Ghazal 1

I am neither the rolling wave, nor the warm sand between your toes;

I am the savagery of the tide ripping away at the sea floor.

You were content to sunbathe beneath your golden curls;

I was left to pray to the desert sand for water.

All of my self-proclaimed, prophetic jetsam;

what weak ink to be sloshed upon your paper!

Now that the sun sets, you’ve come to comb for pearls;

my words are picked over, only broken shells remain.

No wonder I fall again, on knees encrusted with blood;

complete abandon, singing bhajans into the ocean.

Monsters

He’s a monster!

Screams and horror

Knuckled hands entrap tiny wrists

Her petals twirl

But drown in jet waters

Little girls don’t float like little flower boats

They sink into shadows

Masking features

so creatures can come to light

 

Monsters!

Scratch in the corners

Slink dim-lit corridors

He hides by day

Slips in and out of shadows

Blind eyes cast from passers-by

His green skin screams

so cloaks himself in blackness

and slinks with cats

 

They love monsters!

Shriek in dark theaters

Hold on, close those eyes

Screen rips

Horror spills into the isles

Automatic strobe touches skulls

Mothers weep – beg back fair

Mothers seek armor against modern demons

 

That monster!

Bat wings

silhouetting the new moon

Howling behind the treeline

Seducing angels in skirts of satin

Ancient form bent low

Insert the devil in long kiss

He lingers upon your lips

He tastes your scream

Breathes terror in deep

 

O Monster!

She weeps – but loves the drama

Ingenue, strapped to the tracks

He’s coming full force

He’s head-on

Knuckled hands hold her heart

It doesn’t float

She drowns in black waters

Screaming for her monster

Adonis

Adonis,

Your body is rendered of my adoration

My heavy exhalations crest the waves of your golden hair

The bubbling spring of my eyes

rest upon the earthy shore of yours

and the flutter of my lashes weighs your heavy lids

My passions hollow the curve of your spine

My hands carve the classical sculpture of your muscles

I kiss creation of space between pronounced bone structures

risen from my fingers

Skin slipped upon them by the heat of my palms

My breasts build your beautiful hands

My nipples erect the temples of your fingertips

to be their place of worship

My sense of smell stole your scent from star-crossed past-lives

and laid it upon you for my olfactory satisfaction

Sweet life breathed into your God-like form

from whispers that caress your gentle heart

and paint the smile of your soft lips

 

Adonis,

You sleep, angelic

Face softened by our intimacy

All signs of furrow erased from your brow

in a single shudder

Your chest rises and falls

to the rhythm of my unfaultering love

While I float in a turbulent lucidity

on the tide of your sacred heartbeat

I daydream myself a Myrrh tree

Bark, like ribs, cracked open

and you tumble from my trunk

Your callow, dewy uncover

lying peaceful beneath my watch

While I stand tall, filleted

Raw barrenness and palpable unrest

 

Adonis,

How I long to be your Aphrodite

and steal your love away, covet your beauty

and make you my own precious possession

But my desire disturbs your concession

My frantic arms have no strength to hold you

My porcelain skin shatters under the weight of imagined rejection

Your unattended lips smolder

and will seek heat from other sources

While mine purse in anticipation

 

Adonis,

Born of my love, or lust

or impatience to feel totality

My eyes paint you picture perfect in memory

while I view this moment through splintered window pane

You are a statue in my Eden

not an angel in my bed

And I am not the myrrh that grows beside you

I am the boar

Tusks sharpened from a lifetime of disappointment

I impale our virgin rapture

and weep at its abortion

 

No, Adonis!

This is not our tragedy

Wake me from this daydream

Take me in your tender arms

I will lie beside you, peacefully

I will thank the Gods for the present

and live in it, fully

I will relinquish the past to lesson

Behold the future when it is now

I will nurture my devotion

And, together, we could bring about

the rebirth of our broken hearts

The Social Construction of Gender

The articles I have read and video I watched this week have left me wondering:

Who are we without the gender roles that we enact?

It is obvious how strongly society influences our perception of and participation in gender (e.g., the socially constructed ideals of femininity and masculinity). Society seems to dictate and evaluate what is and is not the correct performance of gender. The social structure of gender relations, or our gender regime (see Williams, 2002), interacts with other systems of inequality (such as class, race and ethnicity) to create an inhospitable environment for those who try to depart from this ideology. These regimes can be rather difficult for anyone who is not a part of the hegemonic gender (which varies throughout different social arenas) to navigate. I want consider how gender regimes play out in various social locations and how these social rules influence how we “do” gender.

How much of who we are is unconsciously shaped by gender ideologies?

Starting from adolescence, young girls begin to adopt an adult feminine identity; they conceive of a gendered self. Susan Williams (2002) calls this “trying on gender.” This concept “captures one interval of gendering: the experimentation and tentativeness that occurs at the critical transition from girl to woman” and is a “segment or phase of the more general doing-gender process” (Williams, 2002). This process of trying on gender can be uncomfortable at times, as it seems girls in our society are innately aware of the “othering” that occurs to them due to the hegemonic masculine “superstructure of domination” (see Schippers, 2007), even if unable to articulate it. They are also innately aware of the feminine ideal that this “superstructure” dictates. To quote Laura Hamilton (2007): “Given women’s subordinate position, much of what makes a woman traditionally feminine is her ability to desire and attract a man.”

This ‘trying on’ of gender happens within a “community of practice,” where learning is situated in a social context (see Paechter, 2003). As Carrie Paechter (2003) puts it, “…our experience of our identity is deeply bound up with our experience of our being in the world. Identity is thus understood through the practices with which we engage.” Boys and girls are learning to be men and women, and thus leaning to be full participants in their masculine and feminine communities of practice.They may “try an attitude on for size, much the way a little girl tries on her mother’s high-heeled shoes” (Williams, 2002), and then set it aside. But, little by little, children begin to take on society’s standards of femininity and masculinity, whether simply internalized or actually preformed. This process is further complicated by the fact that we live in a time and place in which it is possible to define yourself through your sexuality and sexual preferences. People in today’s society are afforded the option of trying on multiple sexualities and even genders, a luxury that was not available up until the last century  and is only recently becoming widely recognized, tolerated and even celebrated in some spaces of society.

Regardless of these changes, the feminine/masculine ideals (as dictated by the hegemonic masculine) are still pervasive – to the point that they can be found in scientific literature describing reproductive biology. As defined by Emily Martin (1991), “…culture shapes how biological scientists describe what they discover about the natural world.” And, because there are roles and story lines already written out for the male and female characters of the world to enact (and we have all internalized these characters), even the most objective observers (eg. scientists) are looking at all interactions through the lens of masculine hegemony. In the case of biological science, many texts are full of language noting “how ‘femininely’ the egg behaves and how ‘masculinely’ the sperm” (Martin, 1991), as if our very gametes know there place in society. While it has been continually disproven that the sperm take the active role (ie. valiant knight in shining armor) and the egg takes the passive role (ie. the maiden waiting to be saved by said knight), most people still adhere to this narrative, because those who do not pay a high (social) cost.

Oh I know what y’all really want is some gross, caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you for letting a man do that – or any man that does that!”

-Michael Dorsey as Dorothy (Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, 1982)

Not only is there a social cost to not fitting your role, there is incentive to do so. Laura Hamilton (2007) notes, “…femininities that conform to heteronormative ideals of feminine charm and beauty can operate as a form of embodied social capital.” In an inegalitarian society, those who are not in the hegemonic class adopt “gender strategies” to help them navigate the social terrain (Hamilton, 2007). However, social capital is not doled out equally upon birth. Rather, it is dependent largely on your position (in social class) and the form you embody. To illustrate this: a young, upper-class, white woman who is tanned, skinny and has large breasts is likely to have a lot of social capital in our heterosexual-white-male dominated society. Unfortunately, this describes only a tiny segment of women. It’s no wonder that for girls “[adolescence] is a time of stress, depression, and a drop in self-esteem” (Williams, 2002). By high school, girls are keenly aware of there place within this social hierarchy, and by college have an understanding of their net worth in the (erotic) market – enough to trade on it. In social arenas, such as the college campus, many women find it useful to adopt gender strategies that alienate those with lower social capital (such as lesbians or women of other ethnicities) who may “contaminate” them via association (Hamilton, 2007). This underscores that there is a hegemonic femininity that interacts with other systems of inequality.

The importance that most women placed on men’s erotic interest translated into a clear hierarchy among them.”

– Laura Hamilton (2007)

So, what do we look like without all of these pressures to fit the norm?

Unfortunately, we do not inhabit an egalitarian society. I know I feel the squeeze daily to perform my femininity. I can recognize many times in my life when I have cashed in on my social capital. Though now, in my thirties and with two children, I definitely feel the decline in my value. It is a sad state of affairs that so many people (male, female, or other) feel so much pressure to fit some prescribed ideal that we are literally killing ourselves. As Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) said in Tootsie (1982), “I don’t know how a woman can keep herself attractive and not starve these days.”

 

Waiting. Always waiting.

Waiting.

Always waiting.

Writing scripts that never make it to the stage.

Writing love poetry to ghosts that haunt my heart.

Writing songs I can’t sing.

Waiting.

Waiting for a train

or a bus

or a ride from someone with an honest smile.

Waiting for my term to be up.

Waiting in the dark.

Weird dreams pick at the corners of my mind.

