Category Archives: Lyric Essay

excerpts from Priest/ess 4 – lyric essay by j/j hastain

Eternal-trans-temporal - photo by j/j hastain
Eternal-trans-temporal – photo by j/j hastain

Priest/ess is an ongoing work on gender by j/j hastain, and as usual with j/j’s writing, it’s magical & illuminating & mystifying (in the best possible way). Three excerpts from Priest/ess have previously been published at aglimpseof.net as part of their Narrative in Progress titled “A Thing Like You and Me,” and we were honored to include a 4th excerpt of this one-of-a-kind work in our Spring 2016 issue.

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IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE POSSESSED BY THE ENTITY to which you have devoted your life.

That possession is not necessarily like they show it in horror movies; sometimes possessions are sacred offerings of synonymous identity, felt due to synonymous embodiment. The cave often calls through me, comes to me, begging for attending. I consider attending the cave a form of self-love.

As I was walking up the hill, after spinning and drowning in what I could only describe as the cave’s primal grief regarding any time it has ever been overlooked by the women that it serves, I began losing it. I was not yet up the hill in such a way that I could lean on Quan Yin (her statue was still hundreds of feet ahead of me) but I was also hundreds of feet away from the cave-proper. Would I remain alone in this moment: the practical and ephemeral moirologist for a complex, cosmic grief which, even in its need to express its depressions, its sadness at being overlooked by the populations in which it serves, it is also desperately in love with every woman who might or might not overlook it?

The cave’s love of and for women is both physical and mythic.

My sisters must have heard my cry just like I hear the cry of the cave.

In a manner of moments they had run over to me, were surrounding me, touching me on all sides. “Present and essential, your roots, your worms, your cave-holding that surges underneath all of these workings with light in the above…” Their touch, their words as touch, begin to bring me back to life.

“Yes, essential but not always celebrated as such.”

I am choking on the feeling. Cave synonym needs cave union.

Whenever I am not appreciated or acknowledged as cave I can feel the result is my slowly dissipating from behind my human woman eyes. This sensation is like slipping; it terrifies me. It is as if any moment in which I am not being touched, I am being overlooked. Kept out of the light. In these I can’t feel Sophia so obviously anymore.

“I feel so isolated from the circle when those who are in the circle are looking only into the circle and not into me (the Below).”

My sisters understand me. They are humming, rocking me, putting pressure on my body. I am crooning with the dark crown as it moves from the cave, below ground, up and through the blood in my veins in its manner of making its way to the top of my head.

The more pressure they physically put on me, the more they puja me as the cave, the more I am able to slowly return to the seat behind my eyes. They don’t let go of me until they know for sure that I am all the way back inside of myself.

Continue reading excerpts from Priest/ess 4 – lyric essay by j/j hastain

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FLAPPERHOUSE Podcast #2 – Reading #6

In case you missed our 6th reading— or if you didn’t miss it but would like to relive the experience in podcast form– you may now stream or download it through the Soundcloud file below!

“Plight” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

A robustus at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Turtle Hatchlings – A robustus at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Aren’t we all just turtle hatchlings, trying to survive in this brutal and deceptive world long enough to find the place where we belong– just like the ones in “Plight,” one of four mini lyric essays by j/j hastain in our Spring 2015 issue?

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THE OBTRUSIVE AND MISDIRECTED LIGHT that causes photopollution is affecting the sea turtle hatchlings on the Florida coast. They are misinterpreting light cues (on which they depend to find their way to the sea in the dark).  Attempting to move away from the dark dunes from which they hatch, they follow an inverted force within them, they move with the compass of their small bodies open. How vulnerable! If fluorescent lights interfere too severely, they can confuse them so much so that they never find their watery nest. 6.2 million hatchlings die in Florida every year and many of them die on their way.

When I first read about how photopollution causes decrease in sexual function in humans (due to circadian disruption) I unplugged the only light and moved the whole light outside. I slept for days, dipped my diary pages in red ink to simulate the unseen blood loss of skeletal turtles on the beaches. It’s scary when animals die and you can’t see any of their blood in the process. Right away you are aware that, in addition to things having gone terribly wrong, something is missing. As I ponder, I notice that the wooden fan that I am using to fan myself seems to be leaking. Emissions are a kindness; they wisely help us integrate loss.

