Tough Girls & Lucid Dreamers

handmade books by Katrina del Mar

handmade books by Katrina del Mar (with Nancy Loeber)

Tough Girls & Lucid Dreamers
Readings / Music at Participant Inc
Sunday Feb 10th 8pm

253 East Houston Street NYC

readings by:
Eileen Myles
Melissa Febos
Katrina del Mar
Amanda Pollock
Caroline McCaughey

music by:
Karyn Kuhl
Sarah Greenwood

More Info:
Artist Katrina del Mar has invited some of her favorite writers and musicians to read and perform during her exhibition GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS at Participant Inc.

 
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Eileen Myles was born in Boston (1949) and moved to New York in 1974 to be a poet. Snowflake/different streets(poems, 2012) is the latest of her 18 books. Inferno (a poet’s novel) came out in 2010. For The Importance of Being Iceland/travel essays in art she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant. In 2010 the Poetry Society of America awarded Eileen the Shelley Prize. She is a Prof. Emeritus of Writing at UC San Diego. She’s a 2012 Guggenheim fellow. She lives in New York.

Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press, 2010). Her work has been widely anthologized and appeared in publications includingGlamour, Salon, Dissent, The Southeast Review, New York Times, Bitch Magazine, The Rumpus, Drunken Boat, Hunger Mountain, and The Chronicle of Higher Education Review. She has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, CNN’s Dr. Drew, Anderson Cooper Live, and elsewhere. The recipient of MacDowell Colony fellowships in 2010 and 2011, and a 2012 Bread Loaf William Sloan Fellowship in Nonfiction, Melissa co-curates the Mixer Reading and Music Series in Manhattan, teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Brooklyn.

 

Caroline McCaughey is an MFA candidate at Columbia University’s Nonfiction Writing Program. Her documentary film on Manhattan’s squatting movement, Your House Is Mine, won Brown University’s Westin Fine Arts Award. She loves her dog and hates cheese.

Amanda Pollock is a writer, bookmaker and singer based in New York City and Baltimore. Amanda was the singer in the rock and roll bands Cloaca and The Velvet Mafia. She holds a BA in English and Education from Smith College and she was awarded a first place honors in the BMCC writing and literature program for her poem “Of Hymn and Him” in 2007. She self publishes her writing in hand made books.

 

Katrina del Mar  is a New York-based photographer and award winning film director. Her solo exhibition Gangs of New York was presented in 2010 at Wrong Weather Gallery in Porto, Portugal. Invited to teach at the University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany, she conducted the first ever Queer Trash Feminist Film Workshop, also in 2010. In 2012, she presented a series of films and photographs from the Golden Age of Performance Art (1988-2000) with Dona Ann McAdams, On the Edge of Society: Moments in Live Art, at Warehouse 9, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Karyn Kuhl was born in a bank parking lot in Newark,NJ.  She had her first gig at age 9 at Sacred heart Church.  She went on to become the front person for Gut Bank and Sexpod and is currently recording her 3rd solo album.

Sarah Greenwood is a songwriter and performer, born in Switzerland to British transplants.  Graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Sarah is the recipient of multiple Professional Writing Division Awards for Songwriting from Berklee.  She released several well received eponymous EP’s including “24 Hour Shift” before forming GSX, known for its fiery live performances.  Sarah’s full length album “Manifest” was released in 2005 and GSX headlined and played both internationally, notably to a crowd of 50,000 in Reykjavik, Iceland and nationally, at notable venues including the Gramercy Theater and the notorious CBGB’s, where they opened for Joan Jett.

My Summer Vacation or Mortville for Womyn

Katrina does Archery

I haven’t shot a bow since I was about 9 years old. It felt amazing to do it again.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a community builder. I started a women’s basketball game, I make movies about girl gangs. I host parties and brunches, I make meals for people, I take my friends surfing. I’ve been joking about starting a surf camp for wayward girls. When I meet new friends I like, I introduce them to old friends I like. I’ve connected people that way for years, people who went on to play in bands together, to work together. It’s part of who I am. Ex girlfriends call me “the mayor,” In some circles I am known as “the Ambassador of Good Times.”

