TEXT prose


Karina Quinn

The body that moves the hand that writes



Daughter of each day, gold infused wood, striated with scars, underscored by pain, layered over with love. Newly-born, falling, standing, tracing, imprinting, brave on your thickening thighs in that pushing wind; I see you. Write.

I have two hands. One says write. The other says do anything other than write. Make tea, do the washing, type emails, make phone calls, eat new season mandarins all tart and orange and thin-skinned. Anything but write. Why? Because writing touches pain. Nearly always. Sometimes, like grace, it will find beauty. But mostly, pain. With one hand, suffering, living, putting your finger on pain, loss. But there is the other hand: the one that writes (p 8) [1].

When I write (I have said this before) I want to tell the story of pain, because I want to tell the story of my body. And overwhelmingly, when I speak about flesh and bone and breath I find myself speaking about what has pierced or indented my flesh. I speak about hairline fractures in bone. I speak about the constriction of breath, the narrowing of bronchials, a tightness that gives me a desperate, dry cough. Why do I want to tell the story of my body? Because it is the body that writes.

Tell her what must be said: “You have two hands. If one hand can’t live, cut it off. You have twomorrow [2]. When one hand doesn’t work, replace it with the other hand. Act. Respond. You’ve lost the hand that writes? Learn to write with the other hand.” And with it-her-self-me-her-hand, I begin to trace on the paper. And now at once there unfurls a perfect calligraphy, as if she had always had this writing in that other hand. If you die, live (p 8).

When I speak about the writing body I am not only speaking about the hand that holds my pen, or the fingers that tap down on these keys. When I speak about the writing body I am saying that text, that written thing, the signifier and the signified, comes out of me and I situate myself, not in the grey mass that rests in the cup of my skull, but somewhere lower down. I move. Sometimes I am beneath my breast bone. Other times I rest, sloshing and acidy, in the bag of my stomach. More often, after children, I am my womb. Not just womb, but all the parts that make up my reproductive system: uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix. So when this part of me is gone, I want to know where I will be.

A subserosal fibroid has waved on its stalk at the back of my womb since before I had children, but now it has tripled its size in a year. Now it is vascular, and claims life, and presses on my bladder and bowel. At the hospital, a month ago, a doctor I have never met before and will probably never meet again told me it will need to be removed, easily, with a laparoscope and three small incisions. My gall bladder has already been taken; I know these incisions well, I anticipate the doubling scars and nod. Then she says this: there is every chance that the fibroid will be too well adhered, that I will need a hysterectomy. I will not know until I wake which it is: a ball of vascular flesh removed, or the whole of my middle gone.

So if this part of me is gone, if I wake with a smiling cut stapled closed under the sag of my belly, where will I be? If I write from my womb and my womb is gone, where do I write from? When that muscle that pushed my babies out and down is taken, will part of my writing practice go too? Not practice, I don’t mean practice. Practice is just that. The sitting and writing. The willingness to stay still, to let text flow, to not turn, to touch pain, and then love, which feels just the same. Not practice. A hysterectomy will not remove this, although for some weeks I will need to lie rather than sit. For some weeks I will not be able to lift. Not practice. What if, in the incision and removal of tissue and muscle, in the cauterising of capillaries, more than that is removed? If you die, live (p 8). It is hard to escape the sense that some part of my writing comes directly from my womb. The place where my babies lay. That redwarm home, that softhard sac that held those boys for me. You’ve lost the hand that writes? Learn to write with the other hand (p 8). You’ve lost the womb that writes? What then Hélène?

My ovaries will be left so there’s less chance of catapulting me into early menopause. Write with my ovaries instead? But they are solid masses, and faulty at that. Polycystic, lumpy things. After the operation they will hang there, heavy balloons on the shortened strings of my fallopian tubes. They are not vessels. They were not designed to hold anything. That’s not true of course: they are seed balls. They are infinitely honeycombed. Can I push the stories that live at my core up before the gas mask comes down? Will the text migrate from my will alone to land, split or microscopic, transformed by the need to reside in all of those tiny capsules, jostling for space with unfertlised eggs?

