I am excavating – rummaging through – piecing together memories. Exploring the random bridges between them that put me often in the wrong body in the wrong place for it all to make sense.
And I “think through” the logical narrative, which only borrows from the stories I have been told. And they never line up neatly at the seams.
I had a title for my new project, but today on Twitter, I see someone has just published a book of visual poetry with an almost identical name. So much for that bit of “clever”.
I tell myself that first thought is rarely best thought so to move on from what no doubt I saw, but didn’t register seeing, what floated into my head like an original idea. When there are no original ideas. Nothing is original.
There is a thing called microchimerism. A few years back I read an article about how the DNA of every man who’d ejaculated in a woman’s vagina would remain in her body forever. This is terrifying. Which is no doubt why someone thought it up and passed it on. But it’s not true. Not that part. I figure the person who drew this conclusion from the research had a teenage daughter they were trying to control, unconsciously or not. I know that’s not fair. Maybe unkind. But it is plausible from a historical perspective. Women as mythical creatures, taking on the sins of their lovers – or rapists via their mysterious wombs. Transferring sins via their cursed wombs. I feel like I should write curs èd. Biblical.
When I am feeling very unkind, I think someone would like this to be true. That way no control would ever really be lost. No woman could ever shake it off and move on. It would be in her blood. Her DNA. And if there is something there that amounts to a soul.
And the truth is microchimerism exists, DNA fragments like the ghosts of metabolized twins, of born and unborn children, in the mother’s blood. Blood transfusions can permanently introduce DNA to a body. I had a transfusion in the late 80s. Yet another stranger lives in my cells.
I don’t know why this idea sticks with me right now. Like it is important or relevant to the poetry I am working on. I think it has to do with all the family who make up my family who were never family. Fathers who aren’t. Grandfathers who aren’t. How my grandmother’s husbands all seem to figure into the story – so my story – though only one of them – presumably – tracks through my blood. Which one? I don’t know. I can’t get the sections of the stories to align.
What if there is something besides DNA that sticks? Something that we can’t measure that is passed down through gestures or incidental incantations that work like magic only because we can’t/don’t see them. A different kind of contagion. Words. Movements. The quality of a touch. Things for which we have no words.
What if my grandmother’s response to someone’s breath, someone’s breathing in her bed night after night, has lived in my cells without our knowing. What if generational trauma is not the events we recount or hint at in awkward moments of half-confessions. And what if we consider the gestures, the incantations not as flaws but as contrasting colors, we can see a wholeness the world doesn’t want us to see?
I am not broken. Nor am I exceptional for not being so. The paradigm for what “should be” is a weapon to judge anyone who speaks the truth. Hypocrisy isn’t evil. It is a pair of comfortable blinders. Ear plugs. Stops up the senses to anything outside of the story we want to tell ourselves. Will you martyr yourself in the breaching of that clean, thin narrative? To set yourself outside the social norms: if you are not a trespasser, you are the trespassed territory, the sullied, the ruined, the broken one.
You have a duty to be that so that the paradigm will be true. So if you are okay? Untrampled, unsulled? You’re a liar.
I am not a liar.
Someone already wrote what I’m thinking. At a speech competition once in high school, I heard a girl reciting a monologue about her mother’s love being a gun to her head. “I won’t be nuts for you!” That’s all I needed to know what it was about.
I was surprised to learn that Nuts was written by a man. Tom Topor. I had my own blinders on then: I’m not surprised now. We sometimes only concern ourselves with destroying the paradigm’s restraints that pinch us personally.
Although… Sometimes it is nice to have a excuse to mask our real flaws.
I’m going to try not to do that.