On a blood-soaked, driftwood beach I can see that the sea turtle skeletons are partially sunken on the brinks. They look like little bois, purifying forms of perversity. The tide keeps rushing in and out as I belittle the skyglow (with my head and fist raised to the place in the atmosphere where that light gets caught). Running along the shore I am trying desperately to caress all of the decaying bodies, attempting to touch each one. “Your neck bone is so beautiful!” or “I want to lay you gently in a tub full of corn,” sacred phrases particular to each. I want to offer them a light like candlelight reflection, a light that is unconditionally relevant, a light in which they can follow their inclinations all the way to their liquid hearth. I know no other way to offer infinitely relevant light than by a certain quality of touch coming from my own body on this cold beach on the periphery of the city.

It is beginning to rain a good ole’ fashioned Florida rain now. The droplets are penetrating the sand, making drum whacks on the softening shells of the turtles. The swamps will flood tonight; the sea level will rise to cover over their sweet, bloodless forms.

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Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain,Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay GinAufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.

“Saving Earthworms in My Mountain Cave” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

Worm - Kiki Smith, 1992
Worm – Kiki Smith, 1992

Our Spring 2015 issue features four bite-sized lyric essays from j/j hastain‘s forthcoming memoir, including today’s featured piece, “Saving Earthworms in My Mountain Cave.” 

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EVERY MORNING AFTER IT RAINED I WOULD OPEN THE RED DOOR, squat (with nearly no clothes on, my body a fleshy thing against the green mountain scape) and pick up each earthworm one at a time. I would move earthworms from the pathway or the street into the lush patches of grass near the river of my property. As I picked up each soft, squirming body and the body positioned itself like the letter upsilon (shaped like a “u”) it reminded me of the lingual bone. It was because of that reminder that I began to hum to them, moving my mouth in different shapes while I was transporting them. I also tried not to make them experience too much shock at transition.

Ribbons are what I follow when I sing: verdant ribbons heading toward gentle brows, browns. For this reason these Lumbricus Terrestris were personal for me: totem animals, spirit animals.

When I was at the local independent movie theater (where, prior to the movie playing they show local short films in place of commercials) I was awed when, for nearly three entire minutes, I watched what seemed to be an enormous hybrid earthworm (part metal, part sepia-flesh) up close as it peristalted not in a straight line, but in a round and curving shape. There was music that accompanied the movement, but it felt, as an image, as a moment, to be the exact thing that I was feeling when I was transporting the worms.

To get to indigenous relief and natural identity, animal press is required. Animal press is what makes that pulp of the path appear.

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Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in CaketrainTrickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin ,Aufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.

“Weight of the World on My Shoulders, or Weight of the World in Her Shudder” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

Jack Rabbit - Frederick Sommer, 1939
Jack Rabbit – Frederick Sommer, 1939

Road-killed rabbit meets cassette-tape chewing in “Weight of the World on My Shoulders or Weight of the World in Her Shudder,” one of four mini lyric essays by j/j hastain in our Spring 2015 issue.

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WHEN WE MET IN THE BACK OF THAT WEIRD CHURCH on a winter morning just after a rainstorm, my friend was obviously troubled: “I knew you would know what to do with it. I have been driving around with it on the floor of the passenger seat of my car for a few days now.” She took me to where its small, ripped body was lying, both still connected to itself and also strewn: very not its hopping, spring-self. I appreciated that she had adorned its dead form with many different types of flowers because usually these types of scenes make me feel like I am chewing on cassette tapes (both the plastic and the dark matter-like strands) and in need of something lush or verdant in order to most accurately honor the contents of the scene. Sweet road-kill rabbits make the cyborg parts of me sweat.

Carrying the slumped rabbit in my hands, we moved to a place near the chairs that had metal wings built into their backs (these chairs were why we had chosen this church as our meeting place in the past). We emphasized the metal wing-chairs as moss-covered, living cyborgs: “Road kill animals need wings that can’t be clipped and metal wings can’t be clipped.”

Gently setting the rabbit beside me for a moment I used the heel of my boot to dig a deep hole in the ground: a new burrow for the dead to rest in. She cried as one might weep at the loss of a child; she winced. As she watched me dig the hole I felt her notice the strands of cassette hanging out of my mouth and over my lips like bloody flesh hangs out of a carnivore’s mouth: only partially consumed with more saved for later.

I was visualizing how, when pressed firmly into them over time, bullets or chains are swallowed into the tree that they had been forcefully shoved into or slung over. Though initially the tree leaks sap in response, wincing a little bit itself, eventually it accepts the added.

