Notes on Inheritance

December 17, 2019

“This is the only kingdom.
kingdom of touching:
the touches of the disappearing, things.” — Aracelis Girmay

When I see wax, I think of submission.
I think of afterlife. I think of the sky
what it leaves behind. I used to think
myself a doe, then a hurricane. The muscle
inside the tongue. The prayer-sore. Again
& again, something foreign. Fugitive. So briefly
I was a girl. A young woman. A mule, mother, arm-
rest—the sky resting on a bridge overlooking
the river. That cold, cold water. I waded in,
three seconds to numb. & nothing. I can’t give in
to love. What will become of us
when it’s the child that is imagined?
Our gods: the fields under a haze
of mosquitoes. And lo, the stars’ white
fire. And lo, the splintered spines of spruce
trees. And lo, the disappearing hours.
I stretch my neck into the next life.
I breathe in the cherry blossoms & bomb-
scent of aftermath. I don’t care why
I didn’t want this. I lean into myself.
I take what is offered until I forget
I am what is offered. With the orchard
& the apple I didn’t name. There is
an hour that bears my grave already.
It’s late. I can’t help but wish I wasn’t
lonely. That I wasn’t made to disappear.

Chelsea Dingman

extraordinary pornographic

December 17, 2019

Fifty years ago, an extraordinary pornographic novel appeared in Paris. Published simultaneously in French and English, Story of O portrayed explicit scenes of bondage and violent penetration in spare, elegant prose, the purity of the writing making the novel seem reticent even as it dealt with demonic desire, with whips, masks and chains.

Pauline Reage, the author, was a pseudonym, and many people thought that the book could only have been written by a man. The writer’s true identity was not revealed until 10 years ago, when, in an interview with John de St Jorre, a British journalist and some-time foreign correspondent of The Observer, an impeccably dressed 86-year-old intellectual called Dominique Aury acknowledged that the fantasies of castles, masks and debauchery were hers…

Dominique Aury, lying on her side in bed with her pencil and her school exercise books, did not intend the work to be published. She wrote it as a dare, a challenge and an enterprise de seduction for her lover, Jean Paulhan. They’d met during the German occupation, when she distributed a subversive magazine, Lettres Françaises, which he edited. Probably, they were first introduced by her father, in the hope that she might solicit Paulhan’s aid in publishing the volume of 17th-century devotional poetry she had collected.  (She did, and it was.) Subsequently, they worked together at the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue Française and at Gallimard.

Geraldine Bedell
I wrote the story of O
The Observer 25th July 2004

The first time someone else touched me with the intent to pleasure, I fell in love. Not with that person, but with the act itself. Such intimacy and accord. Even with the awkwardness of first-time lovers there was a grace and purity, carnal and beautiful that I knew from that moment on I could never live without.

Fiona Zedde
Bliss

In order to understand Crowley and his controversial work, we need to place them against the backdrop of British attitudes toward sexuality in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, one of the many reasons for the shocking, sordid and deliciously scandalous reputation that followed Crowley was his practice of sexual magic and his deliberate transgression of the sexual mores of the world in which he was raised.  Rejecting the effete morality of his Christian youth, Crowley deliberately set out to overturn what he saw as the oppressive, hypocritical attitudes of Victorian England, by identifying sex as the most central aspect of the human being and the most profound source of magical power (in fact, in his Book of Lies, he points out that the English word for the pronoun “I” is itself a phallic shape). The popular press, of course, took no end of delight in sensationalizing Crowley’s sexual promiscuity, which was described in vivid, exaggerated and often hilarious detail throughout the newspapers of the day. Thus he and his degenerate band of followers were described in the most scandalous terms as “a blasphemous sect whose proceedings lend themselves to immorality of the most revolting character,” whose main goal is “to fill their money-bags by encouraging others to gratify their depraved tastes.”

Hugh Urban
UNLEASHING THE BEAST: Aleister Crowley, Tantra and Sex Magic in Late Victorian England