o n s . The month comes and goes, I r i s e each morning, teach o r go t o u n i v e r s i t y o r walk my daughters t o s c h o o l , and each day f o l l o w s the next and s u s t a i n s me a t the same time t h a t it f i l l s me with dread. Each word, each sentence, each d i s c u s s i o n reminds me t h a t I am alone i n the midst o f a crowd. Each drawn breath h u r t s . I continue t o breathe and I continue to h u r t and t h a t i s why I sometimes c r y . Why the anger and t h e p a i n w e l l up and r i s e out o f me i n a t i d a l wave o f g r i e f . I am f u l l o f hate f o r t h i s s e l f - a b s o r b e d r e f l e c t i o n . But I have t e m p o r a r i l y l o s t t h e joy, I am b l i n d e d by the p a i n , I am overwhelmed with emotion and s t a r k , unadorned f e a r .  201  t h i s broken branch of a large l i v i n g tree hanging s t r a i g h t down t o the w i l d grass below f i l l e d w i t h poisonous inedible cherry-red berries green-veined l e a v e s s p r e a d i n g out t o c a t c h the l i g h t of the morning sun i n the c l o u d ' s c l u t c h the o c c a s i o n a l y e l l o w l e a f spread w i t h brown losing colour the t e a r of the limb a wound upon the t r e e i n opposition to the u n f o l d i n g p a t t e r n s of green-prismed p i n p o i n t s i s at times me I crave t h a t e l u s i v e morning l i g h t watch the c l o u d s keep i t c l o s e or g i v e 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 still 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 j u s t overwrought from a l l the emotion of the past month and a h a l f s i n c e my c o n t e n t i o u s V i r g i n i a Woolf p i e c e f i r s t appeared. Or o v e r t i r e d from another t o o - l o n g , t o o - l o u d discussion. Or angry about the o v e r r e a c t i o n s . Or maybe i t ' s j u s t "October sadness" again, the change of the seasons which f i l l s me w i t h such r e g r e t , such a sense o f l o s s , such a f e e l i n g of wasted y e a r s and u n l i v e d l i f e . I look at my daughters and I know I am l o v e d and I love them a l l so much. E r i n , w i t h her funny f o u r - y e a r - o l d words, l i k e "I can h a r d l y wait t o grow up, so I can be b e a u t i f u l . " She i s so b e a u t i f u l now. And her "writing," emergent scribbles graphically arranged close t o g e t h e r l i k e the p r i n t - o u t of some l i e d e t e c t o r t e s t . Rebecca, who l o v i n g l y runs her chubby hands through my h a i r and t e l l s her 202  f r i e n d , "you can t a l k t o me i f you have a problem, and c r i e s when i t i s too l a t e at n i g h t f o r her and she cannot f i n d her favorite parrot. Sara, b a s k i n g i n her newfound happiness and independence at s c h o o l . Making lunch f o r everyone when Don i s out gardening and I am out walking, and then r e f u s i n g t o brush E r i n ' s t e e t h f o r me because she worked so hard a l l day. There. I have w r i t t e n myself out of the t i r e d n e s s and the p a i n and the sadness i n t o some calm and peace. 11  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 night,/.. .When did I lose you? become? Adrienne Rich (Rich 1990,  my room Whose have 118)  all you  Where are my bears? Large b l a c k shadows t h a t I h i d from i n the dark o f c h i l d i s h n i g h t , 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 n i g h t . My bears l i v e i n my mind and memory, l i v i n g testament t o my woman's l i f e , now t a k i n g shape i n words on paper. And me? I f i n a l l y claimed my words i n a loud, s t r o n g voice. My name. My thoughts and o p i n i o n s and b e l i e f s . And I have been paying the p r i c e ever s i n c e . I have broken out of the mould and the s i l e n c e and I have l e t my v o i c e s i n g i n t o t h a t s i l e n c e , and I w i l l not l e t anyone t e l l me t h a t the songs cannot, should not be sung, t h a t the songs are not worth s i n g i n g , t h a t the songs must be sung t o a c e r t a i n , p r e s c r i b e d b y - o t h e r s 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 and suddenly I could see claim the voice and to stand my own woman's body. Susan  step out of the shadows, this was the moment to behind my own words with 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 f r 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 d e v i c e , and what, or who, was the humour f o r ? Why do I use humour? Sometimes I f e e l funny, t h a t ' s why. Funny and w i l d and f r e e and w i t t y and u n f e t t e r e d and f u l l of amusement at something someone has s a i d or done, or about myself who can see the other (laughable) s i d e of l i f e and nature. Do I use humour t o hurt? I hope not. To stab with l i t t l e jabs of p a i n t h a t seek revenge? I don't mean t o . I t h i n k humour sometimes covers a great d e a l of p a i n . Or i s a way t o seek the t r u t h , by l o o k i n g at l i f e with a measure of i r o n y 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 r e v e a l s hurt, but i n a manner t h a t attempts to make i t bearable, because i f we laugh, then we won't c r y . I f we poke fun, then we can a l s o have some fun. I f we t u r n l i f e i n t o what i s funny/humorous/amusing, i t becomes more bearable. I f we don't always take o u r s e l v e s too s e r i o u s l y , we w i l l see other q u a l i t i e s i n other people, the other s i d e even to the dark underside. And then we can c a r r y on, d e s p i t e and i n s p i t e of e v e r y t h i n g . And i f we laugh, e s p e c i a l l y at o u r s e l v e s o r the events i n our own l i v e s , we w i l l h e a l the r i f t s , s e a l the l o v e , mend the hurt, b u i l d the t r u s t , and l e t the l a u g h t e r 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 t h a t 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 o f mine p u b l i s h e d i n the newspaper f o r ages. P u b l i s h my C o l l e c t i o n s one. P u b l i s h my Santa one. P u b l i s h my P o l i t i c s of Fear one. P u b l i s h me, oh, p u b l i s h me. I need the support, the l i f t , the f i x , my words i n p r i n t , h o l d i n g me t o g e t h e r as I f a l l apart i n s i d e , my words s t a r i n g back at me as I look out at my world s p i n n i n g r e c k l e s s l y around me, the words s t a n d i n g f i r m and e r e c t and d e c i s i v e and uniform, u n l i k e me, f a l l i n g , f a l l i n g , f u r t h e r i n t o b l a c k h o l e s , down, down, past where A l i c e went, i n t o the depths of u t t e r c o n f u s i o n , t e r r i b l e want, desperate a c t s . Wanton, r e c k l e s s , abandoned a c t s . A c t s of need. A c t s of memory. A c t s of hope and d e s i r e and unrequited passion. A c t s of w r i t i n g . Acts of sentiment. Acts of f e a r . The writer should say:  need not worry about what she or he 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 f o r a w h i l e t o t h i n k , dream, read, w r i t e , s o r t out my many c o n f l i c t i n g emotions, l e t a l l my many thoughts s p i n through my mind, i n s i d e t h a t c i r c l e of f e e l i n g t h a t moves ever so q u i c k l y , t u r n i n g round and round and round. Free t o not read, not w r i t e , not t h i n k , j u s t be. J u s t k i s s daughters and be g r