May 4, 2010

My periods have changed. It is years
since I have swallowed pink and gray darvons, round
chalky midols from the bottle with the smiling girl.
Now I plan a quiet space,
protect myself those first few days when my uterus lets
go and I am an open anemone. I know
when my flow will come. I watch my mucous pace
changes like a dancer, follow the fall
and rise of my body heat. All this
and yet I never questioned them, those slim white handies.

It took me years to learn to use them
starting with Pursettes and a jar of vaseline.
I didn't even know where the hole was.
I didn't even know enough
to try to find one. I pushed until
only a little stuck out and hoped
that was far enough.
I tried every month through high school.

And now that I can change it in a moving car --
like Audrey Hepburn changing dresses in the taxi
in the last scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's --
I've got to give them up.

Tampons, I read, are
bleached, are
chemically treated to
compress better,
contain asbestos.
Good old asbestos. Once we learned not to shake it --
Johnson & Johnson's -- on our babies or diaphragms,
we thought we had it licked.

So what do we do? They're universal.
Even macrobiotics and lesbian separatists are hooked on them.
Go back to sanitary napkins?
Junior high, double napkins
on the heavy days, walking home damp underpants
chafing thighs. It's been a full twelve years
since I have worn one, since Spain when Marjorie pierced
my ears
and I unloaded half a suitcase of the big gauze pads in the
hotel trash.

Someone in my workshop suggested Tassaways, little
cups that catch the flow.
They've stopped making them,
we're told. Women found they could reuse them
and the company couldn't make enough
money that way. Besides,
the suction pulled the cervix out of shape.

Then diaphragms
It presses on me, one woman says.
So swollen these days. Too tender.

Menstrual extraction, a young woman says.
I heard about that. Ten minutes
and it's done.
But I do not trust putting tubes into my uterus each month.
We're told everything is safe
in the beginning.

the Indians used mosses.
I live in Aptos. We grow
succulents and pine.

I will buy mosses
when they sell them at the co-op.

Okay. It's like the whole birth control schmeer.
There just isn't a good way. Women bleed.
We bleed.
The blood flows out of us. We will bleed.
Blood paintings on our thighs; patterns
like river beds, blood on the chairs in
insurance offices, blood on Greyhound buses
and 747s, blood blots, flower forms
on the blue skirts of the stewardesses.
Blood on restaurant floors, supermarket aisles,
the steps of government buildings. Sidewalks will have blood trails,
like Gretel's bread crumbs. We can always find our way.

We will ease into rhythm together, it happens
when women live closely -- African tribes, college sororities --
our blood flowing on the same days. The first day
of our heaviest flow we will gather in Palmer, Massachusetts,
on the steps of Tampax, Inc. We'll have a bleed-in.
We'll smear blood on our faces. Max Factor
will join OB in bankruptcy. The perfume industry
will collapse, who needs
whale sperm, turtle oil, when we have free blood?
For a little while cleaning products will boom,
409, Lysol, Windex. But
the executives will give up. The cleaning woman is leaving a
red wet rivulet, as she scrubs down the previous stains.
It's no use. The men would have to
do it themselves, and that will never come up
for a vote at the Board. Women's clothing manufacturers, fancy
furniture, plush carpet, all will phase out. It's just not
practical. We will live the old ways.

Simple floors, dirt or concrete, can be hosed down
or straw can be cycled through the compost.
Simple clothes, none in summer. No more swimming pools.
Dogs will fall in love with us.
Swim in the river. Yes, swim in the river.
We'll feed the fish with our blood. Our blood
will neutralize the chemicals and dissolve the old car parts.
Our blood will detoxify the phosphates and the
PCBs. Our blood will feed the depleted soils.
Our blood will water the dry, tired surface of the earth.
We will bleed. We will bleed. We will
bleed until we bathe her in our blood and she turns
slippery new like a baby birthing.

- Ellen Bass, Tampons

March 8, 2008

Barbara Ehrenreich on white collar work

Just some quotes from Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, on job-hunting in the white collar corporate world.

