from Rubatos Contiguous to a Mitochondrial Eve: a Memoir in Musical Fictions
As a Mormon person I was not allowed to date until the age of sixteen. There were many “appropriate” suitors, all of them (of course) male, and each of them had particular ways of making themselves known to me as something special: that bunch of flowers, that piece of lingerie (which was totally “inappropriate” for him to be giving me by Mormon standards), sitting with our backs to a waterfall and talking about childhood molestation, wading with me in the dirty river. There were also many women who sought me erotically, sliding into my psyche (but not yet into my body).
In my family there was an intense interactive socialization called SPOF (Secret Power of Femininity). In regard to SPOF there were clear-boundaried do’s and don’ts based on birth sex. There was also an orthodoxy in regard to gender matching with birth sex. “There are ways to interact with men so that you get a husband.” It was talked about like a science experiment. “If you do this or this a man will respond like this.” This was the secondary dogma to fill in what gaps the Mormon dogma left.
Let’s just say I was experimental; I used SPOF on both girls and guys. My early intuitions about the intimations of real touch and real desire outdid (as feelings in me) the agency that the Mormon Church took away from its members in regard to eros. My own sense about sensuousness with others is also what exceeded the socialized strictures regarding SPOF.
In high school many people (male and female) wanted to fuck me. It is not narcissistic to say this because it pained me so that I could not let that happen: the many or the fucking. High school was a time of unresolved arousals, a time of self-induced solitude and a sense of identity-disparateness. I would often sit in my traditionally femme clothes in the middle of the field alone, perimeter to everything else that was going on. I would get grass stains on my clothes as I ate pickles and mustard (which I had stolen from the cafeteria) with my fingers.
Marie Osmond Dolls
“Make the dream a part of your reality by collecting a keepsake doll from her signature line.”
Isn’t it fitting that Marie Osmond created her own doll line? In my family and my childhood home SPOF was always directly linked (as a logic) with traditional notions of femininity. Whole resource centers dedicate their doll collections to Marie Osmond’s dolls: long hair, pink dresses, thin, Nutri-system approved waists. Traditional femininity is not an unconditional resource to count on! It does not always apply. Take the little feminine doll’s porcelain hand in your hand. Feel how the porcelain remains cold even when you hold it. See how the porcelain hand shatters in your hand as you squeeze it. What is there to do with all of the shards?
Early on in my life I imagined a figurine that would stay with me for as long as I was growing. It would hold me for as long as I needed as the changes in me took place. When you grip this part of me with all of your might, I guarantee you that I will not shatter. I am not founded entirely off of traditional femininity.
I imagined that the only unconditionally applicable figurine would have to be a monstrous one with ganglions emerging, meant to strengthen the fellaheen of variances: conglomerate nerves to enable the alteration of molecules in the neural cavities and caves. Monstrous parts can be dependent on other monstrous parts. The Venus of Willendorf is rusting; her belly curves are interminably demanding as she deems me an endearing aspect of her powerful folds. In place of a Marie Osmond doll’s synthetic hair I stroke the hollow square that my figurine has for a head, the non-Nutri-system belly for good luck.
Americorps or Is It Possible to Make American Moments Miraculous One Male Body at a Time?
We had technically created the program ourselves, built it from scratch. Tired of there being no cushion for male teens whom the judge had ruled to serve jail time, our program was accepted by Americorps as a place where recreational rehabilitation (pre jail time) was possible. We built many aspects of rehabilitation into the program: study and essay writing at the library (in regard to the teens’ preferred subjects, what they could not write about at school), relaxation and processing about their fears as well as their identities and senses of self, calling local businesses that might be in need of some volunteers (e.g.: The Humane Society), offering things (from what they perceived to be their talents) to the group.
When we were picking up trash around the city on that hot summer day, one of the teens saw it flopping and tipping over at the base of a dignified and gallant palm tree: small bird having fallen from its nest. As we neared, the sounds of its tiny chirps could be detected. This little bird was so frantic. We stopped near the bird as one of the kids suggested that we try to nurse it back to health as part of our program; we would all commit to rehabilitation of this baby bird!
At the library, we had all just recently been reading about how some mother species kick the young out of the den or nest, how some mothers will no longer interact with their offspring if it has fallen (or been pushed) from the nest. Some of them (whose mothers were addicts) really identified with the pushed-out birds.
One of the most rebellious guys in the group sprinted back to the facility and got a small coffee can that he had filled with toilet paper. He had the idea that if there was enough padding, the bird might not have to feel like it had fallen so far from home.
Later that afternoon when the bird died in the warm light of the facility room, I wondered on whether or not I should move the sweet bird’s body from view before these teens saw it. Would seeing that their small bird had died help them see in a more clear-headed way that they could work hard to not let themselves die in the jail system, or would it break them?
In the void there is no sneezing, no pain, no angst, no consideration, no writhing and squawking as your little body breaks down at the base of the tree or in the hallucination-inducing light of an Americorps facility room. But, there are also no elations, no knowing the way your body softened just a bit as the presence of those big teen-guy eyes slid over your sweet, still-developing feathers. Do you think the fallen bird was nourished by their tough fussing (so gently over it)? Do you think the little bird saw a different, possibly more real mother in the stronghold of their gaze?
As I buried the bird out back, I wished I could reach into the stars like my mother often reached into the ground meat that she used for making meatloaf. I wanted to turn this moment of their loss of the bird into something else, something that could stay with them as a way to keep them tender. I wanted to provide nurture in the crumbling house.