a t e f u l t o bake cookies and t o remember my j o u r n a l w a i t i n g f o r my words. Free t o ignore even the t a s k s t h a t I have s e t f o r myself over the h o l i d a y s , the t a s k s t h a t I have s e t f o r myself come January once again. The books t h a t l i e unopened. The words t h a t l i v e i n my mind, not w r i t t e n down. The goals t h a t form p a r t of my dreams, spoken and unspoken, r e a l and imagined, t a n g i b l e and untouchable. Free t o l e t the pen s l i d e over the page when a poem i s n ' t t h e r e , when a r e s e a r c h assignment i s n ' t due, when a book i s n ' t a p p e a l i n g enough a t the moment. Free to look a t myself i n the m i r r o r i n my new, flowered, flowing, romantic new dress, around my neck the choker t h a t my daughters bought f o r me w i t h t h e i r own money (such a p l e a s a n t reminder of love and r e s p o n s i b i l i t y ) . Free t o r e l i s h love present, love past, love f u t u r e . A l l the p o s s i b i l i t i e s t h a t words h o l d . A l l the f r i e n d s h i p s and f a m i l y t h a t I c h e r i s h . 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 f r i e n d ' s f i c t i o n , I thought I understood the p a i n , c o u l d share the ( f i c t i o n a l ) journey where the words were woven together so p o w e r f u l l y t o convey someone's raw emotion, someone's p a i n f u l experiences, someone's journey i n t o the darkness and the l i g h t on the other s i d e of t h a t darkness. The journey was w i t h words. The p l e a s u r e as w e l l as the p a i n o f those words. The love i n the words and a l l the s t r i f e (and hate) t h a t love caused. U n t i l more words, h e a l i n g words, s p l i t open the s i l e n c e . My words have come out of my own long s i l e n c e , and I l e t well-chosen words heal me. And I, too, face the p a i n as w e l l as the p l e a s u r e i n the w i l d , abandoned stream o f words, face the darkness r i g h t i n the midst o f the l i g h t o f 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 s t o r i e s o f the journey are w r i t t e n and r e w r i t t e n 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) T h i s I s t h e Poem no poems wrapped i n my green wool coat reach a c r o s s and hug a g r e e t i n g expansive f l o u r i s h h e s i t a n t laugh: merry C h r i s t m a s — n o — chanukah—no—that s o v e r — well — happy h o l i d a y s anyway sea o f seasonal a c t i v i t y emotion suspended: swept a s i d e behind the crumbs behind my garbage can i n the k i t c h e n 1  206  awaiting a t t e n t i o n ( I ' l l get t o you when I damn w e l l p l e a s e ) curiously f l a t outside: sea green coat removed inside: some important organ missing no poems I listen over and over each s t i l t e d g r e e t i n g s e t s me f u r t h e r apart a f l u s h of i s o l a t i o n spreads through me (hot water I s i n k i n t o every morning i n the bathtub) eyes focused on a mouth talking 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 l o g s burn i n t e n s i t y I s h i v e r as the warmth r a d i a t e s i t s glow not b e l o n g i n g odd woman out no poems j u s t the dust d e b r i s of the day holiday revelry end-of-year i n t r o s p e c t i o n suspended animation f l a t calm b u r i e d second s k i n of discomfort a p a r t o f 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 f u r coat 1'etranger wrapped i n s e n s i b i l i t i e s close t h a t which s e t s 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 o f dreaming t h i s i s the poem  INTER LOG Re-contextualizing Deft  Detail  She c o u l d n ' t q u i t e p i n p o i n t when i t f i r s t began t o happen, or when she f i r s t n o t i c e d t h a t i t was happening, but the w r i t i n g which she c a r e f u l l y completed at work was b e g i n n i n g t o s p i l l over i n t o her p e r s o n a l l i f e . It was her job t o preview the tapes of upcoming P u b l i c B r o a d c a s t i n g programs which claimed t o p r o v i d e a s p e c i a l f e a t u r e f o r the v i e w i n g impaired, then w r i t e a d e t a i l e d t r a n s c r i p t of what she observed i n the images and p i c t u r e s of the program as i t advanced, l o o k i n g through a g l a s s window of second s i g h t f o r the hopelessly blind with perfect hearing. This took i m a g i n a t i o n as w e l l as s k i l l , f o r she d i d n ' t j u s t examine the programs and comment on the o b j e c t s i n the background, the people who had gathered t o move or speak, the change of frame t o a d i f f e r e n t l o c a t i o n , a f l a s h b a c k t o the past here, a forward t o the f u t u r e t h e r e . No, she a l s o had t o c o n s i d e r where the n a r r a t o r , with h i s f l a t , unemotional, tempered, well-modulated v o i c e c o u l d i n s e r t her p r e c i s e p i e c e s of v i s i o n a r y prose, without hampering the flow of the p r o d u c t i o n or the d i a l o g i c text. She even wrote s c r i p t f o r the b e g i n n i n g animated c r e d i t s which i n t r o d u c e d the Mystery s e r i e s , although t h i s was f a r l e s s complicated s i n c e she o n l y had t o w r i t e the c l e a n m i n u t i a of how each b l a c k , animated f i g u r e f e l l down on top of each tombstone, h a i r f a l l i n g back i n a dark cascade of d e a t h l y shroud, without worrying about anything but the r o l l i c k i n g music i n the background or the t i d y , spare words. She was proud of her work. I t gave her a s a t i s f a c t o r y sense of accomplishment, not j u s t t h a t she was a s s i s t i n g the l e s s f o r t u n a t e than h e r s e l f (who c o u l d not e n v i s i o n a l l those important, p r o g r e s s i v e 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 c r e a t i n g meagre, r e s t r a i n e d prose t h a t dwelled on f i n e d e t a i l devoid of any extraneous emotion. She enjoyed her work, although at times she wished the n a r r a t o r d i d not d e l i v e r her well-thought-out, w e l l - t i m e d s i g h t sentences, i n q u i t e such an u n o b t r u s i v e way, or w i t h q u i t e such a barren, hopeless tone meant t o be a d i s c r e e t cough behind the hand of a symphony patron. If the t r u t h be t o l d , at the same time t h a t she admired her own handy work, o f t e n t u n i n g i n t o the l a t e s t program, whether P r i d e and P r e j u d i c e , or Testament of F r i e n d s h i p or some modern d e p i c t i o n o f a female B r i t i s h P o l i c e I n s p e c t o r e n c o u n t e r i n g p r e j u d i c e and sexism among her f e l l o w workers and v i c t i m s , she had not y e t once been able t o watch a whole, s c r i p t e d episode a l l the way through t o the end. Not even h a l f 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 t o 208  admit the r e a l i t y t o h e r s e l f . She c o u l d not bear to watch those profound l i v e s or l i s t e n t o those p r o s a i c s t o r i e s w i t h her own beautiful, faultless, 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 o c c a s i o n a l l y questioned the p o i n t of p r o v i d i n g the impaired viewers w i t h such a t r i v i a l i z e d account of what was happening p l o t - w i s e through the movement of the c h a r a c t e r s , or the placement o f