Women live, of course, without wombs. Artists create without wombs (yes I am thinking about men, but also women like I will be, whose tissue will have to migrate to fill a gap in the centre of them). It is possible I am giving away certain things about my subconscious right now. Clichéd things. Things that feel annoyingly simplistic or essentialist to write. Like this: I am a woman because I have a womb. I am a creative woman because I have a womb; this is where I literally created from. When I lose this, it is possible I am neither creative nor woman. When I lose this, it is possible I am only a creature with a hole in its middle: see through, bendy in a big wind, empty.

Madwomen: the ones who are compelled to redo acts of birth every day. I think, “Nothing is a given for me.” I wasn’t born for once and for all. Writing, dreaming, delivering; being my own daughter of each day. The affirmation of an internal force that is capable of looking at life without dying of fear, and above all of looking at itself, as if you were simultaneously the other–indispensable to love–and nothing more nor less than me (p 6).

Being my own daughter of each day. I don’t know how to do this, but I do it anyway. My own daughter of each day. A moving forwards and moving through, carrying all of me through each moment in time. It is raining. It is Monday. On Monday and Wednesday I have both boys. They are one and a half and three and a half. When you’re that small, the half is significant. Soli counts to three like this: two, two, number. Except that’s not how it sounds. The twos are pronounced do, do. And the number is num-ba. It could be a dance on his tongue. And at the end of each over-enunciated word, a lengthy upward inflection. He is a mimetic master.

The three of us are walking to the car, in the rain, to go to an appointment. Jem has had to stop watching Sesame Street, and he is grieving deeply about it. I have Soli on my hip, I am holding Jem’s hand, two raincoats and a backpack. It is raining. Daughter of each day. I get Soli into his car seat, using my back as a shield. I remember the first time I did this; shielded my baby from the rain with my own body. It was a singular experience–I had never been willingly soaked for another human being before. Jem grabs me around both knees

But I’m so sad, Mama!!
I know honey but we need to go now to get to our appointment. You can watch Sesame Street tomorrow.
But I really really wanted to watch it today and now I can’t sit in my carseat because I’m just. Too. Sad.

While we are talking I crabwalk, Jem still attached to my knees, the both of us getting wetter and wetter, to the other side of the car, then pick him up and put him in his carseat. He can’t stay there. He slumps onto the floor, all muscle tone gone, darkening blonde hair wet against his forehead; he is a passive resistance savant, in the way that all children are. He curls up in a foetal position, amongst biscuit crumbs and the smell of damp wool and old milk, and refuses to move.

I’m too sad to sit in my carseat Mama.

This is the guts of it. Me, standing in the rain, trying to convince a three and a half year old that he can grieve just as well strapped into his seat while we drive as he can curled on the floor. I am getting wetter. The callistemons that flank our driveway gather water from the sky and drip it down the back of my neck. He is unconvinced. I pick him up and he screams, so loudly my ears ring for twenty minutes after. And arches. My back pulls and twinges and I use all my adult force to hold him down, to strap him in, to move. Soli sings twinkle little star which goes like this: tar, tar, tar, tar. Strapped in, Jem continues to scream, beyond sadness and into rage. I clamp down, stare at the road, and remind myself not to speed, to drive carefully, to bite down on my own rage, to move through this moment into some kind of grace, or at the very least, calm.

Underneath that, I am splitting. Writing, delivering, dreaming is what I ache for. This page, these keys, that pen, the feel of paper under my palms. My children, in this moment, have taken every dreaming moment from me. I am just rain and rage and a foot too low on the accelerator. I am not the daughter of this day. I am body and voice as panacea for two tiny humans who are trying to suck every piece of everything I have out of me. I am not enjoying myself. This is no longer fun. I am simultaneously the other–indispensable to love (p 6) but I am everything less than me, and also everything more. Some days, today, I feel myself stretching to try to contain it all. Not just my skin, but all of me, attempting to expand, enfold, hold, and simultaneously expel. I want you here, the both of you, and I don’t.

