Ughhhhh this rain. #overit
BUT, it’s Friday. Which means Favorite Females Friday. Which is something that I’m starting. Kind of. #favoritefemalesfriday
This week I finished Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold, Fame, Citrus and I was so sad to see it end. It has been such a pleasant journey reading this book. CVW’s language is the type of gorgeous, sharp-eyed poeticism akin to Lauren Groff (who, you know, I also love). Just read this and tell me you’re not having a great time:
She chewed her root and watched his beautiful voice comet across the heaven of their dome. She lifted her hand before her face and made patient, shimmering contrails with her fingers. A little disappointed, for she wanted to give him all things there, in their tiny kaleidoscopic universe fixed in the center of the great big benevolent cartwheeling galaxy all around them. There was nothing she wouldn’t let go–the freedom of that–this was her thought when he asked her for something else.
I was reading a section aloud to my boyfriend when I came across this passage. He gave an admiring “Mmm,” and said, “Wait, read that again?” And I did. And we were both in awe. Amazing.
(I’ll have a full review soon, but let me just say that the last few lines killed me. Killed. Me.)
This week’s recommended reading on Electric Literature (if you don’t subscribe to Electric Literature, do it now) was a story by Helen Phillips called Dopplegangers. I loved this story. I am not a mother, nor am I around many, but I still felt every tortured, blissful moment of motherhood through Phillips words. The story begins,
The Queen always looked profound when she pooped. Her eyes solemn, as though regarding the void. That was why they had taken to calling her The Queen, even though she was only a month old. Also, the way she sat enthroned in her car seat in the over-packed car as they drove to the new town. And the regal purple stars on her blanket, beneath which her absurdly tiny legs jerked this way and that.
Throughout the story is the ever-present nausea of heat, which for some reason is a weather description I cling to (I think for its inherent added intensity).
The house felt small, small and hot. Mimosa could smell herself more strongly by the minute. Her body odor had intensified since The Queen’s birth. Sam had read somewhere that newborns can recognize only one person in the entire world, and the way they recognize that person is by scent alone. She wondered when her stink would begin to offend The Queen, or if The Queen liked it more as it grew stronger.
And then, there’s the women she sees. The ones who are eerily exactly like her. The ones with the same “hair wilting in the heat,” the same “bodies at the same stage of post-birth flab.”
My favorite passage comes near the middle of the story, when the protagonist, Mimosa, (“My mom’s favorite drink”) finds herself in company with the new mothers, her dopplegangers.
They were lounging on blankets in the park, the doppelgängers and their babies; the mothers were eating grapes, they were tossing grapes, they were laughing, their minds were loose and hazy, their babies had awoken them at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., and what could be more hilarious than that? Now the babies were crying, now pooping, now wanting milk, milk, milk, and out came the luminous breasts, and who wouldn’t want to place lips on breasts so full, and the mothers grinned at each other like a bunch of teenagers on the same high, and the heat wave painted an extra shimmer over it all, and the grapes were radiant in the grass and The Queen smiled her wide milky smile and motherhood (the doppelgängers agreed) was underrated, everything so dazzling, Mimosa had diamonds for eyes. A universe away from the grim dinner table in her quiet home, from the version of herself that had sat on a beat-up brown couch with Sam a decade back, both of them stock-still and united in secrecy when his ex-girlfriend entered the room; now it was she and The Queen who froze when he entered the room.
The story’s intensity remains consistent, with a wondering, satisfying end.
And, finally. This #FavoriteFemalesFriday (really trying to make it a thing, guys) would not be complete without Miss Queen Bee herself.
Beyonce’s Lemonade has been the only thing in my ears since it came out last week. It has spurred countless think pieces. Facebook is a buzz. But what really amazes me about the album is the poetry, which was adapted from British poet Warsan Shire. To hear Beyonce’s haunting voice state the lines that make it impossible for us to not dive into them to seek out facts (let us remember that artists often blend truth and fiction to create their art). The effect is incredibly compelling. Some of my favorite lines:
I tried to make a home out of you / but doors lead to trap doors / a stairway leads to nothing / unknown women wander the halls at night / Where do you go when you go quiet? / You remind me of my father / a magician / able to exist in two places at once / In the tradition of men in my blood / you come home at 3am / and lie to me / What are you hiding? / The past and the future merge / to meet us here / What luck / What a fucking curse.
From “Intuition” we move to “Denial” with Beyonce’s words coming out faster and sharper:
I tried to change / closed my mouth more / tried to be softer / prettier / less awake / fasted for sixty days / wore white / abstained from mirrors / abstained from sex / slowly did not speak another word / in that time my hair I grew past my ankles / I slept on a mat on the floor / I swallowed a sword / I levitated to the basement / confessed my sins and was baptized in a river / got on my knees and said ‘Amen’ / and said I mean / I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at your feet / I threw myself into a volcano / I drank the blood and drank the wine / I sat alone and begged and bent at the waist for God / I crossed myself and thought / I saw the devil / I grew thickened skin on my feet / I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the Holy Book / but still inside me coiled / deep was the need to know / Are you cheating on me?
Beyonce’s last line, “Are you cheating on me?” echoes while we see her submerged in water, her hair flowing all around.
Whether or not Beyonce is speaking from her own experience, the experience of all black women, or is just telling a really intense story, the feeling is the same as when I read any great poetry or fiction, or hear a great song, or view great art. It’s transformative. And we don’t need to look into it anymore than that. Thanks, Bey, for the feels.