Sunday, March 06, 2016


Totally misleading -- this post is about lesbians.

Since I’m already convicted of making a lot of lists (maybe too many), I’ll just add to the evidence.  My real crime is not taking the time to integrate this material into a composed essay, so forcing readers to make their own sense of the list.  Maybe I just have the feeling that this stuff belongs together somehow and want to come back to it later, in hopes that my abilities have increased or that some additional element has pulled it into order.  This effort is very much hindered by the computer’s program which tries to impose some sequence of a faraway technician half my age and probably not my gender.  (Sometimes I suspect not my species.)

1.  The agenda for today was supposed to be the chapter of “The Queer Child” by Kathryn Bond Stockton that is numbered “2” though it is actually the third, since the introduction amounts to a chapter.  The long title of the chapter is “Why the (Lesbian) Child Requires an Interval of Animal.  The Family Dog as a Time Machine." Reading it had the effect of walking through tall weeds with a lot of grasshoppers jumping — thoughts set off in every direction.

Paul Sparks playing "Tom Yates, the writer"

2.  I watched “House of Cards” marathon-style yesterday and was most interested in the daughter/mother/writer triangle that formed near the end.  I’d like to see that as a separate series, not necessarily with the same characters, though I really liked the portrayal of the writer as empathetic but  in charge of himself.

3.  My cousin and I disagreed.  She states as a fact that she tries but cannot manage computers.  I sent her one of my simple (for oldsters) coaching books, after encouraging her to buy her own, which she clearly was not going to do.  She immediately gave the book to her husband and sent me a check for the postage, feeling that both moves were generosities.  With my “hermeneutics of suspicion” background spotting “games people play” I see this as clear rejection.  She topped me. 

Her branch of the family labels me as brainy (which is another way of distancing me.  They applied the label many years before college which probably affected my choice of venue.) I think these ideas about who I am, which she considers praise, could not be more foreign or threatening to her.  And me.  My education has not been “brainy” — more like visceral.  But not informed enough for me to have read Stockton’s list of texts.

Lassie with hair on her chest

4.  The point of the Stockton chapter is that “inverts” (a less scary and image-evoking word than “lesbian”, a word that always made my mother snort like a horse) can cope with a stuck place in their lives — where there is no way to go forward, back or even sideways — by being a dog for a while.  Not Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin, a pet and guardian, and not a bitch, but a simple observant and reacting domestic animal, included but not consulted.  Usually this animal trope is about how much girls love horses, which is not-very-covertly sexual.  (It works for boys as well.)  But that is about relationship between quite different beings.  The idea of the dog is more about faithful intimacy with hints of mother/child.

Not wisteria.

Now the texts are the Thom Fitzgerald’s vid of “The Hanging Garden”; Djuna Barnes novel “Nightwood”; Virginia Woolffs “Mrs. Dalloway” both novel and vid; Radclyffe Hall’s “The Well of Loneliness”; a photography book by David Douglas Duncan, “Picasso and Lump: a Dachshund’s Odyssey”.  It is haunted by DeleuzeGuattari’s book “A Thousand Plateaus,” which suggests rhizomes as a strategy, about as sideways as one can go.  The writing in this chapter about these elements is inspired, vivid with metaphor gracefully expressed.

When intimacy is described publicly — I don’t mean sex but rather the kind of relationship that sometimes supports sex — it can upset people if it is outside convention.  (It upsets ME when it is IN convention.)  My family is easily upset because they find it unaccountable that I have not followed their script.  (They can’t even figure out what script it is, but neither can I. My script is no-script.  Maybe contra-script.)  

Flush and Elizabeth Barrett Browning

But I always suspect that the deficit, the loss, is in them rather than me.  Their background is immigration (Scots) and homesteading (South Dakota) in an Edwardian era. They happily read “Flush”, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s fond and sentimental poem about her dog, but they keep no pets.  (Except my mother, who is not really part of my father’s family and sometimes snorts like a horse at the thought of them, always wants a small dog and throughout our childhood kept one, though she insisted it was my brother’s.  When I was working at animal control, I had a little Jack Russell and since she had a key to my apartment, she often "dog-napped" him.) 

My own “plateau” has always been cats, though I’ve had plenty of other animals.  I do not inhabit my cats.  Maybe I ought to, but our relationship is rather strongly mother/child with permission for them to be feral, to live their own lives.  The Striped Terror is missing this morning.  I expect him to return stinking of tomcat.  If not, it’s still his life and death.  I feed, I shelter, but I do not control.  Nor inhabit.

The Striped Terror -- back just after lunch.

When I was an AC officer, I scraped up a garbage can’s full capacity of squashed cats every day.  One puts one hand in the plastic bag, grasps the rag-flesh through it, and everts the bag, hoping the mess will stay intact.  But to impound a living dog, one must take it in one’s arms and lift it into the truck, an embrace of relationship that the dog usually accepts.  I always felt it clearly, probably more than is wise or comfortable, esp. if the dog were badly hurt or soaking wet, as dogs often are in Portland, OR.  

The neighbors were always watching and their demand was that I make things “right”, get rid of damage and mess — but more than that — pain, because the idea of suffering is denied in our streets.  Even in our street children.  Most people want the feral eliminated.  Culture is control.  Minorities and inverts are just as hooked on control as anyone else.  But they have to make a convincing case for their suffering in order to be heard (or read).

I commend to you a poem by James Dickey called “The Sheep-Child” which was inspired by a pickled specimen in a lab that looked rather like a chimera created by mating a sheep and a human.  Dickey didn’t make it a joke, as is conventional, but a poem.   (Easy to find on the Internet.) 

“. . . In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human.  I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides,
Man and Beast in the round of their need,
And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
My hoof and my hand clasped each other . . .

If a child or a woman, stalling to get enough time to figure out what is keeping them on a plateau, assumes the guise of a canine, esp. when the source of the anomaly is physical (like desire or gender-identity), it seems to me a benign strategy easily accepted by a biological dog.  It is an expansion into new worlds rather than an acceptance of limits, even if it is done in situ.  

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