Security & Territory I:
One of the ways in which nations, peoples, households, individuals secure themselves is through territory. Westward expansion, Stand Your Ground, the Soviet block, block parties, neighborhood watch, the high ground, walls, border patrol, wedding bands. This is the subprime myth of home ownership. Owning a home demonstrates fiscal accomplishment, maturity, competence, whatever, but it is also a literal territory. I own a lot, a yard, an acre, a basement, a garage, a fence, a living room, I put my stuff in it, I put my trust in it, I secure its borders literally with that fence, snow-shoveling, some pretty flowering shrub, etc. I secure its borders figuratively with insurance, with my partner’s name on the lease (that is, my husband, or more accurately, I secure my territory by adding my name to his on the lease because I am born into the very short spate of history during which women can own property). We become territorial. I think of this term more often since moving to the high western prairie. In our town, we have a site, the historical Territorial Prison. And this territory is sometimes snowbound, or wind-whipped, or covered in ice. It’s frontier territory, still, and not in the least secure.
I call this
Yeah, let’s meander off topic for a sec into the territory of territory!
I was listening to a show on the radio about Hawaii & one of the mentioned-in-passing-things was that there wasn’t a concept of land ownership prior to the invasion by missionaries&etc. This seems to have been true of other times/places. True about land and also true about some objects. Also true in some times and places about specific sites: *the commons* Territory is not inevitable. But not thinking in those terms makes you vulnerable!
This un-owning, sharing, commonality…these possibilities enchant and baffle me.
Zizek says something about how it is easy for us to imagine the end of the world but not the end of capitalism.
Greer: “Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life.”
oh, FUCK….in an insomniac-internet-link-trance last night I came across some troubling&henious things Greer said about transgendered women not being real women. She called them ghastly parodies. I don’t even actually know that much about her feminism, but the above quote landed so nicely into my security&territory-thinking lap. I still like it, maybe even more now with the almosttooideal irony of throwing it up medusa-mirror like to her own clenched up notions of gender. I don’t imagine some pure space, some post-gender world is ever going to be possible (I don’t even want that world – like those icky TERFs do!)….same with race, same with ability, same with economic-imbalances (oh, class!). I think some of our work (as experiencers & in solidarity) is to keep those conversations alive. keep them mutating, keep them surprising. keep them HAPPENING. Greer got glitterbombed in response to her violent language. She looks unsettled in the pictures.
She exists, I suppose, in the same sad world as Kraken: only two gendered bathrooms. at the high school reunion. Take your pick! The past is a trap we’re living through. I think of walking around the San Francisco City College campus with my friend and he says: man, at some point people really thought the future was made of concrete. ( It’s weird that I am SURE Mr. Zizek has said things I super disagree with but I feel more compelled to rush a crit of Greer. Is it because Z is in the pose of sad white clown buffoon? It is because G is feminist grandma? I’ve inherited her? I’m in her debt?)
I call the place where I live mine
I call the words I cobble into the world mine
I call this body mine
I have an illegible tattoo on my left ankle that is the word broccoli written by me and my friend with both our hands on the pen. Broccoli, because between us it means love. We’d been on mushrooms at a music festival. She wanted some of my food but was drug-nervous not having any left of her own to trade. & I said: I will give you broccoli and you give me love, and everything will be okay.
I am always looking for alternative economies. Trade. Share. Give away. Find new equivalences. Make exchanges that don’t balance according to the laws.
In the midst of all the worst of this year so many of my friends swore to me I would not be abandoned to the monsters of the economy. If I needed a home, I’d be homed. If I needed a job, the hustle-tree would shake until one was found. If I needed straight up cold cash, it was there. I have these privileges, these treasures.
I have spent so long on the fringes of the traditional economy, I do not have a cache of social security. I do not have a CV that can effortlessly land me some financial safekeeping. But I have this amorphous and imperfect and difficult to define thing instead; a community. Which is also a lattice, which is also a safety net.
The broccoli tattoo is a talisman of sorts, proof of one piece of the pact. A promise & a prompt.
What happens if we don’t territory?!
But when I moved out of the last share house, I packed up all the things that were MINE and took them with me.
more on all this lata!