One of the things that has always made me most uncomfortable about doing white collar work is the dress code. I don't have much of a style and don't pay a lot of attention to what I wear, but I simply can't feel like myself in formal clothes. "Business casual" qualifies as formal for me as well. I never understood why you had to conform to someone else's standard of propriety to be considered worth listening to. Ehrenreich puts it quite well:

"Robert Jackall's book impressed on me that corporate dress serves a far more important function than mere body covering. 'Proper management of one's external appearances,' he writes, 'simply signals to one's superiors that one is prepared to undertake other kinds of self-adaptation.' By dressing correctly, right down to the accessories, you let it be known that you are willing to conform in other ways too - that you can follow orders, for example, and blend in with the prevailing 'culture.'"

She has this to say on the process of getting made over for job interviews:

"This should be the fun part --playing with paints and little swatches of fabric-- but I am suddenly gripped by queasiness. I understand that to make myself into a 'product' that I can market, I must first become a commodity, a thing."

And finally, on the corporate aesthetic that permeates our physical surroundings:

"Back at the Homestead Suites that night, a stripped-down, generic sort of place near Dulles Airport, I was struck by how much my motel resembled the church. Not literally, but in the sense of some underlying aesthetic - the same economy of line, neutral colors, cheap indestructible furniture, extremely short-haired carpet for easy cleaning... In my exhausted state, it seemed to me that this aesthetic permeates all aspects of the world I have entered: narrative-free resumes dominated by bullets; sensuality-suppressing wardrobes; precise instruction sheets; numerous slides."

"It works, more or less, this realm of perfect instrumentality; it makes things happen: deadlines are met; reservations are made; orders delivered on time; carpets kept reliably speck-free. But something has also been lost. Weber described the modern condition as one of 'disenchantment,' meaning 'robbed of the gods,' or lacking in any dimension of strangeness and mystery. As Jackson Lears once put it, premodern people looked up and saw heaven; modern, rational people see only the sky. To which we might add that minions of today's grimly focused business culture tend not to look up at all."

November 22, 2007

Dumpstering reaches academia

Tonight I had that wonderful experience where you discover that someone has already produced the idea/article that you have been passively planning on creating for some time. I found an "academic" article on aspects of anarchism which I have been mulling over how to discuss with different audiences. The link to the entire article is below.

"In many ways, here in the U.S., recycling presently serves both materially and rhetorically as an alibi for the continuing, accepted and acceptable absence of sustainability, not as a harbinger of change. Recycling is presented as a cornerstone of the environmental project, as an alternative to waste, even to consumerism itself. But its actual operation is something rather different, a way for corporations and governments to present a marketable "earth-friendly" face to consumers and citizens, without changing the impact their actions have on the ecosystems in which we live."

"The project that the Garbage Liberation Front (GLF) and Trash Worship embody can be thought of as the normalization of thorough use and re-use as opposed to recycling's separation of these "resources" from everyday life. It is an admittedly parasitic approach, but one that carries the potential for an escape or transformation, since it reduces dependence on consumption even as it feeds on others' excess."

"The rejection of garbage, of trash, of refuse as a valid concept, which lies beneath this approach, has an affirmative side as well. It involves a deep-seated belief that everything, no matter how battered or rejected, is useful—to someone, for something. This runs parallel to the anti-hierarchical core of anarchism, which insists on the validity of all voices, on the necessity for every voice to be heard and taken into account directly, not through an allegedly "representative" mouthpiece. Both insist that anything cast aside is a loss not only to itself but to those around it, to the entire community."

-Daniel Lang, 'Give Us the Dumpsters -Or - Give Us Life': Res Derilictae and the Trash of Free Trade

August 8, 2007

Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes.

When the main character, Shevek, is asked to describe to members of the capitalist society, Urras, what it is like in his anarchist society, Anarres, this is what he says: "It is not wonderful. It is an ugly world. Not like this one. Anarres is all dusty and dry hills. All meager, all dry. And the people aren't beautiful. They have big hands and feet, like me and the waiter there. But not big bellies. They get very dirty, and take baths together, nobody here does that. The towns are very small and dull, they are dreary. No palaces. Life is dull, and hard work. You can't always have what you want, or even what you need, because there isn't enough. You Urrasti have enough. Enough air, enough rain, grass, oceans, food, music, buildings, factories, machines, books, clothes, history. You are rich, you own. We are poor, we lack. You have, we do not have. Everything is beautiful here. Only not the faces. On Anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. The other faces, the men and women. We have nothing but that, nothing but each other. Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit."

