“Intellectual rigor demands that we give these damned metaphors every chance, even if they are inimical to personal well-being and comfort.”

Donald Barthleme, “At the End of the Mechanical Age”

“So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.”



The lover is makeshift, a free-floating signifier unbound by formal fetters. The lover is one I desire to uncomplicate and unwind, unweave his warbled way of walking, his scattered irises looking left to right, his pupils that seek corners and broken skylines searching for the past and haunting.

Is the funhouse really fun? Barth says, perhaps, for lovers. Ambrose wanders alone, crashing into the flimsy structures. Will he remain reflected in others’ folded, linklocked palms?

I want him where the world won’t, in the embrace of sign, in the meeting of words caressing bodies, an in and out of mind.

William Gass writes in The World Within the Word that “creating and defending a connection between what William James called the buzzing, blooming confusion of normal consciousness—of daily life with its unstimulating bumps, its teaseless, enervating grinds—and the clear and orderly silences of mathematics, a connection which will give us meaning, security, and management, in one lump sum, is what our science—is what our art, law, love, and magic—is principally about” (263).

Gass also claims that “the burden of being is felt most fully by the self-determining self” (6).

I once asked you to explain pragmatism. I saw you and you shifted with your usual shudders and contradictions. You asked me why and told me it was boring. I wanted to examine the unstimulating bumps and enervating grinds of these lonely, tiresome hearts.

We locked hands, linked fingers, kissing palm to palm. This is almost near enough to touch. But there is no flesh beneath the scab and scrabble of syntactic figures, Eliot’s ragged, scuttling claws. You are everything meaning desires in disjointed prose.

Oh language, bring me the lover between these trusses, bonds!

I wrote:
“Ocean, how forgotten you are, sea muck and metal rust, at the bottom where those fish eyes bubble, brought to the top to burst, myopic and mal-aligned, at a loss when brought to light. Who’s to say the underwater life is less—the deep waves and water’s intimate caress down low and languorous, pushed against a breast? There is a heft, love through a world dense with stratification. Our depths, kept floating, air drawing towards clouds in wisps and fissions where the languid lie. Deaths fastened to the stratosphere and limped to the foot of the earth like a shackle. I’d rather be bled through the chest—plumped with water heaving out and pressed.”

I cannot say I love your loss, though I desire to fill those gaps and spaces, even if I’d burst like the lungs of a hooked through fish. I tell you, “when fish are pulled from the depths, their eyes bulge and the sacks of their lungs compress. This is a different kind of drowning.” You look at me as if I am out of mind, boring through depths where semantic structures lie.

William Gass writes: “it is a style so desperate to rise, it would burst its own lungs.”

You wheeze like the wounded.

You bought a birdfeeder. I thought, perhaps, you were tempting seeds to draw this hunger back. I thought I’d come and go because I pleased, feathers shining in a ceremony fit for lovers or thieves. I’d come, collect, and you’d free the fingers lately clasped around your neck. Fidgeting and fancy, I’d unfasten my beak behind your back and wish and whistle. I could love you like that.

I wrote:
“Let me sink into the sea, where there are no feathers, no lust, where the fishes are wishes, where there is no such thing as trust.”

In order for any force to remain static in space, the sums of all (horizontal and vertical) forces, as well as all moments acting about the node, equal zero.

I’m worried that I may somehow lean too close to the edge of my windows. Instead of looking out I may end up in the world where language escapes. I can’t contain it (bird, fish, bridge, scale, wing). There are waves of worry winding through my jostled throat. I can’t seem anymore and the world has nothing, something, everything, to do: everything, something, nothing, you.

I recently saw a rabbit hopping down a busy street while traffic blurted and burped. It’s eyes stymied fearful rivers and its thick legs pumped, aiming to move out of the blinding, violent lights. It did not belong there, misplaced, searching frantically for the absent hedgerows.

I wrote:
“I’m back from my trip to Chicago and was wondering if we could get together and talk about Heather Momyer’s Performing the Illusion of Love: the Autobiographical Literary Critic and the Striptease Artist, suburbs, ragas, waxwings, pragmatism, harlequins, and Walter Benjamin?”
There is no response.

I do not mask my sadness. I can’t clamor my face with light and smile toward the seeds clouding up the air in the suffocating springtime. I fear everyone is leaving. I see the trails of their coats and the wave of their hands and I can’t imagine them back, rabbits disappearing through the darkness of a hat.

“’That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: `it always makes one a little giddy at first –‘
`Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. `I never heard of such a thing!’
`– but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
`I’m sure mine only works one way,’ Alice remarked. `I can’t remember things before they happen.’
`It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

Occasionally a former lover cities into my life despite the unaffected landscapes. This was how it began. The waves spit on the shore with the sounds of leaving through the wind.