About a year and a half ago I was newly single and I saw Randee Riot’s photo album on facebook. She called it “Summer Camp.” Within were pictured Randee and her cute pals in cuddle piles on lawn chairs, in hammocks, in sunshine, out in the woods. I was intrigued, it looked great; I wanted to be there.
So I asked her about it and she said “Oh. It’s Michigan Womyns Music Festival. Katrina, it’s amazing you have to go!.” As it turns out, a few other women I know and love go to Michfest every year; the girls I play basketball with go and they all said the same thing. “Oh my god, It’s so much fun. It’s amazing. Katrina you HAVE to go.”
So I decided. “I have to go.”

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Honestly I didn’t even know Michfest was still going on. I had heard about it from way back. It was founded in 1976 by lesbian separatists. it’s women’s land with no men allowed. I never really was a fan of women’s music. I’m a rocker. I like AC/DC, GSX, I like punk rock. Not so much into folksy stuff apart from the occasional Kate Bush or Dolly Parton or Fiona Apple singalong.
I mean, when we were kids my stepmother played Buffy Sainte Marie and it was cute, I loved the political message. I am a feminist. I’m pro peace and nature. But please, that music is just so, uh, granola and most of its naked intimacy really makes me cringe all over.
I began, however, from Randee’s pictures and from my friends urgencies, to get the idea that Michigan Womyns Music Fest is about way more than the music. In fact, the whole experience of camping in the woods with a bunch of sexy friends who are way underdressed, the idea that we can all be together for a week in the woods and do workshops, play basketball, dance, do yoga, play football, shower together, do archery, go topless. It just all started to sound like too good to be true.
Also, I saw that Joan as Policewoman was on the bill and I like them.

Cut to early August, I didn’t have a ticket or a way to go, but a miracle happened, the heavens opened up and Randee came sailing on the Hand of God into my field of vision via text message: Contact Nicky Cutler right away; Go Magazine needs someone to go to Michfest.

So I did, it worked out and at the last possible second I got the green light. I packed up my jeep, reached out on facebook for a travel partner pal with a free week (“you have to be awesome and female”) Kat O. responded and we hit the road.

I hadn’t gone camping since I was a teenager. Since going single I’ve been threatening to go camping and here I was in the Michigan woods, pitching a tent. I felt like a girl scout again, improvising with ropes and tarp and twine and trees. We borrowed gear from other campers. We figured it out.

So how was Michfest? It was AMAZING. It was like being on a really pleasant, mellow acid trip. My cheeks ached from smiling all day long. I would say, “I’m just gonna go over here for a minute I’ll be right back.” Somehow these little errands would turn into wonderful journeys. Kat O. nailed it when she said it was like being a teenager, you’d go to the park to see what’s going on and then to someone’s basement to listen to them play music and then continue to drift pleasantly, aimlessly, throughout the evening. These desultory journeys were sensory treasure hunts; I found a spontaneous dance party, a bonfire with a rollicking conversation and someone grilling bratwurst in a cast iron skillet, bonfires with singing and s’mores, a conversation under a tree, a conversation in the shower, someone cute to make out with, a cuddle pile, a massage circle.

We also realized it reminded us tremendously of Mortville from “Desperate Living.” Minus Queen Carlotta but there were (female) leather daddies and crazy outfits and lots of gold lamé in this ramshackle, temporary city in the woods.

The showers at michfest are wide open in the woods. I stood showering with women of 70, women of 24, women of all sizes. And conversations just flowed everywhere. I felt the spirit of connecting with elders on a really sweet human level. I took an archery workshop. Other people took conscious communication workshops, dirty talk workshops, how to find your g-spot workshops. Team Dresch played and women crowd surfed without the fear of being groped by dudes. The sign language interpreters were amazing to watch. I’d never seen live music interpreted for the deaf before.

In the dark of night lit by torches and flashlights I watched a demonstration of fisting and female ejaculation. I hadn’t seen such a great graphic dirty show since Lady Hennessy took the stage at Pyramid Club in the late 80’s. I heard Dorothy Allison read her unpublished southern story within a story. I saw the milky-way, great oak trees, a raccoon in the moonlight that I whispered to. “Raccoon. I see you.”