In a prison somewhere, a man who was once a teenager clutches a framed portrait of a young man who is desperately clutching an unframed photograph of a tiny wriggling baby bird. He is doing this as a way to save himself, realizing so many years later that that is actually what he wants.
My Body Becoming My Own Cave
I began to go to the hydrothermal caves obsessively. I recall being in those caves, their steaming mineral-rich waters and the dark above them, and feeling a relationship with my chest as breasts only when I was in the caves. I was testing the body as a way to taste it in fire, as fire. I was being erotically met by caves: visited by figures that had me as the centrality of their vision.
As soon as I emerged from the underground caves I instantly needed to bind, wrapping the ace bandages tight around my chest: as tight as someone gripping my wrists as a way of keeping me there, in that moment. My breasts were becoming private subjects to me, no longer up for or inviting public arousal or public scrutiny.
My new embodiment put me very close to the vivaciousness of Rocky Mountain winters, snow falling on the bare skin of my shaved head. I always salted my fruit during these winters; I would often walk around outside at night singing somber songs, holding burning candles and letting the wax of the candles drip down over my hands. I hoped I would somehow be incised from the encasement (a space of such full grief and lacking with my lover at that time) by my future Beloved.
As a child I fought to go to boy scouts. Though she socialized me intensely (in my teenage years) in regard to how to be the ideal woman, my mother did not seem to mind my going with my father (who was scout master) and the other boys and men out into the woods. I am sure she was relieved to have me “out of her hair.”
While in the woods I was a distracted little nymph, hiding, eating bark, plunging my hands in the icy winter mountain water, dry-humping trees. Due to the fact that I was always seemingly running off, I missed the skill-set of igloo building. This meant that much later in my life, if I were ever to get caught in a blizzard in Colorado (even though I had been a pseudo-scout) I would be shit-outta-luck and would probably freeze to death while expanding and elongating the duration of my swagger as I meandered, singing, from unknown location to unknowable location.
During the first Colorado blizzard (which I came to learn was very different than “simply snowing”), it was as if an inverse-agoraphobia ensued. I was slurped out into the pounding coarseness, watched as the trees and interiorly-lit houses were swallowed up in a matter of minutes. If you live by beauty, you don’t have to do much work to be able to tell that beauty, because beauty has already done the work for you.
When making my way along the streets at night (very slowly because I could not really see with my eyes), the only color appeared as clumps or wrapped dreadlocks of hair. Is this what happened to all forms when the power of this kind of natural whiteness came in? I remembered all the caucus work I had done regarding white privilege during college. I knew that there were some forms of dominating whiteness that were inborn to the planet and some that were just not.
Would the roots and gnarls of trees continue to flood my view, catch me and suspend me during every blizzard to ever follow? Would the relationship of natural whiteness to the knobby pelts (which were rising up from it) make me see wild dreadlocked beards with fobs flouncing ever so slightly within them? Sometimes the only cure for something such as mystical eros in action is to admit it is your curse. Sometimes there are crowds in a clout.
As I engaged this wandering rite with no eyes, I was learning to never overlook any increment within a passage, within crossing. Are hours spent another form of weather? Even the smallest increment has aspects within it that are worth aggrandizing. Keep the target feral, exaggerate the feeling of the grate, and then exaggerate the gate. We are meant to find ways to exacerbate our own heartbeat. Our commitments can give us a new and then a newer center.
Priest/ess of Hermaphroditus
It is possible to practice as a Priest/ess of Hermaphroditus. There is the double-sexed-ness, the intense and indelible swelling of effeminacy (which calls strong female nymphs to you as their next pool). Blessing bridges and blessing brides, the body is a blaze, an entangling range, a flood of filial in the filigree; the body is the fertile field which will bloom all needed shields. It is always vulnerable to choose transition over tradition. I turn the gramophone toward me and the intensity of the music increases because my position has changed; this happens without anything about the music having actually changed.
It was dangerous (not to mention illegal) for me to sneak onto the non-denominational temple property and wiggle my way below the temple. To do so required that I find the artificial rock amid earthen stones (the rock in which the key was hidden), then unlock the lock on the small door in the dark. I had heard rumor that there was a cave below the temple (what the temple members call “the kiva”) and I desperately needed a blessed location in which to attempt to birth myself alone, through Hermaphroditus’ image.
Crouching within the cave/kiva, I left the hair that I had pulled out; I left my menstrual clots which were running out of my bare squat. Imbued elements covered the sandy base, joined with the rhythm that was coming up in smooth thuds from below the kiva floor. I hoped that later when they squatted on it, the footprints of unknowing priestesses would be marked from below by my blood and hair.
This moment was the divine feminine entering me as bodily force. I was becoming shapely again: a sandy hour, an hourglass with no sand in it, an hourglass with only hair as its inner contents. Hair is journey: a way to travel and what is traveled. Make yourself aware of all of the lost strands that when you flip the hourglass flip with it, move with you, and remain vigilant that they never pressure you by traditional time. Lost hairs stay with you as you transform.
By being here privately in this way I was not violating my future coven. I was not a man violating women’s space. I was an era-based derivative of the Greek God of effeminates, a fractal-fragment shared between many Erotes. This was indelible evolution from divine masculine into something capable of being a powerful, human woman. It is important to note that as I remained there, below, I quoted quat (on all fours) until squares were made round, until I noticed that the smell of my own sweat had become a differential.
j/j hastain is the author of several cross-genre books including long past the presence of common (Say it with Stones Press), trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press) and The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil). j/j has poetry, prose, reviews, articles, mini-essays and mixed genre work published in many places on line and in print. j/j has been a guest lecturer at Naropa University and University of Colorado.