Was this the reason to bury the bunny? For the sake of inviting road kill back into the planet after a facet of the planet took it? Would I share this image of trees swallowing bullets with this grieving woman who was shuddering desperately beside me? Or is it possible that there are parts of grief so sweet that they might be blotted out if a lesson is suddenly shoved in?

Note: I will not let any form of possible peristalsis become paralysis under the knowing weight of my steel-toed, metallic-colored boot.

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Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in CaketrainTrickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay GinAufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.

“1930’s Butches Referred to Themselves as Stallions” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

Lesbian Bar in Paris - George Brassaï, 1930's
Lesbian Bar in Paris – George Brassaï, 1930’s

“1930’s Butches Referred to Themselves as Stallions” is one of four mini lyric essays by the inimitable j/j hastain in our Spring 2015 issue.

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HAVING SPENT QUALITY TIME WITH HER IN MY IMAGINATION long before ever being found by and finding her in human form, there were times when imagining her while she was right here with me made me more wholly able to comprehend her in her wholeness: her as a wholeness.

One version: swagger in the slightly tilted fedora (so much like the hat my father wore during that Church play in which he sang that solo as the masculine figurehead in the story: “Thirty days to make a brick, make it hard enough to stick”), suspenders up over the cream colored and slightly-wrinkled-but-still-tucked-in (like any gentleman would do) shirt, the gorgeous polished shoes tied with equal loops on each side, the shape of her hand around the shot glass from which she was going to gulp bourbon.

Another version: a painting (with brush strokes that stand out from (rather than blend in with) the shapes of the painting) of a single horse made out of two horses (fused at an imprecise but precious slant, not evenly or equally down a middle): the front half, a male and the back half a mare. Though the painting is a still life, due to the protruding strokes of its composition it is anything but still.

Another version: a slightly masculine-presenting women’s woman (“that’s womyn with a “y” thank you very much”) driving a Chevy Nova through Denver. Having just returned from writing a love poem to an invisible woman on her Macintosh 128K, REO Speedwagon is pouring loudly out the one operable window in the front of the car. With a Big Gulp in the cup holder (a cup holder that latches manually to the window and is not built into the frame of the car), her arms are outstretched, moving up and down (accentuating the low-key shoulder pads in her coat) ever so slightly to the rhythm of the song. What no one can see (as they stare at her through the window (her mullet is not much different than peering heterosexual folks’ mullets)) is that below the steering wheel (which she is not currently using to drive, since both of her hands are in the air) her fly is open. I have a feeling that I, more than anyone else, know what’s writhing and wriggling within that open fly, trying to get out, trying to get into me.

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Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in CaketrainTrickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay GinAufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.

“Memoir Recalls” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

Trees Laden with Parasites and Epiphytes in a Brazilian Garden - Marianne North, 1873
Trees Laden with Parasites and Epiphytes in a Brazilian Garden – Marianne North, 1873

An author’s memoir grows like plant life in “Memoir Recalls,” one of four short lyric essays by j/j hastain in our Winter 2015 issue.

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WANTING HER LIFE TO COME OFF AS HAVING SOMEHOW CURVED ITSELF, she began writing her memoir at age 13. She wanted to give her experiences the chance to grow along with her, wrap around her. She wanted to work the necessary asphyxiations and the necessary surrogacies in order that they enable unexpected refinement in her. She planned to write her memoir as a synesthesiac plot: something that goes on in many different directions of her for the duration of her.

She needed for the form in which she wrote to evolve along with a continuity of her coming of age by trance. Trance means travelling, but so, without your mind as it usually functions. She believed that by way of her work, her memories could eventually have a mind of their own. Flirting with cliché she took personally what happened when it softened and became vulnerable to her voice: touch-butter for a way for her to tell her stories.

Perform the complexities you create. Track the molecules of an ongoing beast fable. Douse in sentences; dowse for sentences as rotund extremes.

The Banyan tree’s roots are upward and its branches downward: aspects reaching inversely. She wonders on the form of her memoir as an inverse-universal, a startling epiphyte: mutual turning and traction in which miracles can be expressed. It flourishes by what first seems like embellishment. In the flourish, it then slowly strangles what was, eventually leaving its beginning hollow, able to move on.

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Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk(Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain,Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin,Aufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.