It was my lesbian Heart of Darkness, my hippie Lord of the Flies; I went native, I drank the Kool Aid, I bought the tie-dye. It was a magnificent moment and I’ll never be the same.

There were drawbacks and downsides. Every ticket comes with 3 vegetarian meals a day and although I really like vegetarian food and would definitely cook something like what they served, somehow, overall the food just sucked. I wanted to like it. Some meals were great. But on the whole I was disappointed. I mean, would it kill them to put a little vegan bouillon in the rice? The weather on the whole was great but it did rain for two days straight and I had forgotten to pack any boots or any waterproof clothing.

One ugly thread was the political controversy that got visible this year with the implementation of red shirts to indicate the support of keeping MichFest only for wbw or “women born women.” Officially, the festival is not trans inclusive. Although I saw a full spectrum of the female gender represented from waxy, wasp-waisted high femme to bearded stone butch and a handful of ftm, mtf, trans and intersex people. It seemed like everyone was getting along. It was explained to me that no one is checking people at the gate for penises or vaginas or variants in between. It’s basically don’t ask don’t tell. However, there was a sad, uncomfortable, angry feeling among people who support trans friends and their inclusion. I brought it up with one old timer and she said yes, well, then they should start their own festival [that’s trans inclusive.] Some people simply won’t come to michfest because of this policy. Other people come and don’t tell their friends that they’re coming, because they don’t want to hurt their trans friends feelings by supporting a transphobic event. There’s an opinion floating around that the festival is losing steam and will die out because of this controversy, which is truly sad. I was pleased to see that there were trans and intersex people there, it made me feel at home because my chosen family includes queer folk of all gender persuasions.

I came home on a mission to convince all my favorite bands to play, my favorite writers to come read and to convince all my friends to come play in the woods next summer. At the end of the trip I returned to New York City and had the end of summer blues a little early. I don’t want to go back to school; to be civilized, I was Huckleberry Finn, a drifter, a girl pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl, making friends, saving lives, having adventures, making maps, elaborate ones, of secret places, secrets with trees, with the soft ground, the surprise.
I didn’t want it to end.
all photos were taken with permission of the subject(s), and photo permission was cleared by the festival organizer / creator.

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That Perfect Moment. Surf Blackout by Katrina del Mar

THAT. PERFECT. MOMENT.

Originally published July 2011 in the Bluegrass Special
“A prominent New York City surfer–they do exist–reflects on ‘the indescribable high I hope to chase until I die.’”

Katrina del Mar, in her element. photo by Sarah Greenwood

‘…the indescribable high I hope to chase until I die’

By Katrina del Mar

I know addiction.

It’s a force beyond reason, the compulsion is absolute and I am happily enslaved to its demands. I physically labor to serve it until I’m too tired to function.

I push off onto this surface, which is blue-green and in motion. It’s moving me and every other thought disappears.

When I’m trying to catch up to this moving force, this wave, it makes me pull with all my might like I’m trying to save a baby, like I need it to survive.

When I’m paddling out on a big day, I am sometimes literally swimming with all my might just to save my own life, and every other thought disappears.

For a busy brain this relief, this “no thought, no past, no future” is a rare and priceless gift. And it’s the high I keep coming back for.

My first day surfing seemed so innocuous but it ended with a prophecy. I had been filming a friend, this artist guy with blond dreadlocks who surfed. He got out of the water to rest.

He said, “Do you wanna try it?”

I said, “Yeah!”

I didn’t get a lesson. I don’t think he even told me what to do, apart from helping to attach the leash to my ankle. I grabbed his board and ran into the water. I made a running leap, like I saw him do, like I’ve seen in the movies. I threw myself onto the board and paddled out. I could barely sit on the board, let alone catch a wave, but I made a few reckless attempts. He said, when I came back to the beach all dripping, cold, happy, smiling; he said, “You’re a lifer.”

I thought he was joking. Now I knew he meant it.

That was 8 years ago. 3 or 4 boards ago. Three wetsuits ago.

Katrina surfs Rockaway December 2011 photo by Elisa Bates

Dennis is his name. He gave me an old longboard to use, an old faded RonJon with an altered, glassed-in fin.

That first year, I only went out when the waves were big. I was ignorant. I didn’t know it was possible to surf on smaller days. I was stupid, brave, terrified.