the o b j e c t s i n the s e t , o r the s h i f t of time from one frame t o the next. (Shouldn't they attempt t o f o l l o w the s t o r y j u s t by l i s t e n i n g to the t e x t of words, not worry about the c o l o r e d , f l a s h i n g scenes of hope or despair? But t h i s was u n c h a r i t a b l e , f o r she had p e r f e c t v i s i o n , and she l i k e d her job, and d i d not want to suggest h e r s e l f 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 h i s hand back behind h i s 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, j u s t to see i f i t made a d i f f e r e n c e to the s t o r y . But she had not been able to watch longer than the f i v e minutes she f o r c e d h e r s e l f t o focus on the screen, l i s t e n to the n a r r a t o r ' s i n t r u s i v e comments, so w e l l - w r i t t e n by h e r s e l f , and take i n the dialogue of the c h a r a c t e r s as they spoke between the p l o t s h i f t s of t h e i r l i v e s , and her d e t a i l e d r e n d e r i n g s . Thus she couldn't t e l l whether her l i t t l e experiment made any d i f f e r e n c e at a l l . She d i d learn that i t could go undetected s i n c e no s i g h t e d producer or d i r e c t o r or P u b l i c Broadcasting a d m i n i s t r a t o r or f r i e n d of the channel had ever complained about t h i s a d d i t i o n a l l i n e . Not even the n a r r a t o r , 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 s u f f e r i n g , joy or sorrow, seemed to n o t i c e t h a t e x t r a hand behind the back of the j a c k e t , or i f he d i d n o t i c e , d i d n ' t deem i t worth comment. Perhaps he e d i t e d i t out h i m s e l f , which was not h i s r i g h t . She would never know f o r sure u n t i l the repeat p r o g r a m — i f she c o u l d j u s t 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 t o know i f t h a t u p s t a r t n a r r a t o r had played around w i t h her s c r i p t . To repeat, she couldn't q u i t e remember the f i r s t time t h a t her work began t o a f f e c t her p r i v a t e l i f e . A l l she knew was t h a t one n i g h t when she served her l o v e r a bowl of homemade soup which she had kept warm at the stove f o r two hours u n t i l he c o u l d get away and come to her apartment at the pre-arranged time ( t h i s wasn't always easy, you understand, he had a wife and c h i l d r e n , r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s at work, he was a r e g i o n a l s a l e s a d m i n i s t r a t i v e executive at a l a r g e c o r p o r a t i o n ) , she saw him b r i n g the hot spoon to h i s mouth, s p i l l i n g d r o p l e t s of soup upon h i s white now-greatly-wrinkled s h i r t and drop the spoon i n the steaming bowl, sending out g l o b u l e s of brown b r o t h and pureed v e g e t a b l e s s p r a y i n g onto her green and white flower-bordered rug. She d i d not r e a l l y hear him swear, " S h i t ! " unabashedly but kept watching as he p i c k e d up the white t a b l e napkin and wiped h i s c h i n , moving a f o o t on top of some of the ground v e g e t a b l e s and g r i n d i n g them i n t o the green and white rug. 209  As t h e evening progressed, more and more a c t i o n s seemed t o loom up out o f t h i s apartment scene w i t h her l o v e r , and dominate the room. She d i d n ' t f e e l h i s hand touch her b r e a s t , she saw him move a hand a c r o s s t o h e r and p l a c e i t on h e r l e f t b r e a s t . She c o u l d n ' t seem t o l o s e h e r s e l f i n h i s wet, p a s s i o n a t e f o r c e f u l - g e n t l e - r o v i n g k i s s e s , she saw the man t u r n t o the woman and k i s s her f o r a time. When l a t e r on i n the evening she l a y beside him i n her bed, where once she was u s u a l l y mindful o f h i s s t r o n g , powerful f o r c e and presence f l u n g a c r o s s her sheets, she now saw the man and woman l i e s i d e by s i d e i n bed, h i s f o o t f o l d e d up b e s i d e her form, r e f l e c t e d i n t h e m i r r o r . The telephone r i n g s , the woman reaches a c r o s s the man t o answer i t . The man r i s e s from the bed and puts h i s c l o t h e s on. Then t h e woman r e p l a c e s t h e telephone r e c e i v e r and l i e s back down upon the bed. The man k i s s e s the woman and l e a v e s t h e room. The woman does not speak but s t i l l l i e s upon the bed. The hand o f the man moves back behind h i s j a c k e t . The woman smiles.  *** The p a r t equals t h e whole.(Lechte  1990, 97)  The ' t r u t h ' o r the p e r t i n e n c e of s c r i p t u r a l p r a c t i c e i s o f another o r d e r ; i t i s undecidable (unprovable, u n 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 c r e a t e meaning, but t h e c o n t e x t u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between them.(Lechte 1990, 107) ...poetic language, founded on the l o g i c ambivalence, a l s o embodies p r o s a i c speech. (Lechte 1990, 110)  of  ...each element... c a r r i e s the whole o f the p o e t i c message.(Kristeva c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 117)  210  INTERLOG Re-sisting In my graduate c u r r i c u l u m course we are asked t o d e v i s e a c o n c e p t i o n o f c u r r i c u l u m and produce a twelve page paper. I ask i f I can i n c l u d e p o e t r y and n a r r a t i v e and w r i t e some d i v e r s e discourse. I r e c e i v e support f o r my endeavour, as long as I f u l f i l l t h e requirements o f t h e assignment. When I r e c e i v e t h i s paper back, I am encouraged t o seek p u b l i c a t i o n i n a c u r r i c u l u m j o u r n a l . One o f the j o u r n a l ' s reviewers comments: "This paper i s couched i n u n h e l p f u l vague m e t a p h o r i c a l language." Writing  i s i m p o s s i b l e without some k i n d o f e x i l e . ( K r i s t e v a c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 66)  P o e t i c language... i s f u l l o f m e a n i n g . . . c a l l i n g f o r i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . T h i s f u 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 o f everyday life...in communicative language, t h e presence o f a f u l l n e s s o f meaning passes u n n o t i c e d by c o n s c i o u s n e s s . I t passes over, o r r e s i s t s , the p o s s i b l e p l u r a l i t y o f meanings e v i d e n t i n t h e language o f communication i n the form of ambiguity and nonsense... Consciousness and i t s agent, the ego, thus have a tendency t o r e s i s t p o e t r y -to r e s i s t the n o t i o n t h a t consciousness, t o o , i s a product o f language, and t h a t the s u b j e c t i s thereby d i v i d e d between two heterogeneous systems: the conscious and the unconscious. (Lechte 1990, 35) It i s precisely one o f the f e a t u r e s of p o e t i c language... t h a t i t embodies c o n t r a d i c t i o n . A text does not (simply) obey the r u l e s o f l o g i c , o r grammar, or the c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n o f mathematical f o r m a l i z a t i o n ; or a t l e a s t i t does a great d e a l more.... (Lechte 1990, 95) ...what c o u l d not be c o n c e p t u a l i z e d , o b j e c t i f i e d , represented, o r simply imagined, tended t o be d i s q u a l i f i e d from e n t e r i n g the f i e l d o f d i s c u s s i o n . (Lechte 1990, 97) ...although these young women have both l e a r n e d how to w r i t e papers, they have not y e t l e a r n e d t o w r i t e — t h a t i s , t o be able t o communicate by e x p r e s s i n g t h e i r own i d e a s , f e e l i n g s , and v o i c e s on paper.' (Bolker c i t e d i n Belenky e t a l . 