|Carson McCullers (1917-1967) is an
American writer from Georgia,
who wrote the novel
A Clock Without Hands,
the title I gave this journal.
The following excerpts are from a journal written between 1986 and 1989, during the years my father died, I was first married and discovered I was a lesbian.
p. 25 (June 10, 1987)
Please bear with me
said the tree,
my leaves number only twenty-three.
“We all of us somehow caught. We born this way or that way and we don’t know why. But we caught anyhow. I born Berenice. You born Frankie. John Henry born John Henry. And maybe we wants to widen and bust free. But no matter what we do we still caught. Me is me and you is you and he is he. We each one of us somehow caught all by ourself.” Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding
“While I am young, I will write the simple beautiful things I understand.” Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
|The drawings in the post are master copies
completed for an art class during that period.
Degas, Nude Woman Combing Her Hair
“The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in time of moral dilemma.” Dante
“Be bold, take chances.” Lillian Hellman, Julia
My mother’s car was stolen today. I sit here waiting for the police, remembering years ago when a man broke in on her with an ax. The sun bakes the windshields and my legs. I feel guilty because in the middle of her phone call, I was thinking weekend before exams, what a great time for this to happen. We used to look at each other in the eyes when we said goodbye. Now we pull away. Something killed that in us too.
Death is a game and marriage
is lonelier than solitude.
|Degas, Standing Female Nude
Inside my salty brain, images of us float eight feet deep. I dive into the cold where sun has not shone for months to lift the pieces of my broken identity from inside you, a drain of fouled leaves, dead spiders and rocks. Death is a game, and marriage is lonelier than solitude.
I hit him in the head, and the blood flowed so fast, soaking everything, the sheets the corner of the bed. Why did I do it, why did I hit him so hard. Across the sink, on the bathroom floor, it’s everywhere. I hate who I am. I hate who I am so I hit him. They asked at the hospital what he’d done to make me do it. I hate who I am I hate who I am I hate who I am.
You are my mother. You put your hand on my shoulder. I try to wash you off me like the smell of cigarettes once you’re gone.
A cat opened me up and licked inside me until I was wet with her. Her eyes blinked the flat, blank stare of a cat. She looked up at me only once. I loved the purr from inside her flat stomach as she rubbed against me. I scratched her curved, thin back, and she gently placed her head between my breasts and stroked me.
|Degas, Study of Arm
“To believe what is true for you in your own private heart is true for all men, that is genius.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I always think when I’m sitting in these gay bars, there’s got to be more to it than this. I don’t know what they hope for. I pick up a pool stick and wipe the white powder on my hands. In their faces are the starved eyes of children. The chalk is as white as the cocaine Charlie’s trying to give Stacy. I see him land and fall near her then fall away. She flatters him with a smile. I don’t understand why we’re here, but I stay here with her listening to Bobby. He worked for the Commercial Appeal and tells me bad jokes about the newspaper. They move like ghosts around the walls of this room or sit by themselves at dark tables. Men dressed as women, women trying to look like men, female impersonators. Everything’s opposite of what it is.
|Degas, Male Nude
Dear Robin, thank you for always being there. You’re like the sister I never had. Remember the wedding. I don’t know who else I’d talk to about this. It seems like our lives are so different. You’re married and have a child, and now I’m not. Some friendships happen so fast and then they’re over, but this one’s lasted so long.
My mother is moving to Texas to be near my brother and his family. We pack away the house. Today we were in the attic, crawling over thick layers of insulation. We waddled from board to board, trying to keep the pink fibers from cutting into our skin. She wanted me to find a piece of marble that’s been up there for years and goes on top of a washstand my grandparents had. I passed down furniture, disassembled cribs and playpens and bed frames and old toys and boxes of Christmas and Easter decorations and barrels of Barbies. We each stepped back onto the ladder out of the dark womb into the light.
|Degas, Standing Dancer Left Arm Raised
I hang over the top bar of the swing set and can’t stop crying. No more swings or sandboxes or tree houses or play house. My mother toes the grass and walks away.
Now I’m back with Billy I think that whole lesbian thing was just a late adolescent stage I had to go through. I’m ashamed Sharon Bryan even knows what happened.
My mother said when I told her I didn’t want to be a poet anymore that I should just keep writing anyway. She acted like being a poet was dumb thing to want to be. I wish I could want to be something like a nurse or a teacher that’s normal. I feel like I should drop that drawing class. Staying in it will probably just drop my gpa. It’s okay to fail, but not this way, not in this.