The certainty of “I will die, oh my god, I will die, if I don’t pull with all my might” replaced all of my other petty thoughts and concerns and I felt the gorgeous freedom that the present moment, flushed with adrenaline, can bestow.

I was the kook out there trying to stay out of your way. Mostly I was successful.

I learned how to surf by doing it and by surfing with friends. Saul. Dennis. Jerry. Simon. Jeanine. Each of them taught me the etiquette, the tricks to survive, how to duck dive, turtle roll, when to ditch the board and swim for your life, how not to ditch the board when you wipe out, how to surf without a leash, how to stay out of people’s way, how to claim your wave. How not to be a kook. Simon told me, “You’re not a kook, you’re a beginner.” And the difference, as I understand it, is not only in action (don’t drop in. especially don’t drop in, wipe out and ditch your board.) but in attitude. Humility. Awareness of others.

Simon told me, “The best surfer out here is the one having the most fun.”

RonJon, Rockaway. photo by Katrina del Mar

After many, many day trips to Rockaway, evening trips to Long Beach, weekend trips to Montauk, trips up and down my New York City stairs (four flights); after a surf trip to Hawaii, a surf trip to Costa Rica, I’m fitter, stronger, happier and I feel like finally I’m getting it.

Today I surfed Beach 67th in Rockaway. In my opinion, this was New York City surfing at its best: it’s a hot summer day, with cool, clear, blue-green water, (It’s NYC, folks, trust me when I tell you, sometimes the water ain’t all that clear), nice 2-3 foot waves, two good girlfriends. The water felt delicious. I caught a bunch of waves.

What’s funny is, after each ride, after I’d say to my friend, “Did you see that?” And then I would recount the brief story of the ride. But then I would try to remember the take off. And I’d have a moment of wonder, tilting my head like a dog hearing a queer sound. I realized, just today, that I can’t quite remember taking off on the wave. It seems I have a tiny blackout.

I can remember how it ends but not how it begins.

I figure each takeoff is a precious present moment so fully engorged with life that it must erase future memory. It only can exist at That. Perfect. Moment.

It’s the indescribable high I hope to chase until I die.

Golden Surf, Rockaway photo by Katrina del Mar

Remembering Chloe Dzubilo by Katrina del Mar

I met Chloe Dzubilo for the first time at Blacklips Performance Cult at Pyramid Club
the night they staged her play “Vagina.” I found it to be a hilarious, mystical and  transformative piece, beautiful and transgressive all at once. Chloe herself was beautiful and transgressive, mystical and hilarious. We became famous friends in blue walled dingy basements, in various apartments, parks and diners. Once, at brunch, really early in our friendship I witnessed a healing between Chloe and her father. She shared that intimate moment with me and she cried. I felt like I’d found a sister. I would call her when I was freaking out; with compassion and humor, she would talk me through.

Chloe with Lollipop

Chloe with Lollipop ©1995 photo by Katrina del Mar

I photographed Chloe a lot. With her band, with lovers, with friends who looked like her, with her dog, alone, nude, clothed, with writing on her body: “precious diva” “family” “love tummy.”

american singer

Chloe with LoraMarie ©1997 photo by Katrina del Mar

Jayne County & Chloe Dzubilo perform at Squeezebox, Don Hill's NYC

Jayne County & Chloe Dzubilo perform at Squeezebox, Don Hill's NYC

Chloe & Kid Lucky ©1995 photo by Katrina del Mar

When I finally decided to make a film, she had to be in it. It was a girl gang movie. “Gang Girls 2000” Betsy came up with the gang name, Blades, I elaborated to the Famous Blades of Chinatown, prompted by the freely given use of Chloe’s Chinatown apartment as the gang headquarters. Chloe was to play the leader of the gang. I said, “what should your gang name be?” She didn’t hesitate. “Transella Coutorture,” she replied.

l-r Chloe Dzubilo, Lora Marie Williams, Alison Wonderland Cohn, Melissa Huffsmith Roth

The Famous Blades of Chinatown "Gang Girls 2000" ©1999 Katrina del Mar

l-r Alison Wonderland Cohn, Chloe Dzubilo, Melissa Huffsmith Roth

The Blades "Gang Girls 2000" ©1999 Katrina del Mar

She called me from the hospital a few weeks into the shooting; she said, “Katrina, we should shoot a scene for your movie here. I just got surgery I have this huge scar. We can say I got cut in a gang fight!” We rushed over, all the Famous Blades, and wrote the scene on the spot. Nan Goldin was supposed to come shoot her that day but Chloe pushed Nan off for me and I felt like I meant something to somebody for once. She was supportive of my vision, and that meant the world to me.