1986, 108) 1  There can be no c l o s u r e ; answers. . .Neither. . .King  there Lear  can be no f i n a l nor Picasso's 211  G u e r n i c a . . . s o l v e s anything, o f f e r s any g u i d e l i n e s . They do, however, make one see and hear and f e e l i n such a f a s h i o n t h a t one's q u e s t i o n s sharpen, one's head aches. Marcel Proust once wrote t h a t the w r i t e r and p a i n t e r are l i k e eye s p e c i a l i s t s f o r those who attend t o t h e i r works. 'The t r e a t m e n t — w i t h the help o f t h e i r p a i n t i n g s , t h e i r w r i t i n g s — i s not always p l e a s a n t . When the treatment i s concluded, they t e l l us: You can look now...' (Proust i n P o l a n y i 1964, 200). What he was d e s c r i b i n g was what V i r g i n i a Woolf c a l l e d a 'shock o f awareness,' an experience t h a t shakes c o n v e n t i o n a l c e r t a i n t i e s as i t opens the way f o r something new. (Greene 1984, 131)  212  Interlog Rcj-signifying The f o l l o w i n g graduate c u r r i c u l u m  i s an excerpt course:  Giroux, P i n a r "field  in  and  from  the  Penna (1981) c a l l  evolution."  This  could  work  curriculum  certainly  f e m i n i s t c u r r i c u l a , which f o r a l o n g time and now,  have  not  found  orientation.  Largely  a  stable  niche  t h i s i s due  contend t h a t a feminine c u r r i c u l u m  be  did  in  a  i n 1981  a  applied  any  omission.  curriculum However,  i s o u t s i d e of any  degree  change and untrue.  that  a  feminist  i s based on  And  so  reconceptualist  curriculum  transformative  works  towards  humanistic  To  social  action, t h i s i s largely  I p r e f e r to locate t h i s curriculum and  to  curriculum  p o s i t i o n seems to render i t i n v i s i b l e as w e l l as e x t e r i o r . the  to  to an extent even  within  to  I  camps,  within  the  recognizing  the  s i m i l a r i t i e s between them w h i l e a l s o honouring the d i f f e r e n c e s . The r e c o n c e p t u a l i s t c u r r i c u l u m recognizes art  of  interpretation,  the  c e n t r a l i t y of  s u b j e c t i v i t y , the i n t e n t i o n a l i t y to  understanding human a c t i o n , and the p o l i t i c a l class  conflicts,  culture,  meaning  Feminism  (or  resistance, and  and  knowledge)  feminisms)  analyzes  the  political  (Giroux and  (power r e l a t i o n s ,  et  al.  regards  nature 1981,  gender  of 14).  as  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 f o r c e shaping s o c i e t y .  the "For  f e m i n i s t educators, feminism i s a primary lens through which the world i s i n t e r p r e t e d and  acted upon" (Luke and  Gore 1992,  138).  Through t h i s l e n s , s u b j e c t i v i t y , i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , i n t e n t i o n a l i t y 213  and  politics  there  a r e recognized.  a r e "gendered  capitalism Gore  and i t s knowledge  and  Feminism, then,  feminism  recognizes  s t r u c t u r a l d i v i s i o n s upon which  1992, 37), thought  awareness  Since  i n d u s t r i e s are based"  and a c t i o n  transformation  of  (praxis) these  shares those f e a t u r e s  that  liberal  (Luke and  are r e l a t e d t o  gender  divisions.  o f reconceptualism  that  l e a d t o a more j u s t , c r e a t i v e , r a d i c a l e x i s t e n c e , a r i s i n g out of social  analysis  curriculum's  and t r a n s f o r m a t i v e  search  h i s t o r i c a l l y rooted  f o r truth  action,  and s t r u g g l e  but a  feminist  f o r power i s  i n and l a r g e l y concerned w i t h changing the  s o c i a l order f o r women as w e l l as f o r men, i n ways t h a t l i b e r a t e and emancipate women from gender i n e q u a l i t y as w e l l as c l a s s and race  conflicts. While there seems t o be no disagreement with such i d e a l s i n  reconceptualism,  there  i s a stunning  lack  of willingness to  grapple w i t h t h e i s s u e s o f feminism (Luke and Gore 1992, For  example, F r e i r e contends t h a t  struggle  i s political  "the concept o f the gender  and not s e x u a l , "  i s s u e i s the p o l i t i c a l v i s i o n of sex, of sex" and  that  "the fundamental  and not the s e x i s t v i s i o n  ( F r e i r e and Macedo 1993, 175).  educators a r e h i g h l y c r i t i c a l  1-12).  Many f e m i n i s t  scholars  of the r e c o n c e p t u a l i s t  which i s founded "by the f a t h e r s , " and which i s centered "primacy o f male c o n s c i o u s n e s s "  base  on t h e  (Luke and Gore 1992, 35). In  f a c t , f e m i n i s t s c h o l a r s i n s i s t t h a t i f a c r e a t i v e democracy and social/self  empowerment  (both  features  curriculum)  a r e t o move beyond t h a t  of a  envisioned  reconceptualized by Dewey (Luke 214  and  Gore  1992, 29), we  oppression,  must  take  care  not t o u n i v e r s a l i z e  the oppressed, t h e s t r u g g l e o r the r e s i s t a n c e , but  must s i t u a t e these w i t h i n a s p e c i f i c h i s t o r y which has omitted and  The and  and dehumanized women (Luke and Gore 1992, 33).  excluded  new s o c i o l o g y o f education  which  focussed  which emerged i n the 70's  on how t o make education  c r i t i c a l and emancipatory way can be regarded  meaningful  in a  as the h i s t o r i c a l  base t o a r e c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n o f c u r r i c u l u m , one which has a l s o influenced  feminists' role  i n education.  This  new s o c i o l o g y  emphasized the r e p r o d u c t i v e f u n c t i o n o f s c h o o l i n g , but although i t p r o v i d e d necessary  c r i t i c i s m , i t was a "language o f d e s p a i r , "  with  cited i n Freire  no hope (Giroux  hopelessness  1985).  Such d e s p a i r and  were tempered by the work of Giroux and o t h e r s , and  in particular,  were r e c a s t by the philosophy  of Paulo  Freire.  While F r e i r e d i d not t h e o r i z e gender, f e m i n i s t c u r r i c u l u m has been deeply  i n f l u e n c e d by him,  and t h i s i s p a r t i c u l a r l y t r u e o f  P a t t i L a t h e r ' s women's s t u d i e s course Notably, Lather's  F r e i r e ' s notion  (and other  (Lather 1991).  of conscientization  feminists') c u r r i c u l a r  undergirds  conceptions.  n o t i o n embraces the empowering i d e a l o f t r a n s f o r m a t i o n , self-awareness,  as  curriculum.  i s central to Freire's beliefs  the u n d e r l y i n g Through  meaning  Freire's reality  gives  t o transform  t o the a b i l i t y  to  a  and can be  transformational  conscientization,  awareness o f s o c i o c u l t u r a l rise  through  c o n s c i o u s n e s s - r a i s i n g , s o c i a l a c t i o n and change.  Such t r a n s f o r m a t i o n regarded  This  that i s ,  t h a t shapes one's l i f e and reality  (McNeil 1990, 215  37),  the i n d i v i d u a l who i s p a r t  feminism,  the female  recognize leads  oppression  changes  t o hope,  curriculum 46).  society,  from w i t h i n as w e l l as without.  