Walk to me Soli with a ball filled with glitter and flashing lights and say

look, ball,

with your swallowed el at the front of look, that has been eaten all together by the time you say ball, pronouncing it baw. Walk to me Soli and say

look! Ball!

like a revelation, like you have seen the beginning of everything and in one shining moment it has all fallen in to place (you have seen the beginning of everything; it has fallen in/to place). Walk to me Soli and beam into my eyes and stand on my toes and grunt because the only place you want to be is near. Me.

My grandmother died two weeks ago. Her dementia spiked and she went for a walk in the garden without her frame, imagining, I think, that she was on fifty year old legs. In her fifties and well into her sixties she was still doing yoga–my sister and I wavered on the floor next to her while she executed perfect shoulder stands, the bottoms of her feet mirroring the ceiling. In her fifties she was walking miles every day, and digging compost into garden beds (when I think of her I think of blood and bone, a sureness of step, thick green gardening gloves, the way she could make things grow by speaking to them). In her sixties, with her grandchildren in tow, she was going on bush walks in the mountains and pointing out bell birds and banksias.

She was ninety-seven when she fell awkwardly on the grass and broke her neck. Her legs were not strong anymore; they were spindly things that needed a frame. A fracture in C2, controller of breath and swallowing, flexer of neck. I imagine the time she lay there, on the couch grass, under the sun, before being found by a nurse and excruciatingly moved, as a time of peace. Maybe she felt the warmth of sun in her skin, the prickle of grass under her fingertips. After most of her life spent in gardens, it seems right she that fell on grass, that the earth reached up to take her. She had been saying for more than ten years that she was ready to go. And when asked what she wanted done with her body a laugh and

Put me in a paper bag and throw me off the Harbour Bridge for all I care!

As it is her ashes will lie in a native garden, and that seems right too. I am telling you about this because she lived for eight years in the hostel where she fell and broke her neck. Eight years with weekend visits from one of her daughters and sporadic visits from the rest of us.

I made it there maybe five times. Each time she was more sunken and had less teeth. On my second last visit the nurse interrupted us to give her a shot of Warfarin: blood thinner, keeper alive of the old, the needle leaving its blooming bruise. It would be a kindness, I thought, to let a clot, darkling, into her carotid artery, to stroke her away. But this is not what we do. Keep alive at all costs. She was good natured about the injection, and after the nurse had gone told me she was just back from an around the world trip on the most glorious boat where they played sonnets from dusk til dawn and served the most marvellous high teas each afternoon. She had been invited to sup with the Captain, a debonair and witty man who had entertained her for the rest of the evening. Her dementia had taken her to a place full of finery and I was glad of it. No hostel room with its shared bathroom and lifting lino for her. Grand ships and eclairs seemed a far fairer way to spend the last years of life.

What I am trying to say is that I know for so many years at the end of her life she was solitary. And that once, like I am now, she was surrounded by so many demands that it is possible she felt exactly as I do now. Three children, the fifties, her husband home from the war, a broken poet, insomniac, raging in fits and starts, manic-depressive before there was a name for it, destined to shoot himself in the head; a shot that echoes through the nerve endings of each one of us, still. Suicide cannot be contained. It is a reverberating thing; it stays.

What I am trying to say is that it is almost unbearable, the nearness of these children, and I feel as if they are trying to swallow me, and I want more than anything to be out, and away, but that at exactly the same time I cannot bear to leave them, so soft, so beaming beautiful shining like silver underwater shot by the sun. At exactly the same time I want them to climb back inside of me, and I into them, as if we could consume each other, as if our bodies have never been entirely separate. As if we are made of dough, and by pushing into each other, we will incorporate, we will mix. We will be made into a new thing full of air and yeast and warmth; the space between us elastic with give. 

It is writing that does this to me, this terrifying split. Sometimes I ache for writing to leave me, whole, never grasping for something outside of that doughy place. Would it be a simpler thing to stay, rolling into each other, never reaching for something outside of each other? I maintain that my writing gives more than it takes, but what does it take?