I helped Chloe with groceries. I visited her in the hospital. When we had places out of town we would invite her up, or she would invite herself! She loved nature and horses. Weekends in the Catskills, weeks in the Hamptons, road trips to Florida. We would ride in the car singing along with Patti Smith at the top of our lungs. Chloe let me know how grateful she was to have holidays out of town; she made sure I knew that I was doing her a great service.

Chloe & Nicolette, Road Trip to Florida

Chloe & Nicolette, Road Trip to Florida

Her fight for trans rights and for the rights of people with AIDS is well documented. I was proud of my friend who would go into police precincts to teach the cops how to treat trans people well. She started an equestrian riding program for at-risk youth called Equi-Aid. She would tell me the only time she wasn’t in pain was when she was riding horses. Or when she was helping someone and being of service.

She resisted taking the HIV meds, for the longest time. She was doing holistic healing, no white sugar or wheat, herbs. Eventually she went on the meds and she struggled with those all throughout the rest of her life. She told me the aids meds made her bones brittle. She broke her back falling off a horse, which I knew broke her heart a little as well. But she came over in her back brace, which she had painted gold and decorated with rhinestones, and we made a portrait of this amazon warrior. The brace had become proud armor, the emblem of her love of life and of the ongoing battle against a healthcare system that was failing her.

That’s the strongest part, the beauty in simple transformation. She held the power of a humble goddess who could take a cracked and broken thing and make a beautiful other thing out of it. Male to female, she embraced the trans in transgender, the in-betweens, the crack between the worlds, the class schism. Making light of welfare level poverty by wearing Gucci to the welfare office. Chloe reveled in that, with an irreverent glee.

I feel Chloe offered me a great education in compassion, and in facing death and illness with grace, and in the spirit of service.

Chloe was always a little tangential in conversations, she riffed like jazz and you just had to nod and smile; but after the pain meds came in, she was way off the page. I’d stand there thinking, and finally saying, “Honey, I love you but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” It’s important to know that this was because of her meds, which, increasingly, were coming in pernicious combinations. When she was hospitalized in June of ‘10, we thought maybe it was the end, because she was acting really deranged. But a few weeks later, she was out and more clear and lucid than she’d been in years. She’d gotten off the pain meds and it seemed like things were on the upswing.

By winter of that year she curated the Transeuphoria gallery show on east 9th street and we all went. It was an amazing moment for all of us, the room crackled with excitement and love. I was so happy and proud to see her accomplishment, her visceral, confrontational and often hilarious art. The art of her partner T, the paintings of Siobhan all were instructive to me, I felt like I was invited in.

She had reached out to me and often I wasn’t there for her. Everyone said this in the days and weeks after her death. It came as a shock to me, even though over all these 17 years there was always a consciousness of her mortality. People were and are still dying of AIDS.  In her case, the combinations of medications made her very ill, and she simply couldn’t handle it in the end.

In February, I found out from Alice that things got really bad. Alice asked me if she could bring Chloe over to my place after she got out of the hospital so she could just be in my living room with loving people around. I said of course. My home has been a sanctuary many times; and it’s where we’ve had many a gathering including a few queer Thanksgivings. Alice later texted or called to say Chloe wanted to come but didn’t think she could manage the stairs.

She died a few days later. I got a call from Alice about it; in her typical dry style she gave me the news. Alice was in a state of shock, I could tell the emotions hadn’t hit. I was stunned. I reached out to Betsy, who immediately, untypically, burst into tears. I called Anthony, and Rita. We all gathered at Antony’s place that night to meet and talk. T, Kembra, Kelly, Rita, Alice, Betsy, Ned, Viva. Artist witches, recovering addicts, queers: a beautiful family of self-created phoenixes. We centered around love for Chloe whether we had been friends or lovers, mentor or the mentored. We talked about honoring her. We cried.