Critique  (Giroux  of  of a  i n F r e i r e 1985). a  changed  i s r e l a t e d t o s o c i e t y as i t should  an  this  agent  case, P a t t i  be," r e c o n s t r u c t ,  and  Despair  society.  The  be (McNeil 1990, women's  political  Knowledge i s o p p o s i t i o n a l .  o p p o s i t i o n , t h i s subversion,  l e a r n e r , the teacher,  Lather's  f o r subversion  Teaching i s o p p o s i t i o n a l .  "should  cited  the v i s i o n  Schooling—in  course—is  i s part  and i n  gendered  to p o s s i b i l i t y  who  of a larger society,  studies change. And t h i s  t h i s change, and the v i s i o n o f what reconceptualize,  and transform  the  the c u r r i c u l u m .  But although Giroux warns t h a t we should not get caught up in  the r h e t o r i c  (Giroux  et a l .  of n e u t r a l i t y  i n schooling  and  1981, 403), i t i s the f e m i n i s t s  curriculum who  state  s u c c i n c t l y t h a t " c i t i z e n s h i p i n t h e democratic l i b e r a l s t a t e i s gender s p e c i f i c "  (Luke and Gore 1992, 32); i t i s t h e f e m i n i s t s  who ask "what d i v e r s i t y do we s i l e n c e i n the name o f l i b e r a t o r y education" long  (33);  exclude  i t i s the f e m i n i s t s who warn t h a t we can no  women  "by  failure  to  critique  masculinist  t h e o r e t i c a l n a r r a t i v e s " (29); i t i s the f e m i n i s t s who c h a l l e n g e "the  outer  limits  o f the e p i s t e m o l o g i c a l  horizon  where t h e  m a s c u l i n i s t l o g i c o f the u n i v e r s a l s u b j e c t and i t s naming o f the other  are i n s c r i b e d "  democratize education, analysis  o f sexual  (Luke  and Gore  1992, 37).  To  truly  "we must engage w i t h feminism through the  division  and s u b j u g a t i o n "  o r e l s e we have 216  simply r e w r i t t e n p r o g r e s s i v i s m 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  lies  the c r i t i c a l  d i f f e r e n c e between the r e c o n c e p t u a l i s t c u r r i c u l u m and a f e m i n i s t reconceptualist curriculum.  *** The f o l l o w i n g i s a poem I wrote d u r i n g the same c u r r i c u l u m course: A Feminine  graduate  Curriculum  a l l the women not on t h e pages s i l e n t l y there shaping e d u c a t i o n man a c t s upon t h e world as o b j e c t man a c t s upon woman whose r e a l i t y i s e l i m i n a t e d ? g e t t i n g smart means academic adversary: geronimo, g i r o u x ! now I've upset you! straw men w r i t t e n by straw women who c l a i m i n the l a s t chapter maybe t h i s v o i c e doesn't r i n g t r u e l i v e d experience b u t — impenetrable paragraphs no spaces between the words j u s t s t r i n g s o f post-modern neo-marxist babble a new k i n d o f baby t a l k mothers don't understand in flux o n l y more and more q u e s t i o n s my b e l i e f s a s e t body through the y e a r s l i k e a chameleon now s o a k i n g up whatever c o l o r comes my way the white o f e v e r y t h i n g the b l a c k o f n o t h i n g 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 b l a c k what c o l o r w i l l I be when I am done? the c o l o r s l e a k i n g the c o l o r s d r i p p i n g the c o l o r s d r y i n g me, Renee never-ending-spectrum g e t t i n g smart means p a i n t i n g a l l those pages w i t h me The excerpt i s an example o f communicative academic language. Non-metaphorical. Derrida: "Language i s always a l r e a d y double" ( c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 95). Derrida: Trace. Absence. Differance. Erasure. The  poem i s an example o f p o e t i c  language.  Metaphorical.  A f u l l n e s s o f meaning. (Lechte 1990, 35) The p a r t equals the whole. (Lechte 1990, 97) The w r i t e r i s a phobic who succeeds i n metaphorizing i n order t o keep from being f r i g h t e n e d t o death; i n s t e a d he [she] comes t o l i f e again i n s i g n s . ( K r i s t e v a c i t e d i n Lechte 1990, 161)  218  INTERLOG Re-fusing Carnival I don't t h i n k 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 g r i n , laughing or brimming with t e a r s , s a f e l y 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 s e t of masks, made by an artist/mask-maker to my s p e c i f i c a t i o n s . T h i s very l o o s e l y e n t a i l e d a s k i n g her to c r e a t e 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 d e s i r e d ( f o r example, unusual half-masks with t e e t h , c o l o r e d - f e a t h e r e d masks); and some s m a l l e r - f a c e d masks which would f i t small c h i l d r e n . I f e e l l u c k y to have t h i s s e t of masks—which I was allowed to order and use and e v e n t u a l l y keep when I was once a drama c o n s u l t a n t . These masks have been w e l l used, by c h i l d r e n who I worked with in schools, by t e a c h e r s / p r o s p e c t i v e t e a c h e r s I taught who were hoping to l e a r n about t e a c h i n g drama i n s c h o o l s , by the c h i l d r e n I now teach at s c h o o l , and by my own c h i l d r e n . ^We axeate masks, to express, expLoxe, pexfoxm, aompaxe...  I l e a r n e d how to use these masks from a woman clown, a really c r e a t i v e , zany, o f f - t h e - w a l l woman named Gumboot L o l l i p o p . I haven't seen Gumboot f o r years, but I know t h a t she and Conrad F l a p s , her one-time clown p a r t n e r , went t h e i r separate ways. Gumboot and I once b r i e f l y shared the p a i n of our r e s p e c t i v e m i s c a r r i a g e s i n a bathroom at a h o t e l conference, Gumboot i n a rush to be o f f to perform another of her pathosf i l l e d , c h i l d - l i k e performances, reminding me so much of my own second m i s c a r r i a g e when I, too, simply c a r r i e d on with the workshop I was i n the middle of conducting. d\l\asfis aome to life only txiefly wizen we use tlzem.  D o l l y — G u m b o o t — teaches t h a t you must t r e a t a mask with r e s p e c t , never p l a c i n g i t nose-down on a t a b l e . She i s m y s t i c a l about masks, too, s u g g e s t i n g one always face away from the audience when donning the mask or removing i t , so the audience cannot see you make these changes. D o l l y 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 l o n g 219  enough i n a m i r r o r before you t u r n 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 c h i l d r e n and a d u l t s . I t i s t h i s same q u a l i t y o f l o s i n g o n e s e l f t h a t a l s o f r i g h t e n s some c h i l d r e n and a d u l t s badly, so t h a t when I've used masks with groups, I have l e a r n e d t o make i t c l e a r t h a t i t i s always o p t i o n a l whether o r not one wishes t o t r y on a mask o r share the experience i n t h e f i r s t p l a c e . Some c h i l d r e n never do t r y on t h a t mask, o r t r y i t on a t the m i r r o r but r e f u s e t o t u r n around. Most a d u l t s t h a t I have worked with w i l l i n g l y t r y the mask, even the more r e s e r v e d people f i n d i n g i t comfortable t o hide behind t h i s oval mirror. aan hids hshind a mailz that aan  SK^OIS  OUX  Lnnsx ishvss.  