It takes me, from them. The texts I ate, sucked, suckled, kissed. I am the innumerable child of their masses (p 12). It places me slightly to the left of their grasping hands. They know this. On the play room floor, surrounded by screaming blocks, board books filled with farm animals, plastic ducks, they scramble to occupy my lap. Soli pushes Jem hard, to try to get all of me. He wants to sit, his whole back pressed against my chest, legs straight out in front, to feel my arms enfold the whole of his front. Jem wants exactly the same thing. I want my pen. I want an empty lap, a lap of possibility maybe. A lap that is sexual, available, ready, not-yet full but already holding some/body, her, redwarm flushing, pushing, pulsing. Not this mooing playdough smeared cross-legged place. So I gorge on texts whenever I am not with them. I fantasise words streaming from out of me, from that place; I am all desire for language which is song poetry prose spitting hot and fast from all of me. I am not there.

I am prescient. I have these jumping bright moments of awareness, and I am suddenly seventy, solitary, and aching with everything I have to be back on those floorboards, my lap full of growing bones and explications. All those exclamation marks. The revelation of naming.

Write? I was dying of desire for it, of love, dying to give writing what it had given to me. What ambition! What impossible happiness (p 12). An impossible happiness it is. Because it’s not. Possible. I am dying of desire for it, and I can’t get there, except that I am already here. The desire for writing, to ream all of myself onto this page, has pushed me to this moment. But who is that self? I know only this moment, this juncture of text and body and consciousness, the perfect song a balance of rage and yearning playing behind me, pushing me on. I feel as if I was born to split, continuously, and that somehow in that splitting I will be made new. That somehow in that splitting there will be a rejoining, a rejoisting, a threading back together. And I could not be here, in this desperate splitting reaching place, without those babies born from me who grow without my permission, who climb and fall and take great chunks out of their own flesh to try to find the meeting place between world and self. They are the making of me, but there are moments I despise them for it. To sink back into a place of not nothing, but less-than-nothing, not just not-writing, but never-having-written; what relief, what singular release.

Writing is good: it’s what never ends. The simplest, most secure other circulates inside me. Like blood: there’s no lack of it. It can become impoverished. But you manufacture it and replenish it. In me is the word of blood, which will not cease before my end (p 4). Is writing good? It may never end; I concede that point. And that there’s no lack of it, that too. I cannot escape–I have wanted to, I have tried. But it is itself, a living thing. I said before I thought it curled within the walls of my womb but that’s not true. Read it again. “The simplest, most secure other… Like blood: there’s no lack of it.” I am not secure in my writing, but it is secure in me. It does circulate, or undulate, or something. It hides and then springs, it sometimes breathes. I had never imagined it to be like blood, red, thickening when it hits the air, but maybe this metaphor is right (I want to say correct). Because something happens when the writing is out, of me, and yes there is some kind of thickening on contact with this page, out here, and eventually there is a sense that what I have put on the outside of me will dry, and flake, but leave a cellular residue, a tracery, a map.

One day I was tracked down, besieged, taken. It captured me. I was seized. From where? I knew nothing about it. I’ve never known anything about it. From some bodily region. I don’t know where. “Writing” seized me, gripped me, around the diaphragm, between the stomach and the chest, a blast dilated my lungs and I stopped breathing (p 9). I am under siege, besieged. I am thirty-seven years old and I have not escaped. I feel more than a little middle class shame at describing the torture of having to write. What a singular privilege, to be a white woman, mostly healthy, with enough of everything, whose main and solipsistic pursuit and pain comes from the inability to escape a writer’s life. The academy is paying me to write. There is some idea from some people outside of me that my writing is worth paying for; that I am contributing to the production of knowledge. I am blissful, uncomfortable, unbelieving, grasping, heart-beating-fast as I type, waiting for that tap on the shoulder. Imposter syndrome haunts more pages than not. I am thirty-seven years old and I have not escaped. And sometimes I do stop breathing. I write like I am running, like I will be caught, like the text I produce will pull me down and hold me under and I will never catch air again.

When I say “writing” seized me, it wasn’t a sentence that had managed to seduce me, there was absolutely nothing written, not a letter, not a line. But in the depths of the flesh, the attack. Pushed. Not penetrated. Invested. Set in motion (p 9). In the depths of the flesh is right, there was no turning from it. I kept trying to find other things. I learnt how to make coffee, to spend ten hours on my feet for eight dollars on hour, to smile at people while they threw orders at me, to do the dishwasher dance. My calves got strong and my feet ceased to ache at the end of each shift. I did my best to forget about poetry. Poets sat in the cafés I worked in. I could pick them with their notebooks, the way they sat for hours on a single coffee, the production of text more important than golden liquid suffused with milk. Ten years, on and off, of orange juice and toast, eggs and pompous lattés (the same ones I linger over now), coffee grains making black lines under my fingernails and inhabiting the lines on my palms, the blue powder smell of dishwasher steam in my hair. I was coated in food and cleaning products. Dirty. A serving girl. A tattooed barista who wrote breakfast orders and receipts. At night, at home, cigarette in hand, I could feel the push. I pushed back. I left my journal closed on its shelf. I watched the worst kind of tv–the sort that leaves you emptier than when you started, then went to bed, then got up and did it again.

My grandmother was dissatisfied.

Are you writing, Karina?

This was the only question she ever asked me. The rest of the time she talked about her garden, or the book she was reading, or told me stories about the grandfather who poured sour milk down her throat during the war.

Are you writing, Karina?

She knew I was seized by writing because she was seized herself. All those stories and poems, literally in her bottom drawer. I resented her for it. She didn’t like my writing. Too dark, too real. She didn’t like my writing but she pushed me anyway. She could see it. Text, writing, pulsing under my skin like some kind of doubled circulatory system, and knew well before me that I could not escape; that the best she could do was to try to lead me back.
I could not escape. Almost against my will I enrolled in a writing course and moved from poetry to short fiction and memoir. If I was seized, I should at the very least collude with my captor. If I was seized, then maybe I could surrender. When my being was populated, my body traversed and fertilized, how could I have closed myself up in silence? Come to me, I will come to you. When love makes love to you, how can you keep from murmuring, saying its names, giving thanks for its caresses? (p 13). I wrote. I opened my journal every morning, a mug of peppermint tea at one elbow and an ashtray at the other. I pre-rolled cigarettes so that I would not have to stop, and sat at my small desk that faced a bay window, a wind-chime, gangly eucalypts interrupting the sky. I wrote stories for the first time. Rambling aching things; love making love to me. I wrote and then read, smoke curling around my shoulders and ears, tea warm in my belly, writing writhing up through me and out, every sentence this unknown thing. Where did it come from? How had it come here, to lay itself down on this page, to murmur with its tea stained breath?

In the end, surrender was a dear thing; it gave more than it took, even when the writing felt like grimacing hooks at the heart of me. Even when I could not choose, when I had to write this: shadow, glinting steel, rope burns red raw, yellow tinged powders in clown coloured balloons, that room, knees bruised from kneeling too long, books sold like they meant nothing, the way a hand feels when it wraps all of its fingers around a throat, an upper arm sliced open, all of the ways that electricity can be run through flesh. Was this love making love to me? Should I give thanks for its caresses? There were moments when writing felt like this: standing, legs apart, at the very edge of a cliff. A wind, stronger than any I had known, blowing not just around me, but at me. A feeling of simultaneously falling and fighting the fall. A body buffeted, and nothing to do but push all of my strength to my limbs, close my eyes, and stand. Clichés are clichés for a reason: because they’re true. I came to writing as a kind of violence, but also resistance. I came to writing as some smaller version of my self. I came to writing like it would save me, protect me from the fall (it saved me, it protected me from the fall), not knowing that the caress was actually a push. I was already plummeting. There was no escape.

I write this with compassion for that falling self. For the naive woman in her twenties who didn’t realise she was broken already, who came to writing, in some ways, too late. Love was making love to me, but I was looking for softness, a feather-light touch. The caress was a push, and I fell. Madness is not only a thing of the mind. I was traversed by the worst kind of depression. The psychiatrist said what I had should be called Unipolar Disorder. There was no up for me. Just relentless, appalling depths. Sleep. A shattered adrenal system that had me jumping when my lover put her coffee cup down across the room. A dullness that leaked from somewhere in the middle of me, out into tissue and bone, tendon and muscle. Tied down by ennui, I lived on toast and bad TV, on chocolate and tea. I slept. They had me on Seroquel, an anti-psychotic that made me sleep. They had me on three times the highest recommeded dose of Efexor, an anti-depressant whose main side effect was fatigue. I took my Seroquel lying down, because it worked so fast that if I took it standing, I would drop in that spot. I slept from nine at night until twelve the next day. Then sat. Then ate. Then went back to sleep. Depression took the place of writing for five years, took the place of me for five years. I had escaped writing, or it had escaped me, and I almost didn’t care enough to want it back.

In the beginning, there is an end. Don’t be afraid: it’s your death that is dying. Then: all the beginnings (p 41). A tutorial room seems an unlikely place to come back to life, but that is what happened. The writing course that required me to sit with other humans in a room, but more than that, required me to let text out, brought me back. Writing is never only words on a page. In the end it is what you are reading, but what I am talking about is the moment when body and thought and some other streaming thing coalesce to make these lines on this page. What I am talking about is the act of writing. Write! What? Take to the wind, take to writing, form one body with the letters. Live! (p 41) When I sit, and breathe, and let most of my consciousness go free, the body takes over. Tendons moves fingers, the foot traces half circles as I type, the tongue moves out to taste a bottom lip, then slips back to rest, its tip touching a drying palate. Body and letters merge and each time I feel the rush, the fall, of breathing through writing, of the moment when my death is dying and I live.

I live. This is no small thing. At twelve I was already standing at the edge of gravelly cliffs and watching small pebbles fall into the surf below, calculating the plummet; gauging relief. By sixteen I spoke to my flesh with razor blades and fists thrown at walls. Eighteen and I could burn a candle for hours and then tip the pool of hot wax, splattering, onto my belly and not flinch. Twenty-one and I graduated to scalpels, the tool of permanence. I opened myself up and found nothing–no amount of bloodletting changed that rattling self. Then needles of course. Then, again, sleep. So to take to the wind, to form one body with words, to live, is always to be more daring than afraid, is always to take my place in the world, to let this body say here, and here, and here, this is where I was wrenched open and then healed. This intersection of flesh, and organ, and space, and text; this is me.

There, where you write, everything grows, your body unfurls, your skin recounts its hitherto silent legends (p 42). And I did. Unfurl. I traced fingers over the scars on my belly and wrists, and especially the brightest one on my right upper arm. Two and a half inches long and half an inch wide because it had needed stitches but I wouldn’t let anyone touch it. The wound gaped for weeks, then held a thin shield of new skin to the light, then striated and thickened, then (of course) stayed. This legend was not silent; it told me a story every time it saw me. Kneeling on floorboards between my girlfriend’s legs, a glinting blade so sharp that all I felt was cold, was wind. The blood she sucked from me that stained her wolfish teeth pink. The ditch in her arm so deep it threw a shadow onto her skin. The way I thought this new opening would save me, or make me, or both.

History for me, brings to life all the scenes of the real, and gives me my births every day. It opens the earth for me and I spring forth. It opens my body, and writing springs forth (p 43). Did writing spring forth from that arcing wet place? It did, but it took seventeen years for it to seed and grow, to unfurl and push itself from under the scar and onto this page. The history of my body, the one I lay down here for you to read, brings to life everything, and asks me not just to look, but to see. To see where I have walked and kneeled and lain, to trace the imprint of all of me, to speak from openings, to enter and exit through lesions and splits; to inhabit the place where skin meets air and the world finds its edge. My births every day are what I was trying to escape. What person wants to sit and peer every day at lichor and origin, squalling and breath? As if I could be made new by being born here, each moment, on this page; and what if I am not? No poetic echo, no mimesis, just a miring in subjectivity and sameness. If text could not change this writing self, if metamorphosis was nothing more than a waking dream, then this writer’s life could never be for me.