I LOVE YOU
(& pain is so weird)
[Having set the alarms
Having set the alarms, having set the tripwires, having met each blemish with repulsion,
having weaponized smug, having chosen a clear line of sight, having installed a spotlight to
swivel with intelligence toward each player as the blade approached his throat bade there by
his own hand, having steeled myself, having sinned but rarely in my own heart, having kept
my quarters pin, having stumbled upon the cure for a disease no longer communicable,
having taken the train granted one too many times north, having hidden my expression upon
hanging up, having a loping stride on the best of days that have yet to arrive, having a skin of
down and feathered scum, cum caught in my fur, the witch beyond her apex, having caught
a burr in my teeth the only way to still my tongue, having heard myself called darling love
fuckhole and turned my head in recognition matching act to action to sigh, having wondered
if I should make the mistake myself or would it just incur a second blunder, having typed a
name only backward and then written it same and then in desperation tried to fit my mouth
around it around the base of a rose-pink ceremonial candle like a bear in the circus like a bar
in the forest who seeks out his daughters-wives to tend his wounds but in play as though he
were sonhusbandbrother and find perhaps they were one day tending him his hide like he
were one though he could not say so.
Hey dearest Rgun,
Like your abundance of viscous love, I’ve got an abundance of optimism. It’s like a parasite, really. I know how bad the world is, I don’t shy from its violence or disparity. When I teach an intro to gender studies class, I feel myself the harbinger of doom. I dispel happy ill-wrought notions of equality, merit-based reward, functional systems of governance. Still, I always ask them everyone close your eyes. Raise your hand if you believe in true love. And everyone raises his/her/hir hand. Nearly everyone. It astounds me. I don’t know what *true love* is. We can talk about that later. But I do know what optimism is. And in me it abounds. It’s a tough, shining thread that runs through my whole person. I say, I’m a macabre Pollyanna. I believe in hard work, I believe in making the impossible possible. And this is what drives me into every new enterprise, including those in which I forge deep connections with new people. B says I’m an inverse Zizek. I hate humanity in general, but I have a great deal of compassion and affection for its specific members. I went to New School for my MFA, and there at that time we were very devoted to the New York School. More than one professor waxed lyrical about Frank O’Hara’s magnetism. He made a person feel like they were the most important. The only one in the room! When I’m talking to someone compelling, the rest of the world drops away. I think: I could talk to you forever! I’m notorious for making people late to their next engagements. & this is what appeals to me about polyamory. The multiplicity in my heart! I think of the way I love my children: both of them, extraordinary deep gratifying eddying love. My love for one only bolsters my love for the other. And this is true of my love for my friends. So why wouldn’t this be true for my love of my lovers? Says my optimism. Oh, does my optimism get me in a fix. My optimism says I can show the patriarchy its face in my shield and like Medusa, poof, stone. My optimism says, fuck that! I am the gorgon. I’m snake-haired, immortal, and savvy to your silly smoke and mirrors. My optimism says: MORE. Work more love more give more. My optimism suggests my resources are sustainable and my capacity inexhaustible. I was going to talk about betrayal today, but I think I must first establish who and what gets betrayed.
I think I too have been a love-slut. This is 1. why I’ve had so few lovers. Under a dozen. Because I won’t fuckforpleasurealone. I will only fuckforlove. Until recently. I was such a hardcore breeder, I think I mostly wanted the babies. In Macular Hole Cathy Wagner writes “I was fucked for.” And this is so. I fuckedforbabies. Which is a way of solving my love-slut conundrum because I came to a point where I realized that no adult love would ever compensate for the gaping. Instead of trying to fill or knit the gaping, I love my children and sit in their debt, having cursed them with existence, and that really distracts me from the gaping. It’s more important. But then the children grow from exhausting romantic badgers into humans with their own agendas and the gaping starts to pulse. I wanted love. Once, Lover X said to me, it’s not the love, but the act of loving we’re addicted to. I refused. It’s me, you love me, and I love you, and etc. But later, after Lover X proved not very brave nor very expansive, after he committed a cruelty and had no recuperative faculties, I thought oh, maybe it was. And maybe my addiction to the exchange of love has got me into this fix. Needing a fix.