The masks a r e not meant t o be worn f o r l o n g : the glue s m e l l s , the m a t e r i a l on some o f them i s rough, and d e s p i t e the maskmaker's foam pads, every mask f i t s every f a c e somewhat differently. I always remind young c h i l d r e n t o breathe. They tend t o h o l d t h e i r b r e a t h behind the i n i t i a l excitement and e x p l o r a t i o n o f t h i s new and temporary f a c e , not r e a l l y r e a l i z i n g t h a t they must s t i l l draw a i r from the s i d e s and nose h o l e s o f the mask i n order not t o pass o u t ! ^Maihi  axs ai tsmjioxaxij  ai ths length  of tlms  ivs hssfi  thsm  on oux faasi.  My f a v o r i t e mask i n my c o l l e c t i o n i s the small orange one w i t h a t e a r p a i n t e d underneath the eyehole. S t r a n g e l y enough, i t does not always look sad, depending on who wears i t and how a person moves i n response t o t h e c h a r a c t e r she absorbs from l o o k i n g i n the m i r r o r . cJf maih ahangsi hy ths way ons cvsaxi it.  D o l l y a l s o a d v i s e s s t r o n g l y t h a t you never speak aloud when wearing a f u l l mask. Such sound i s r e s e r v e d o n l y f o r a h a l f mask o r a mask which has a s m a l l hole removed a t the area where the mouth should be. There a r e times when i t i s i m p o s s i b l e t o t e l l who i s behind the mask, d e s p i t e one's r e c o g n i t i o n o f moving limbs o r bending forms o r i m p r o v i s a t i o n a l movements. I t i s a l s o i m p o s s i b l e t o know what e x p r e s s i o n i s on the face t h a t l i e s beneath a p a r t i c u l a r mask, d e s p i t e the eyes t h a t r a d i a t e 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 q u i e t l y s m i l i n g t o yourself. You can look very jaunty i n some mask, depending on how you move an arm o r hand o r p l a c e i t i n j u x t a p o s i t i o n t o your body, but be t r u l y l o o k i n g and f e e l i n g r a t h e r unhappy a f t e r a l l , 220  underneath the s u r f a c e o f t h a t mask. <^A/\asks lie at the same time that tizzy tell a truth.  I use masks with c h i l d r e n t o 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 w i t h c h i l d r e n because i t i s always ( s t i l l ) very i n t e r e s t i n g t o t r y on another f a c e f o r a few minutes and imagine i t i s you. I use masks w i t h c h i l d r e n so they might experience f o r a b r i e f time a t l e a s t , t h e awe and magic and even mysticism o f drama. I use masks with c h i l d r e n s i n c e l i k e puppets, masks sometimes f r e e shy and r e s e r v e d c h i l d r e n i n t o e x p r e s s i o n o r o f f e r a c t i v e , a c t i n g out c h i l d r e n a s a f e o u t l e t . <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 , unchangingo n - t h e - t a b l e , mask face forms and put them away f o r another day. They're not meant t o be used a l l the time, and I would miss the fluid eyes and ever-changing, real-life skin and bone e x p r e s s i o n s o f t h e small f a c e s I teach, f a c e s I am always l o o k i n g i n t o and t r y i n g t o 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: t h e "make-believe o v e r t u r n i n g e x i s t i n g s o c i a l norms" (Lechte 1990, 105).  o f law and  Poetry becomes, i n K r i s t e v a ' s a n a l y s i s , a way o f m a i n t a i n i n g s o c i a l bonds through what i s d e s t r u c t i v e of t h e s o c i a l , and conducive t o madness. Poetry i s c a p i t a l i s t s o c i e t y ' s c a r n i v a l , a way o f keeping death and madness a t bay. Poetry i s a r e f u s a l o f a ' f l i g h t i n t o madness.' (Lechte 1990, 6)  221  DIALOG T H R E E  222  Re-poetizing. Re-identifying, Re-theorizing Poetry i s the c u l t u r e o f a people. We are poets even when we don't w r i t e poems... ( N i k k i 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 importan 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 j u s t me and the wind A silence f a l l s upon my w i f e ' s grave I stand t h e r e gazing at the meadow There I stand the wind g e t t i n g weaker Night f a l l s as I s l o w l y t u r n to go home There I stand j u s t me and the wind Rebecca Norman, 8. W r i t i n g , i n a way, i s l i s t e n i n g t o t h e o t h e r s ' language and r e a d i n g w i t h the o t h e r s ' eyes. The more ears I am a b l e t o hear with, the f a r t h e r I see t h e p l u r a l i t y of meaning and the l e s s I l e n d myself to the i l l u s i o n of a s i n g l e 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, so 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 multifaceted subjects who read them. I l i v e a post-modern life. I sometimes write post-modern discourse and poetry. I construct, del construct and re/construct. Why the resistance, I am asked when someone recaptures what I've said and wonders if everything is 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 is 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 built, 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, "Pow 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 longdead 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 letterfroma 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 womanfriendsaid 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 (whosefirstfeminist 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 t e n s i o n i n t e a c h i n g , i n l i v i n g , at home. I f you're a l i v e , t h e r e ' s t e n s i o n . I f you're dead, no t e n s i o n . (Aoki 1994) For the s u r f a c e a g i t a t i o n of the p a s s i n g c a r 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 wi structures which can house these experiences, always leaving the doors and window open... Be-longing in (Renee Norman)  a  poem—a  new  inter-cultural  strategy? ?  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 tha 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 t o encounter i n s t a n c e s where t h e o r y i n v o l v e d the v o i d i n g , r a t h e r than the a f f i r m i n g 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 p o e t i c a l n e s s i s not p r i m a r i l y an a e s t h e t i c response, nor l i t e r a r i n e s s merely a q u e s t i o n of pure v e r b a l i s m . And i n s t a n c e s where the b o r d e r l i n e between t h e o r e t i c a l and n o n - t h e o r e t i c a l w r i t i n g s i s b l u r r e d and questioned, so t h a t theory and p o e t r y n e c e s s a r i l y mesh, both determined by an awareness of the s i g n and the d e s t a b i l i z a t i o n of the meaning and w r i t i n g s u b j e c t . (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 openfreely,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 postmodern theory in educational leadership, placing colored transparencies on the overhead and then laughingly labelling them post-modern. In another presentation, a woman selfdeprecatingly commented that it's cool to put post-modern in your thesis or dissertation or paper. I got lost in the postmodern 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." I t was a s l i g h t l y p r o v o c a t i v e way of p l a c i n g (or d i s p l a c i n g ) into the l i m e l i g h t the debate about knowledge. Postmodernity i s not a new age, but the r e w r i t i n g of some o f the f e a t u r e s c l a i m e d 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 t o 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 should encompass a kind of remembering that accuses, this "re" repeat what it re-writes (historically).  "re-writing" nor should  ...working through would be d e f i n e d as a work without end and t h e r e f o r e 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). . . . r e w r i t i n g means r e s i s t i n g the w r i t i n g supposed postmodernity. (Lyotard 1991, 35)  of  that  Perhaps in my own resistance to and confusion about postmodern 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 rewriting 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 f o r g e t without a n n i h i l a t i n g ? (Minh-ha 1989, 28) Woman can never be d e f i n e d . (Minh-ha 1989, 96) Woman, as Cixous d e f i n e s her, i s a whole—'whole composed o f p a r t s t h a t are w h o l e s ' — t h r o u g h which language i s born over and over again. (Minh-ha 1989, 38) W r i t i n g i s born when t h e w r i t e r i s no l o n g e r . (Minh-ha 1989, 35) There i s a f i n e l i n e between p o e t r y and madness. (Renee Norman's j o u r n a l ) ...if  the s e l f  i s a house I have searched f o r a home.... (Hussey 1990, 69)  ... d i f f e r e n c e . . . produces the i l l u s i o n o f i d e n t i t y w h i l e undermining i t r e l e n t l e s s l y . (Minh-ha 1989, 116) ...speaking nearby o r t o g e t h e r w i t h c e r t a i n l y d i f f e r s from speaking f o r and about. (Minh-ha 1989, 101) L a y i n g c l a i m t o the s p e c i f i c i t y of women's s e x u a l i t y and the r i g h t s p e r t a i n i n g t o i t i s a step we have t o go through i n o r d e r t o make o u r s e l v e s heard; i n o r d e r t o beat t h e master a t h i s own game. But r e d u c i n g e v e r y t h i n g t o the o r d e r o f sex does n o t . . . a l l o w us t o depart from a discourse directed within the apparatuses o f s e x u a l i t y . (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 selfpoem, I approached my Israelifriend,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 w r i t e r s , women, Jews, i n t e g r a t e i n t o our work what we r e a l l y are, as opposed t o these r e f u t a t i o n s o r d e n i a l s , these shadows o f 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 eyeI 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 neverending, 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 t o say what meaning t h e r e i s i n anything? Who i s t o f o r e t e l l the f l i g h t of a word? I t i s a b a l l o o n t h a t s a i l s over treetops. To speak of knowledge i s f u t i l e . All is experiment and adventure. We are f o r e v e r mixing o u r s e l v e s w i t h unknown q u a n t i t i e s . What i s t o 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  is a  ...unearth surprise?  fine  line  between p o e t r y and madness. (Renee Norman's j o u r n a l )  some new linguistic paths. Do you Do you shock? Do you have a c h o i c e ? (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 & s t o r i e s shaping a p o e t i c t e x t a production shaping a l i f e producing me the pages l e n g t h e n i n g when are you going t o stop? (maybe i don't want t o stop) STOP the end death the d i s r u p t i v e unconscious between the l i n e s i am w r i t i n g the unconscious Maurice Blanchot says: " w r i t i n g i n order not t o d i e " * Renee Norman says: "dying i n o r d e r not t o w r i t e ? " II. my p l u r a l p r a c t i c e r e - s h a p i n g me s e m i o t i c re-assembling re-as-sembling re  m every t e x t double every t e x t double a chorus f o r the chora metonymous mother-vessel f u l l o f meaning f u l l o f MEing f u l l o f me re-nee a r e - c e p t a c l e  n  block/move/re-block/re/move de-lete re-write/re-vise save c o n t r o l two accent accent \>IAVJ w\th those fonts f o n t with those p l a y s  234  want t o play? de-fence around a t a b l e de-fence t h a t t a b l e no white p i c k e t s s e p a r a t i n g me & the committee what's your (the words catch) t h e s i s about? ( i n my t h r o a t ) idontknowidontknowidontknow what's g u i d i n g (something) you? (a v i s i o n a dream a f e e l i n g ) p r o p e l l i n g me forward (doomed) untitled unbridled double double t e x t no t r o u b l e  * ( c i t e d i n Lechte 1990,  48)  235  Re-sonating I am dreaming. They a r e a l l here, f l o a t i n g w r a i t h s , with s t r i a t e d gauze f i n g e r s r e a c h i n g out t o me, and I s t r e t c h my own f i n g e r s out t o 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 r e a l , a post-modern neo-marxist angel, h i k i n g 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 t o form the words t o answer her, s t u t t e r , "W-well—," but she cuts i n and reminds me: " O p p o s i t i o n a l knowledge. That's what you've tapped i n t o . Remember t h e j o u r n a l comments from my Women's S t u d i e s course: 'Can you be a f e m i n i s t and do what's r i g h t f o r y o u r s e l f and s t i l l have a husband and f a m i l y ? I don't want t o l o s e my f a m i l y i n the f i n d i n g of m y s e l f ( 7 8 ) . ' [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 c o n f u s i o n , a l i e n a t i o n and fights...'(133) . '...I've f e l t the o p p o s i t i o n a l knowledge; indeed there a r e some days I wish I d i d n ' t have t o d e a l w i t h women's i s s u e s — b u t the wonderful hours come when I f e e l l i b e r a t e d , not angry, but f u l l of l o v e . . . ' " (133). "And you have t o put something back i n t o the p r o c e s s , " Lather continues, t a l k i n g a t me. "Something t h a t makes the r e s e a r c h worthwhile. You have t o g i v e , t o o . " The angel l i n e s o f P a t t i Lather t u r n shadowy, s p l i t apart l i k e a s p i d e r y web p u l l e d between two opposing branches. And i n the space between the branches, a v i s i o n o f a woman walking down a road appears. Only her back can be seen. She exposes no face but I see wings s p r o u t i n g out o f her back. Someone c a l l s out t o the woman who r e v e a l s no f a c e : "Hey, lady, who a r e you?" The woman t u r n s around q u i c k l y , as i f s u r p r i s e d by t h e q u e s t i o n . I gasp. I t i s me. The v i s i o n d i s a p p e a r s . The woman t h a t i s r e a l l y me, the jet stream l i n e s of P a t t i Lather, d i s s i p a t e i n the overhead frame of my dream. I hear P a t t i L a t h e r ' s d i s t a n t v o i c e , a dim chorus t o a c h o i r o f d i s a p p e a r i n g angels: "multi-valent-texthow-we-other-others-troubling-our-own-assumptions-try-hard-tounderstand-less-role-of-the-autobiographical-a-less-comfortablesocial-science-a-poetic-speaking-a-text-that-works-againstknowing-too-quickly-inviting-open-readings" (Lather 1994). Sudden s i l e n c e . The white mist o f my dream remains, and Monique W i t t i g f a l l s from the mist, j a b b e r i n g f i r s t i n French, then i n a h e a v i l y - a c c e n t e d E n g l i s h , then back t o French. I s t r a i n t o hear what she i s s a y i n g . She t u r n s over and over as she f a l l s . The only words I can make out a r e "white workshop space" and "the blank page." Monique W i t t i g begins t o s p i n around and around, f a s t e r and f a s t e r , a b l u r now. The mist s w i r l s i n t o a page o f a book, pure white, and the b l u r t h a t i s Monique W i t t i g t u r n s red, s p i n n i n g 236  onto the page-mist and d o t t i n g i t w i t h small p i n p o i n t s of red color. The red t u r n s b l a c k