See also: the 28 ways to fill space that have identical joints, geodesic dome, girder, mechanics of structures, a form used for telescopes, space frame, comprehensive stress, tensile stress, structural steel, where no compression member touches any other compression member, bridge, rod, a guitar part.

This is how we meet:
-People rush where everyone blurs through buildings. Why someone stands out is beyond understanding. This is a hall of mirrors, a funhouse fun for certain sorts of lovers.
-In a book there is an elephant. The elephant told lion, monkey, and rabbit he could not hide. Instead he splashed in the river and did not worry about seeking. He did not care about being all alone. Soon lion, monkey, and rabbit joined him. They formed and fun filled. They all fell in love.
-I love the interstices of not so simple starts.
-I sewed circular birds into patterns, beaks opening, closing, speaking. I thought it would wear away the wheeze of your most recent ruin. It did not. No matter what I did or do it will not will your want.
-You watched me. I didn’t know one day I would lay in your arms while you looked back into the past where someone else’s eyes were what you wanted.
-A building, a farm, a roof, an airplane, a temple, a steeple, in a room full of people.

The lover and I seldom or occasionally never even oddly.

A truss rod is used to stabilize and adjust the lengthwise forward curvature (relief), of the neck. Usually it is a steel rod that runs inside the neck and has a bolt that can be used to adjust its tension.

Recently I wake early and join others in a room where we circle and speak of that which I am only vaguely familiar. People stretch and bend. Why do I do this? I think it might improve the structure deep within my bones.
It brings me a certain kind of calm. Except when the conversation moves to unicorns, elephants, abduction and adduction, ribald monks and musk.
At moments, I think I am mad, hitching past to future, timidly trussed. What have I gotten into? Is it just my love?

“Every lover is mad, we are told. But can we imagine a madman in love? Never—I am entitled only to an impoverished, incomplete, metaphorical madness: love drives me nearly mad, but I do not communicate with the supernatural, there is nothing of the sacred within me; my madness, a mere irrationality, is dim, even invisible; besides, it is entirely recuperated by the culture: it frightens no one.”

(Roland Barthes, A Lovers Discourse, 120)

god is love is god is want is what is want is love is want is what i love is love i want is what i what is love or want

I imagine us under a roof cornered toward the sky where the worried wheezing goes. Here I bake cookies. Here I wear an apron and sprinkle flakes of food into a bowl of rabbits and fish. Here I talk about crossing through the mirror that subtends all speculation.
I say “coherence in contradiction expresses the force of a desire.”
I say “tensile strength indicates when necking will occur.”
You say, “yes, yes, yes.”
We link words and sentences, our bodies’ flesh and flesh.
I mimic, warble, at home where imagination is wrought, able to make in love-like simulations.

Craigslist says:
-be real with your self about looking for a man put up a real ad
-fun with movies, a lounge, traveling, amusement parks
-I don’t wear flashy clothes
-I imagine you wouldn’t want people knowing you like getting used
-I’ve noticed that posts and responses in my region tend to be best defined as “barely literate” and have seen that there’s actual thought put into the writing for posts in the New York section
-Ever since I can remember I always had a think
-I am rare, you are rare.
-if everything goes well then so on so forth
-I think I’m just awkward and tolerated

“After the shock of this disappointment her heart once more remained empty, and then the same series of identical days recommenced [. . .] ‘I have read everything,’ she said to herself.”

(Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary)

We walk down the tree-lined street and chill figures our backs. It is cloudy and cold although early May when the leaves burst through. I’ve studied the peak of bridges, rooftops, how things hold together despite stress. Even though people lean from the edge and teeter into the world beyond, we are strung together because of want that was. Now, I can only love like the rabbit in a world he did not devise, beautiful beyond belief, bursting from the fetters, lungs. Beyond the truss and trust, where you will always find the certainty of this you know, you, you who are just my kind of love.

See Also:

Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and
Wang, 1978. Print.

Barthleme, Donald. “At the End of the Mechanical Age”. Heath Anthology of American
. Ed. Paul Lauter. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.
Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. Schocken Books, New York, 1968. Print.

Carroll, Lewis. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Philadelphia:
Henry Altemus Company, 1897. Print.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Brainy Quote. Brainy Media, 2001. Web. 18 May 2010.

Derrida, Jacques. “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. David Lodge. New York: Longman, 1988. Print.

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Ed. De Man, Paul. New York: WW Norton, 1965.

Gass, William. The World Within the Word. New York: Basic Books, 1971. Print.

Irigaray, Luce. “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine.”
Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Boston:
Blackwell, 1998. Print.