Waking with a wired jaw – tired

wrenched tight.

Why am I still waiting for my turn to speak?

I’m waiting.

Wind that big car up my drive.

Write an email to say goodbye.

I’m waiting for a good bye.

Waiting.

Without an umbrella in the rain.

Wade through puddles.

Waves lap my thighs.

Wait –

when is high tide?

Where’s the moon?

and why isn’t anyone else waiting for

The End.

Instructions for Operating Heavy Machinery

step into my skin

where you can feel

velvet red lips trace contours

throat, collarbone, shoulder, breast

feel whispers of kisses on nipples

the tightening of my back

as it arcs to accept your blessings

 

step into my skin

so you can feel the tickle

the sting

half-wet tresses

whipped against bare belly

earthquake of gasps and giggles

my body writhing beneath you

 

lie inside of me

cradle the weight

of granite sculpted muscles

taut against supple curves

the weight of your smooth thigh

deep between my soft, parted legs

 

reach into my hands

grappling

perfection slipping beneath them

stretch down to my fingernails

etching passion into your back

 

if only you could be my breath

hard, quick, torn from my lungs

hips that ride

the tiny movements of your tongue

toes as they curl

muscles taut-to-snapping

heart thrashing mad

head thrown back

 

live in me

know the desperation of my climax

know why I am rendered into fits

gasping, unable to speak

utterly near to death

every time

you push me

to the peak

flush

ripe

tumbling over the edge

 

 

live in me

be my mouth

taste your nectar

when it’s my turn

to bring you home

If I tell you the secret

If I tell you the secret

Open my chest and show you the raw inside

Invite you in, withholding nothing

Serving myself, let you eat from my hands

 

If I can tell you with my eyes wide open

staring straight into yours

earthy browns that keeps me grounded

lest I float off on my daydream

or my body break apart in trembles

Molecules of me jumping away

 

If I am brave enough to place

the treasure-pieces of me in your care

Surrender to your tender arms my begging body

hoping it will teach them to hold tight

 

If I give you the pages of my unwritten fairy tale

Fill quills with liquid-gold

Learn to write with you a language

we will both understand

 

If I am asking of you nothing in exchange

Knowing there is no currency precious

or rare enough to trade

Filling your pockets with trinkets

that I have collected on my way

in hopes they help

to weigh you for the fall

 

If I tell you from the edge

From feet that are sure

Tell you, you don’t have to catch me

I love to fly

If I tell you, “you’ll love flying”

If I give you my hand

and I look in your eyes

and I tell you all of my secrets

 

Will you jump?

Big Fish

say she moves with an unconscious swagger;

sexy only cuz she doesn’t know

her hips flow

like they need me between them

 

saay,

look at her walk in

she crosses the floor like

she’s drifting down a spring fed river

her hips lap the shore

as she spills her way into my lap

 

walks in with a sashay

unconscious sexy

d

r

i

bb

l

e

s

down her thighs

no heels to burden

her bare feet

her toes fall

one-at-a-time-on

the rug

 

she says “hey,

walk my way”

and there’s something b u b b l i n g in her eyes

pours hands like honey

down my spine

 

say there’s something sexy

in the way she moves

her fingers

without knowing

where   each

tip

will

land

mapping new trails

marking every spot that

quivers

inside

 

there’s gold there

 

she’s patient enough

to wait

for low

tide

8-3-1

It’s a kaleidoscope

Twist  Bang

and something sparkles

 

It’s a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle

each piece only fits each piece

 

It’s rubbing off old skin

and leaving it behind

so we can see each other in the light

 

It’s a road trip

It’s the quiet ride back home

after a long vacation

It’s only 10 more miles

 

It’s arms and legs

that can’t let go

Mornings that last

until you’re 2 minutes

too late

And it’s squirming in your seat

until the day is done

 

It’s a rainbow in your sprinkler

Shooting star

Keep your eyes wide open –

you only get so many wishes

 

It’s the biggest fish you can’t catch

 

And only ever-after

 

When you’re using your fingertips

to write the words

on sweat-wet slick skin

in the sunrise

 

It’s slow moving honey

Sweet and clinging

Saturating

 

It’s unwritten plays

waiting to be blocked in bed

 

It’s forgetting disappointments

ignoring warnings

and giving the finger to heartbreak

 

It’s the green light of Spring through the trees

The warm of Summer on your face

The first smell of Fall creeping in

It’s being curled up in a flannel blanket

in front of a bonfire

at a Winter solstice festival

 

It’s a gospel choir –

breaks your heart

in the high notes

 

It’s not you

It’s not me

It might be us

 

It’s a daydream you don’t dare call a plan

 

It’s on the tip of your tongue

 

It’s Scrabble

without a dictionary

and only 8 letters

3 words

and 1