f o r a moment. I can almost see the words I t h i n k are there, but the b l a c k t u r n s white again, b l e n d i n g i n t o the page-mist. Monique W i t t i g i s gone. Again the mist s w i r l s , a heavy fog i n my dream, and the page transforms to a white w a l l . Over t h i s w a l l leaps A l i s o n Jaggar, s m i l i n g sideways, and w i t h a s l i g h t l i s p , she t u r n s to me i n the dream, r e p e a t i n g over and over: "A f e m i n i s t i s someone who works to end the s u p p r e s s i o n of women. A f e m i n i s t i s someone who works to end the s u p p r e s s i o n of women. A f e m i n i s t i s someone who works t o end the s u p p r e s s i o n of women. A l i s o n Jaggar walks through the w a l l , which c l o s e s behind her. The w a l l expands, growing o t h e r w a l l s , producing t a b l e s and c h a i r s between the w a l l s , p r o d u c i n g cups of c o f f e e f l o a t i n g mida i r between the c h a i r s and t a b l e s . One c h a i r stands up, and I can see i t i s t a k i n g on human p r o p o r t i o n s , but I am u n c l e a r about who i t i s . " N a t a l i e Goldberg," the c h a i r announces f o r my b e n e f i t . "Cut! Cut! Cut!" the N a t a l i e Goldberg c h a i r c a l l s out t o me, r e a c h i n g f o r a f l o a t i n g cup of c o f f e e and s e t t i n g i t upon a t a b l e where the cup r e f u s e s 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 t o t h i s a p p a r i t i o n i n my dream. I croak, a hoarse, t o a d - l i k e sound. The N a t a l i e chair cries: "Shut up and w r i t e ! Look f o r the poems! Write about what you don't want t o w r i t e about! Write through the l a y e r s to f i r s t - t h o u g h t , w i l d mind. And cut, cut, cut!" (Goldberg 1986; 1990). The hand of the N a t a l i e - c h a i r s l i c e s through the a i r between the dancing c o f f e e cup, c r y i n g cut, cut, over and over. "Cut!" ( S l i c e of her hand.) The cup dances. "Cut!" ( S l i c e of her hand.) The cup dances, d i s a p p e a r s . The N a t a l i e - c h a i r f r e e z e s , her hand no l o n g e r s l i c i n g , and c o n v e r s a t i o n a l l y , she adds: "I got a phone c a l l from Leonard Cohen's manager, you know, about W r i t i n g Down the Bones. Leonard Cohen l i k e d my book." The N a t a l i e - c h a i r s i t s down, a c h a i r again. The coffee cups s e t t l e on the t a b l e s , and I hear the l y r i c s of Leonard Cohen's F u t u r e CD r e - s o n a t i n g from behind the white w a l l s , sung i n Cohen's g r a v e l l y v o i c e : "...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 C h a r l i e Manson...." Then silence. From the corner of one of the w a l l s , an a l l - w h i t e , g h o s t l y Phantom of the Opera seeps out and snakes along, white cape emerging, hands c l u t c h i n g c l a w - l i k e , corner to corner. The masked mouth chants: "She has been v e l l - t a u g h t " i n an European accent. The Phantom snakes along to another w a l l corner. A c l o u d formed from dry i c e r i s e s , o b s c u r i n g the Phantom's shape, c o v e r i n g the c h a i r s , the t a b l e s , the w a l l s . Clears, revealing a r i v e r . And a woman with long h a i r 11  237  s t a n d i n g i n the r i v e r . Her h a i r c u r l s down t o the r i v e r so t h a t they seem j o i n e d . The woman walks deeper and deeper i n t o t h e t o r r e n t s o f the r i v e r , h a i r p u l l e d by the c u r r e n t s , c u r r e n t s tugged by the h a i r . U n t i l the swaying woman becomes the r i v e r , or t h e r a g i n g r i v e r becomes t h e woman, I cannot t e l l . A face smiles from the depths o f t h i s swaying body. I can see the face. I t 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 o f a wolf. C l a r i s s a E s t e s smiles i n t h e w o l f ' s f a c e , and from t h a t smile, s t r i n g s o f words a r e spewed o u t . Each word i s c l e a r and d i s t i n c t a t 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 o f the woman, t o make room f o r the next word, and the next, and the next: Through s l i p s o f the tongue,...the p o e t i c dimension o f language (to the extent t h a t i t i s f u l l o f ambiguity, and t h e r e f o r e f u l l o f meaning), the dream as a rebus, and forms of nonsense, we glimpse the unconscious. (Lechte 1990, 34) ...the unconscious i s always e q u i v o c a l , between the l i n e s , the i r r e d u c i b l y p o e t i c which a p l u r a l i t y o f meanings resonates.... (Lechte 1990, 36) For we dream i n n a r r a t i v e , remember, a n t i c i p a t e , hope, d e s p a i r , b e l i e v e , doubt, p l a n , r e v i s e , c r i t i c i z e , c o n s t r u c t , g o s s i p , l e a r n , hate and love by n a r r a t i v e . In order t o r e a l l y l i v e , we make up s t o r i e s about o u r s e l v e s and o t h e r s , about t h e p e r s o n a l as w e l l as the s o c i a l past and f u t u r e . (Hardy 1981, 13) I t h i n k the world i s a b e t t e r p l a c e because o f Jerome Bruner, who has looked a t n a r r a t i v e as one o f two p o s s i b l e modes of thought, a way o f knowing, a means of o r d e r i n g experience, a mode f o r c o n s t r u c t i n g r e a l i t y . (Sutton 1992) . . . n a r r a t i v e i s b u i l t upon concern c o n d i t i o n . (Bruner 1986, 14)  f o r t h e human  What i s the power, the p u l l , the magnetism, the dynamism of n a r r a t i v e ? (Leggo 1994, 19) How does n a r r a t i v e r e l a t e t o s e l f , self-awareness, self-realization, self-actualization, self-narration, selfishness, self-centeredness, self-understanding, self-knowing, self-knowledge, self-consciousness, self-determination, self-familiarity, selfconstruction, self-conceptualization, selfcontradiction, self-generation, selfr e p r e s e n t a t i o n ? .. .What counts as narrative knowledge/knowing? (Leggo 1994, 20) . . . n a r r a t i n g i s not merely a t h o u g h t f u l  narrating of 238  s t o r i e s and themes of l i v e d experiences... the a c t of n a r r a t i n g i s a l r e a d y i n v o l v e d i n the becoming of i d e n t i t y . . . n a r r a t i n g i s not o n l y a t h o u g h t f u l t e l l i n g but a l s o a way t o come t o be. (Aoki & Shamsher 1993, 1) I t i s a l o n g time before I wake from the dream. w r i t e the s t o r y awake, but I want t o dream, t o o . w r i t e . And so I dream again.  I want t o And so I  239  EPILOG  240  Re-capitulating I f 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 t h a t blank page the blood o f 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 s t o r i e s r e w r i t t e n t h a t mythologize a woman's experience i f I c a l l myself une f e m i n i s t e w i l l my body come i n an e c s t a s y o f j o u i s s a n c e t h a t c e l e b r a t e s my womanhood i f I c a l l myself a mother w i l l my c h i l d r e n come to remember back through me days we c o u l d have come t o g e t h e r if I will that that  c a l l myself a woman I come t o b e l i e v e I, t o o , l i v e i n a world means t o l e t me speak  i f I c a l l myself w i l l I come screaming echoes o f s e l f c a l l i n g COME COME COME  WORKS CONSULTED A l l e n , Marie, and S h e l l y Marks. 1993. M i s c a r r i a g e : Women S h a r i n g from the Heart. 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