After a fifteen year marriage, my friend falls in love with someone new, and I say why would you do that? Why would you want to feel those feelings? Love-slut. Love-ghoul. In Chicago, at a fancy keynote reading, an official fella sat on stage with Alice Notley and asked her… something along the lines of “with your ghouls, are you attempting to reframe historical atrocities?” Pointedly, Notley responded “my ghouls eat blood sacks.”
I’m a love-ghoul. I answer the question I want to answer. I’m a haunter of loves down the drain, and a sack-sucker (read that every way!), and a sad sack. I’m lucky to have through illness and an ungentle childhood have created this impressive field of NO that extends in a several foot radius beyond my body. Without my field of NO, I would be a gaping love-slut, rushing headlong into any pair of arms. Instead, I love-ghoul. I stalk the edges of love. If left alone in a room with love, starved, I empty its blood sacks.
I’m not a breeder any longer. Health. Money. The limits of our family’s capacities. What do I fuckfor? After my second child was born, I wrote a series of poems called The Desire Spectrum is Dead to Me Now. Poets are always up in desire’s grill, but I’m not sure I understand desire. It is an urge in me. It is an appetite that surfaces sometimes obliquely and sometimes with a pointed craving. It is the governing ungovernable feeling of my youth, and one which I am now deeply wary of. But if it’s dead, it’s undead. It surfaces long past the point of its usefulness. Its spectacle. Those won’t keep me alive as they did in my youth. It won’t get me babies. It has the potential to shimmer in an alley full of knives, rats, rabid raccoons, tetanus-inducing garbage, killers, holes-to-nowhere, etc. So I too go dead, a love-ghoul. Why would you want to have those feelings? I ask myself, when those feelings lure me into the alley and I mistake the scent of coppery-bile for the scent of fuckforlove. I am so easy to love and so difficult to continue to love. Say I, in the alley.
x-to-the-o, and so much and always,
All the daily mean
today is brought to you by how much I love you.
this is a love story
I forget that we are supposed to hate each other.
I had an affair with your husband!
you are supposed to despise me: knives out.
I am supposed to pity you//fear you. sneak & resent. keep poison in a pouch at my side at the ready.
instead: we are this!
the dark alley of love is not where it was named on the map.
yes, there is a dark alley of love & yes, all the horror and all the daily mean. the meanness is normal. oh so dreadfully normal. normal&normalized. made pretty, justified. called neutral. called evolutionary psychology, called logical, called sane.
sometimes it is called: just the way things are. what is so.
sometimes it is called survival.
we are supposed to hate each other you&I because we are supposed to be a threat to each other’s desire or obtained. I may steal away what you’ve rightly earned (endured! not B specifically but wife-ness!), what you’ve accomplished! & you can shame me, shun me, scarlet letter me. yes, there are spaces carved subcultural where what we’ve been up to has it’s own acceptance and sanity, support, language. BUT….
BUT. I still don’t rest easy on any of it. I still don’t self-say-slut in some company.
I mean, it is telling that my primary concern about this project was: I will be outting myself to my family (I could try hide the book, but I am a horrible liar & if they found out without my mediating, would be worse!) as having an affair with a married man. yeah poly, yeah slut, yeah whatever, but honestly my biggest anxiety was (IS!) that my family will find out how I willingly and knowingly transgressed that sacred line. I went where I was not supposed to go & the wreckage that followed can all be laid at my feet.
(but.you.are.so.smart! crashes into you.should.have.known.better)
I LOVE YOU. putting love to words is so weird and impossible. there is no way to make it seem anything but transactional. how do I say to you I love you without it being about me? I want to say to you (& to you: readerofthisartifact): this love! this love! this.love!
we met at the line and went over it. we went willingly this way and found each other.
This piece is an excerpt from the cowritten multimedia MoreMoreMore (Bon Aire, forthcoming), exploring kinship, radical love, polyamory, the couple state, sadness, security, and hilarity.
Danielle Pafunda is author of six books, most recently The Dead Girls Speak in Unison (Coconut) and Natural History Rape Museum (Bloof). She teaches at the University of Wyoming.
Reagan Louise holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence. Born in a tower haunted by ants, she lives there still.