Tomorrow I meet Ellen Bryant Voigt. Today Billy and I went to her reading. She seems like such a warm, personable woman. I listened to her reading and kept hoping she would look at me. I wish I could just sit there and look into her eyes.
|Giovanni Tiepolo, Hercules Standing
I talked to Ellen Bryant Voigt about my poetry tonight. She told me I need to read more. Right now I’m reading through the Antaeus Anthology. She said music didn’t fulfill her need for expression for a long time but that writing did.
I tried to kill myself last week. I opened up a vein in my arm, but it seemed hopeless and still does. I don’t know what to do. I want to believe in something but don’t know what.
A shotgun sounds across the tracks from our house and ricochets through the neighborhood. We walked down to see if we could see anything but could only see the train cars.
Hope, next two exits. I gave my brother a sweater for Christmas and my sister-in-law a book, the kids toys and my mother clothes. They gave us an electric blanket. Now we’re driving home, and I have to go to the bathroom again. My mother smokes cigarettes and guides the car from one lane to the other for 600 miles.
|Antoine Watteau, Study of Hands
A Clock Without Hands
When she began hanging out in malls and movie theaters, no one noticed, not even her husband. He asked her once why she wanted to go to the movies alone and she said, to think. Being around books helped, so she’d hang out in bookstores too. Christmas with her family was nice, a cocoon she received shelter and love in. But afterwards on the ride home she felt empty and lost again and tried not to believe she felt empty and lost. She stopped taking long walks. They had long sense done any good.
She tried to do a drawing of Jesus. In his eyes, she drew in the lines of sadness and despair. She wondered if holiness had anything to do with loneliness. Church people didn’t seem to be lonely. They had their socials and bowling games and basketball tournaments. She took the drawing of Jesus and nailed it to her wall. His face reminded her of the faces she saw on the big screen in the movie theater. On a piece of paper beside the face she wrote, “Remember me lonely, a clock without hands, who quit running silently, who quit running.”
Sometimes when the old woman would walk, she would wipe the rain from the leaves on her face. She tried hard to remember what it was she loved most when she was young, but the walks made her tired and she had to return home.
Alone in her apartment, she would read her books, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master, so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost their loss is no disaster.” And as she read, she remembered.
For in the sea is both beauty and cruelty, and no one knows in his chest are the walls of salt and in his fingers the blood of salt and in his mind the thoughts of the sea.
On the other side of the tracks lives a family of three black women in a green house. It has two stories. One day I walked over there, and they waddled out to their balcony so we could talk. Their hair was full of pink rollers, and I watched them take them out as we stood there. Billy and I were thinking about moving over there, but the roofs look crooked and the yards have no grass and people walk with golf clubs like they’re canes.
“She saw in him the timidity that he would be in age, a man of great fear and loneliness, that he would console himself with the minutiae of scholarship, the pain-staking search for the precise fact.” Will You Wait? by Lee Martin
|Portrait of my father, by my cousin
“I don’t like to see things go good or bad. I like them in between.” From the movie Red River with John Wayne
p. 303 (January 18, 1989)
Today I discovered the computer has dropped me from all my classes at school. I drained myself on a long bike ride and could hardly walk up the steps when I got home. It’s the two-year anniversary of my father’s death. I never could stand the thought of growing up and being like him, his messiness, his obsessiveness, his habits, his Jewishness maybe, whatever that was, we never discussed it. I think he always felt isolated even when he was sitting in the same room with us. I don’t know what I wanted him to be, so how can I say I don’t want to be like him. But sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see his face.
I did the unforgivable thing,
I imagined someone else and not him.
In the end you were there again,
your face, your smell, your hair, your skin.
In the gray room beneath the lights again,
I did the unforgivable thing.
p. 46 (lyrics written in for I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)
“I have climbed highest mountains. I have run through the fields only to be with you. I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls only to be with you, but I haven’t still haven’t found what I’m looking for. I have kissed honey lips felt the healing fingertips, burned like fire this burning desire. I have spoke with the tongues of angels. I have held the hand of the devil. It was warm as the night. I was cold as a stone, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. I believe in kingdom come when all the colors bleed into one, but yes I’m still running. You broke the bonds and loosed the chains, carried the cross, all my shame, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” U2
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