I had to be more than my wounds is what I thought. But still found myself returning to them, writing corporeal and gruesome lists. These scars, that bruise, those burns, this needling ache, as if the places where I could touch pain would always describe me, would make me more of myself. As if by retelling my brokenness, I could one day wake whole. Writing: first I am touched, caressed, wounded; then I try to discover the secret of this touch to extend it, celebrate it, and transform it into another caress (p 45). Celebration is what I was missing, is what I refused. I could not stand joy in myself; such a cloying, bright thing. Better to stay dark and anyway that was how to write, wasn’t it? My grandfather taught me that. Plath, Woolf, Sexton: the whisper behind text that says writing is a pain too great to survive.

I cultivated melancholy. I was so intent on holding its black looping body inside mine that I missed this: writing, creativity, is always about bringing things out, into light. Writing is the dark half of reading; when writing is read it will glint like the inside curl of pearl in a shell, like a found thing glinting from out of a nest. When writing is read what forms is that bright moment when light hits the eye and is reflected back, turned upside down. It is no coincidence that my babies brought me back to writing. Not just brought me back; in the heat of the fire of birth, in the moment when I reached down and felt the slimy top of my first child’s head between my legs, writing was seared into all of me. I wanted to say married first, but that’s not right. It was this body, so wide open in womb and cervix and cunt, that fused, in that moment, with writing, in the same way that molten gold will take to wood: we shall never be undone.

Writing to touch with letters, with lips, with breath, to caress with the tongue, to lick with the soul, to taste the blood of the beloved body, of life in its remoteness; to saturate the distance with desire; in order to keep it from reading you (p 4). We will never be undone, and I write now to touch all of you and all of me, and of course all of them. Those shining boys that turn me between love and rage, like there’s no room for lesser emotions, for mundanity. Each moment new. And in those moments, a requirement–write. Write wounds, yes, and taste them, all blood and ragged edges, but turn that gold infused wood upon the page, and see how it catches the burnished Winter light, and imagine the caress. Find joy, celebrate, move towards love like it is something you can hold (it is something you can hold).

Know that the return to self is the return to the body. Of course I fused with writing in the moment of birth. Contraction. I was only uterine walls, all push and curve. I was emptied of anything but pain–thought was a memory I could touch but not keep. For most of my life disassociation had kept me safe, but in giving birth I could only be my body getting that baby out. After he was in my arms, all slippery slick and purpling, his seashell nails, that misshapen head, I discovered a newly-born woman. Jem had arrived, that dear little thing, and had taken my heart and made it so full and shining that I thought that it would break. I was all ache and leaking tears and instant terror that somehow he would be taken away. Newborn, naked, wrinkled, and under him, me. I am dead. There is an abyss. The leap. That Someone takes. Then, a gestation of self–in itself, atrocious. When the flesh tears, writhes, rips apart, decomposes, revives, recognises itself as a newly born woman, there is a suffering that no text is gentle or powerful enough to accompany with a song. Which is why, while she’s dying–then being born–silence (p 36). While I was dying–then being born–silence and fusion; gold into wood. The daughter of each day, birth made me. I was two become one become two. Blessed with writer’s bones, birth made those bones mine. And like anything that pursues us, I knew in that moment that what I must do was turn, and embrace. Run towards writing, accept the caress. Open wounds each day with text and then, lovingly, close them over again. Look and see. Wait for these words:

I see you.

Each time I am read, I am seen.

I see you.



[1] All italics are taken from Cixous, H (1991) ‘Coming to writing’ and other essays, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. return to text

[2] From editor’s note: ‘“Tu as deux mains. Tu as demain.the echo of the homophones deux mains (“two hands”) and demain (“tomorrow”) creates the suggestion that even if one hand does not work, the other remains a resource, like the future’ (‘Coming to Writing’, Note 4). return to text



Karina Quinn is an emerging writer working in queer theory, fictocriticism, and post-structuralist and feminist theories of the body, subjectivity, and self. She writes short fiction, poetry, and fictocriticism, and is currently writing her PhD titled ‘this body, written’ at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Her most recent publication is titled ‘the body that read the laugh: Cixous, Kristeva, and mothers writing mothers’ and will appear in M/C Journal’s upcoming embody issue.


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Vol 16 No 2 October 2012
Editors: Nigel Krauth, Kevin Brophy & Enza Gandolfo