Chloe’s memorial service, her CeleVation, was organized around and by this group. It’s strange to say that a memorial could be viewed as good experience. But I think many people felt this way. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Judson Church was filled, overflowing with people who had known and loved Chloe. Viva was the high priestess, elected by acclaim by the rest of us. Many people performed. Betsy compiled and read the instant messages Chloe had written and we heard Chloe talk to us in her style. It made us all laugh. I compiled a video, and we together witnessed the early days, the more lucid version her. Alice compiled the photos. Antony sang. T sang. Gifts were given to organizations that help queer kids and  people with AIDS.

It was a collective, thoughtful, anarchic, goddess-driven process that worked.

Many people said they felt Chloe was definitely there and loving every moment. The room was filled with love. Puma took a picture of me while I videotaped and an orb appears right at my ear. I say the spirits were moving.

This December 5th 2011 would have been Chloe’s 51st Birthday.

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Making a film in two days

I had the pleasure to conduct the first ever “Queer feminist Trash Film Workshop with Katrina del Mar” at the University of the Arts (Hochschule für Künste Bremen) in Bremen, Germany organized by Daniela Wustenberg, co-organizer & curator of the Queerfilm Festival of Bremen.

In two days, the participants in the film workshop wrote, shot, edited and publicly screened a short film.

Senya & Ray Dee as Runaway & Sailorboy

On the first day, Daniela introduced me to the class of about 15 students and artists. I explained how my films get made and showed some excerpts. I talked about influences and some of the motifs of trash films, guerilla filmmaking, D.I.Y. sensibility and the pure hype sensationalism of B-Movies. Everyone then introduced themselves and gave a list of any special talents or skills they might have (these included law, screenprinting, tattooing, kung fu, theater, performance, costume design, graphic design, photography and music). Then everyone indicated whether they preferred to act on camera or be crew.

We then set to work collectively writing a story based on the participants skills and desires and the locations and props available to us within the area.
What we had around the workshop actually proved to be pretty astounding. There was a circus nearby. And a harbor. And a carnival. We had willing and talented actors and an amazing abundance of creative ideas.
The story was written before lunch, and at lunch people went home to get costumes and props while I stayed on and quickly sketched out storyboards.
After lunch, we split into two groups; one for interiors and one smaller group filmed exteriors. We finished shooting at about 6pm. A few of us reconvened later in the evening to film scenes at the local carnival.

Eike & Annie at the Freimaak Carnival

The next day we split into groups again. The one student who knew Final Cut Pro started editing, others continued filming while others began working on poster designs based on still photos taken the day before. We also settled on a title for the film, “Runaway & Sailorboy” (although “Sinister Circus” was a close runner up)
I then joined in the editing room and helped to edit down a rough cut as shooting continued.
We screened a rough cut of the movie the same night, after the “Night of the Gang Girls” film screening at Kino 46.
Still Photos from “Runaway & Sailor Boy” (aka Sinister Circus) a short film written, produced, shot edited and publicly screened (rough cut) in two days (!!!) by the participants of the Queer feminist Trash Film Workshop with Katrina del Mar at the Hochschule der Künste Bremen / Academy of Fine Arts Bremen
With help from the Rosa-Luxemburg-Initiative Bremen and masterminded by Hank Bobbit aka Daniela Wusterberg & Elianna Satanowskowa

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New (Birth of Stars)

Witness the birth of stars in massive jets light years away and our sun appearing as a circle encompassing all of space with the brightest bits like burning shards touching, then darkening, then piercing through the retina; increasing its afterlife in darkness.
I felt this I feel it now like a plane crash in a cursed place and the resonance of ten and twenty thousand deaths. It makes a groaning sound the earth shudders and the wind sighs over it with a thin whisper, weak. It’s morning somewhere but it’s dark in these eyes. A protest erupts in my heart and I cannot be still. Great moving things displace the water in the depths and my heart cannot be still. I picture you standing up then falling, and my heart cannot be still.
There is a depth of terror that can only given in hints; in part, creation exists only with destruction, all absolutes and certainties are erased and the abyss is in me, not still.