"Shevek wandered across acres of polished marble under that immense ethereal vault, and came at last to the long array of doors through which crowds of people came and went constantly, all purposeful, all separate. They all looked, to him, anxious. He had often seen that anxiety before in the faces of Urrasti, and wondered about it. Was it because, no matter how much money they had, they always had to worry about making more, lest they die poor? Was it guilt, because no matter how little money they had, there was always somebody who had less? Whatever the cause, it gave all the faces a certain sameness, and he felt very much alone among them. In escaping his guides and guards he had not considered what it might be like to be on one's own in a society where men did not trust one another, where the basic moral assumption was not mutual aid, but mutual aggression."

"A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well - this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole."

"But as surely as the future becomes the past, the past becomes the future. To deny is not to achieve. The explorer who will not come back or send back his ships to tell his tale is not an explorer, only an adventurer; and his sons are born in exile."

- Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

April 12, 2007

"How you walk in life is your ceremony. When you feel disconnected, it's time to go home." - Grandmother Gertie Godoy

March 26, 2007

Misanthropy and love

One speaks of being sick of man only when one can no longer digest him and yet has one's stomach full of him. Misanthropy comes of an all too greedy love of man and "cannibalism"; but who asked you to swallow men like oysters, Prince Hamlet?

- Nietzsche, The Gay Science

December 30, 2006

The dogs jumped and barked and tried to bite us in the back, in the legs, while the guards made as if they were releasing them and pulling them back. And it wasn't one dog, but rather a pack of dogs. The only thing that you heard in that dark room was the barking of dogs and more barking of dogs. It was terrible, terrible.

I recall that a kid was at my side, a young kid, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. He started to cry and I told him, "Don't cry, be brave." He was telling me, "I'm not crying from fear, but rather from anger." From anger, he said.

- Dionisio Martinez, on being detained in Oaxaca

December 2, 2006

Maps: ever more real, much less true

A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true.

And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and putting up flags and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done.

Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identify, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only a very little has been discovered.

- Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry

Lending one's bicycle is a form of safe sex, possibly the safest there is. - Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

July 12, 2006

The Waste of the Retired

This system declares the thousands that retire every year as waste-folk. People who have had real power, when they become powerless are really tragic, particularly the men. We just allow ourselves to become conditioned by society so we become as unimportant as we’re supposed to be. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… Society tells you that after you’ve worked hard it’s time to play, you deserve it. It’s novocain, to keep you out of any position of influence and power. By the year 2020… the old will outnumber the young. If the majority of people are disengaged, who’s gonna do the work? If most of us will live in age-segregated communities like Sun City, living in a leisure world of kiddie-land, how will our society survive?

-interview by Studs Terkel, The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream

June 17, 2006


What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can t walk, can't remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can't stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organisation. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

- Marge Piercy

May 2, 2006


"A man may have lived all his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then --the glory-- so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man's importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world." - John Steinbeck, East of Eden

April 1, 2006

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

March 20, 2006

The freedom to be fully human

"When I talk about democracy and freedom, I’m also talking about the freedom to be fully human. Which means the freedom to experience and pursue pleasure, and joy, and desire, and the erotic—the marvelous, the wonderful, the mystery and awe—because without the freedom of pleasure and joy and desire and the erotic and marvelous and mystery and wonder and awe, we are just consumers and focus groups and demographics. And we become citizens of the state, at the expense of a citizenry of the heart and the body electric and the soul.

To my mind, it takes bold imaginings and disruptive, irresistible creativity to picture a society organized around both the material and metaphysical needs of the human being." - Sekou Sundiata, The America Project

February 16, 2006

On a nonexistent winter's night

But something has changed since yesterday. Your reading is no longer solitary: you think of the Other Reader, who, at this same moment, is also opening the book; and there, the novel to be read is superimposed by a possible novel to be lived, the continuation of your story with her, or better still, the beginning of a possible story. This is how you have changed since yesterday, you who insisted you preferred a book, something solid, which lies before you, easily defined, enjoyed without risks, to a real-life experience, always elusive, discontinuous, debated. Does this mean that the book has become an instrument, a channel of communication, a rendezvous? This does not mean reading will grip you less: on the contrary, something has been added to its powers. - Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler

January 27, 2006

Madmen who remember and madmen who forget

"Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don't know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or: it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare." - James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

January 24, 2006

Evolution is simply the term used by nonparticipants to denote a particular sequence of revolutions as they synthesized into a specific major social change." - Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals