It's Good To try Every day
By Holley Blackwell
Holley Blackwell is coming out as vulnerably intellectual/"lesbian"/powerful as you read this sentence.
Writing asks the questions: Who can we be and where can we go? And then writing starts taking us there, and before we know it we're inside our own waking dream. And we can continue down this path — like the path that brought me to you and you to me and the path that takes us away, always entering and always departing as voices listening or responding. Paradoxically, through writing, it is the quiet that I crave — to put an end to the noises around me and to put an end to my own public voice leaving my mouth, to introvert.
I've never fully known how to be expressed within the written word, but I will try again now; it's good to try every day. And I might be fooling myself but am at peace with fluidity and echo chambers. I think that I have always striven for authenticity in a written voice, to find an authentic way because of the way that I interpret reality through prismatic fields of subtexts — the words themselves, resting on their own troubled landscape and powerful enough to travel at light speed. I have wanted my hands inside of things. I have wanted my heart inside of things. The physical adventures that I've been on are rad, and the commitment writing can provide is a similar, beyond-physical thrill laced with itinerary.
I admire production that can land well and be consumed post-commerce. I am thinking of the space that exists after the purchase has been made and the item finds a context not defined by buying-selling. I need access to artistic and intellectual minds in order to make sense of the word, and we need space to experiment with our versions of reality: This is for me the space of writing. Art is the channel of expression that allows me to trust that all is not part of the illusion of intoxicating capitalism (always already being located against multiple defining ideologies/praxes) but more the illusions of which the psychoanalysts and Buddhists speak, and I'm at peace with that and am inspired energetically. I wonder if the ironic conceit of the consumption of art in our time is that it frees an individual from the oppression of being sold something (just fed something)?
When we have been stuccoed onto layers of semi-conscious rock — the rock of limited analysis — for a substantial period of time, it is difficult to separate ourselves from our structure, and probably not best to isolate once the bonding begins to come apart. So I come out as "lesbian" at 39. What does that feel like and what does it mean, particularly in this moment when we know that gender is a construct? Do I need to announce my sexuality, caught up in gender, when I'm saying that I'm choosing analysis over "him," over "us"? And is it an act of violence to state your opposition while simultaneously stating your preference? There is no fanfare, no parade, no clubbing, no sudden flag rainbows adorning my space (maybe I'm doing it wrong!). It feels like someone else's fight — a younger me that got shut down. But still I arrive vulnerably, hoping that writing is the key that can unlock the doors I want opened — because complicating my gender/relationships/sexuality sure ain't unlocking too many.
The experiences of queerness, inquisitiveness, and brokenness have been changing my life over the past many weeks. I have been getting to know myself apart from certain narratives and inside of new ones: Self-actualization is super strange, the weight of painful skin-shedding, parts of my body that I don't want to lose but must, walking through a house of mirrors, relying on faith that this matters and that it matters enough.
We can't sit around and make this life up and then rationalize it; we aren't creating everything. We just write it down the best we can. Living will cause life to happen with us. I have learned my life. Some of us have to do that. I hold fast to the cultural and community admissions that I receive, knowing that the pegs only work to shuffle me down the vertical edge of the board, unable to secure my station but hosting the static energy that moves my wandering star toward an understanding of your oppressions. And then my fascination takes over and something else needs to be done.
I know that I need to come out. And I know that claiming that I cannot find the words is no longer good enough — because there are words.
This is my tiny manifesto: that I exist within the wildness and power of us, and that we exist within the wildness and power of our own acts and imaginations.
Pain desires pain because they are acquaintances.
I'd like other introductions.
I really have to write when the going gets tough. Writing becomes a plea, a bargaining. And I really have to write when I want to get to someone, to have them hear me, to bring them along to a place they've rarely been or have not visited in some time. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to be one of me among them, and that is the inspiration for my own writing. Writing is a measure of my small part contributed among all others — a true and direct self-expression, temporarily joyful, female voice, interlocutor, genderless voice.
When I did not have a voice as a young person, it was art that constituted the world for me.
Letter writing was the genesis of my writing interests. Letters written as early as kindergarten in pictograph form were a strong mode of communication that could keep the meaning accessible and hidden. And by this I am referring to the language of drawings between me and my twin sister, who secured a lingual voice for me, for us both. I hear that it is common in identical twin relationships for there to be, especially during the younger, formative years, a dominant twin and a more recessive twin, and this was clearly the case for Heather and me: she being vocal, direct, and one to take action, and me being differently communicative.
I still value and test for proper pens and paper: I visually scout desks and work areas for them. I appreciate writing on some piece of scratch that is find lying around, quotes written on it, passing it along to someone. Giving someone a handwritten note on scratch or notebook paper, in my world, means that you really fucking care, that you care with that kernel of youthful desire to give and connect.
Do we get shaped? Yeah, I guess we get shaped — by spirit and psychology and environment, by culture, country, color. In my life, the shaping has been sometimes enforced by certain trauma or distressing variances, so it has made much sense for me to seek another way to be shaped, a way that I can control or get lost in. In art, in writing, I find the respite that I need to create a vision of alternative life.
There is a profound relationship between radicalization and liberation. Some of us need some of both. Some of us go too far. If you go too far then know about it and admit it and do something more sweet. Be sweet sometimes. That is my advice.
Truthfully, I am an artist-bloodsucker. Pardon me: a lesbian artist-bloodsucker these days. I go to the artist that works; I want to get underneath what has been surfaced by their craft. A good producer knows how to relate to material around them, and I think that this is a great survival skill at its base and the fortitude of the spirito-intellectual mind at best. I want the finished piece, and I don't want it to be over.
In moments of self-doubt, here is how I build myself back up: God. Then the temporary negation of God. Then the negation of the negation and followed by an afterglow then followed by negation. Leaning unto my own understanding then asking for the input of my sister(s). Having a fight. Finding a book. Talking to other humans. Granting myself inefficiencies while searching for them … then getting some real sleep.
“If You Were Me You Wouldn’t”
They’re brandishing knives in the desert. Again. Three men out walking at night. Full moon above them. One of them pulls out his knife. To kill them dead. To be sawed in half on a magician’s stage looks different from the box. You wanted to come out here but I didn't. The western edge. At least we didn't go out walking, even though the light was strong.
If I go and look for happiness then it will be because it rained in the desert. Exciting, refreshing rain.
And now I know what it feels like to love you both. A body in half. A fracture of emotions, who cares?
Who was the other one present? When this song moved me to bits, fractured my emotions, on my bike at night, then who was the one that was the other side of the coin? You would not have been out there at night, not during this age, not when there were things to do at your table.
I remember the stoner rock that we used to share. That one time we took the road trip to Omaha for the wedding. We made use of our stoner rock then. Can you believe that they want to keep being stoned? They want it. They need it. They can’t live without it. But we could. And now look what's happened.
I don’t need the good times. Only the numb meditation of life itself. The numbness. The absence. The acquittal from happiness, from desire.
Why unplug from pride? Grief.
Don't take the next steps rationally. Take them by intuition, please. Because you would if you were broken; I stopped being fixed; being fixed is for cats who might impregnate, or pregnate.
They say that there is a sound that sounds from above us. A tone that surrounds us, always a pitch that greets and sustains us. This is the logos and we live inside it. And human drama — birth, death, grief, all of it, all of it, the travels, all of it the unions and the splits, the shifts, the poking around and the touring. The trying new things and the realizations and the skinned knee and the bike post between the legs (it hurts girls, too), the bones, the food, all of it, all of it. All of it, all of it, all of it is saved and staved and marked by time that we cannot perceive fully. They've been singing, the choir and they've been signing, the deaf. I worked a concession stand and made a few dollars for us. I sold hot dogs to people at the football game. I sold hot dogs and soda and candy. And the air was so crisp and even that even some of the people ordered hot cocoa this time. The things of dreams I try to feel them but can't remember them. When I ready for sleep I tell myself, "remember them this time," but I can't. I told myself with the light still on and the light off. I told myself with tea and before and after the last pee. But they are still trapped in there somewhere, in the bedsheets and other linens of The Bed. Decatur 7-2.
Holly is currently interested in life in transition, holds degrees in philosophy and German, makes digital quilts for a living (spreadsheets), and attempts to write daily. She comes from Mississippi and is a product of a beautiful, Black family. Holley has been an obituary writer, an elementary school educator, and a multi-hive beekeeper. She has spent countless phenomenal hours with other women as their labor doula, has managed a social enterprise for folks re-entering the world outside of penal incarceration, and has graced stages with a microphone. Holley is an identical twin to Heather, who resides in North Carolina with her twins. She is an avid solo and otherwise traveler but is not overly fond of people until she has spent time in their studios. To Art be the Glory. Her trip to Ethiopia to interface with communities affected by obstetric fistula remains at the top of her charts. She wants a caring world for autistic people. Finally, she hopes to marry a powerfully dynamic wife and to commit to all sorts of liberation from the "trashcans of ideology" from which we all eat (sic).
Publications: Clarion-Ledger Newspaper, Jackson, Mississippi; Another South: Experimental Writing in the South (University of Alabama Press); Fo(A)rm Magazine; and the many hard-copy journals in her closet.
Words: Holley Blackwell