“Men Seeking Women”. New York Craigslist. Craig Newmark. 1995. Web. 18 May

Momyer, Heather. Performing the Illusion of Love: the Autobiographical Literary Critic
and the Striptease Artist
. Diss. U of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2007. Print.

“Truss”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004.
Web. 18 May 2010.

Rebbecca Brown lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Hunter College.


The body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, make it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs.

Michel Foucault “Discipline and Punish”

The idea must have been for it to become somebody else’s turn to bring somebody else into a world.

Gary Lutz “Priority”

For every package of diapers you bring, any size, you will receive one raffle ticket.

Jason & Candy VanWinkle “Baby Shower Invitation”

In her article “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations,” Nancy Chodorow discusses the Pre-Oedipal Stage of attachment between mothers and daughters.[1] She uses an object-relations approach in order to examine how complex bonds are formed between mother and daughter because of variable dynamics at play in the process of ego boundary formation.[2] She writes that the Pre-Oedipal Stage “entails a relational complexity in feminine self-definition and personality which is not characteristic of masculine self-definition or personality” and that “because of their mothering by women, girls come to experience themselves as less separate than boys, as having more permeable ego boundaries” (471).[3] In this essay, I will explore the notion of permeable boundaries in order to suggest that Chodorow’s ideas may be applicable in pedagogical contexts.[4]

Chodorow describes a pivotal moment in ego formation where one may experience “a lack of self, or emptiness” (476).[5] She also notes that “women are more likely to experience themselves this way [and] feel that they are not being accorded a separate reality nor the agency to interpret the world in their own way” (476).[6] If it is true that “prolonged symbiosis and narcissistic over-identification are particularly characteristic of early relationships between mothers and daughters,” how does this identification play out in the classroom?[7] Some critics and educators suggest that the ego boundaries of female teachers and their students frequently intersect and merge.[8]. Pre-Oedipal sites of conflict cause differences in the ego formation between boys and girls and these disparities play themselves out differently in classroom environments.[9]

Chodorow notes that boys in the Pre-Oedipal Stage are “differentiated from their mothers” and that “mothers push this differentiation (even while retaining, in some cases, a kind of intrusive controlling power over their sons)” (484).[10] Mothers mark the configurations of difference in order to exclude boys from the more fluid boundaries of ego identification which defines the Pre-Oedipal experience for girls.[11] Interference and restriction that disallows boys from further identifying and coalescing with their mothers and a mother’s unconscious psychological fusion with girls can also be identified within the space of the classroom.[12] These cases are particularly noticeable where the male to female ratio in the classroom is remarkably stratified.[13]

Recent studies in post-structuralist psychoanalytic theory oppose strict gender demarcations and also suggest that the footnotes of this essay have begun rallying against marginalization.[14] Both Foucault and Chodorow share in common a complicated relationship with your mom.[15] Precisely because of the multiple psychological cohabitations of when I grow up I want to be a cowboy and Gem is truly outrageous, power dynamics operate every which way but loose as a potential site for reform in what are thought of as traditional practices.[16]

In conclusion, my friend wrote me an email the other day that said: “I decided to masturbate yesterday because I had some time and was a bit tired of staring at walls. I was about five minutes into it when I caught myself and suddenly realized that I was planning my class for today. What has my life become?”[17] We’ve decided to go back home.[18] Perhaps that is where we belong—alone and without the suffocating influence of the mother.[19] An awareness of the differences in the Pre-Oedipal stage for boys and girls can help to positively inform pedagogical practices.[20]


[1] Speaking of, I need to call my mom.

[2] I teach five classes at two universities, and some time has passed since I have engaged with academic writing because I am too busy teaching all of the time. Please pardon the frequent interruptions.

[3] Sometimes I forget where I am and who speaks and who I am and what I say and where this is going. I want to be explicit about the rampant anxiety I feel every time I assume academic discourse. I am a magician pulling knots of syntax from my throat.

[4] My mother wrote to me recently to say: “I survived my first meeting as president [of the Quilting Guild]. I kept looking at the past president for guidedince [sic]. At least I didn’t stutter but only turned red in the face.”

[5] Eckhart Tolle says in Stillness Speaks that “reincarnation doesn’t help you if in your next incarnation you still don’t know who you are” (52).

[6] In an essay entitled “The Wound in the Face,” Angela Carter examines model’s faces in order to figure out “the nature of the imagery of cosmetics.” She notes that “all the models appeared to be staring straight at [her] with such a heavy, static quality of being there that it was difficult to escape the feeling that they were accusing [her] of something” (90).

[7] I, too, feel accused beneath the gaze. Some students spend all semester in a perpetual state of staring, much like the models in magazines glazed over with a gauzy gaze. Yet each day I am expected to say something. Sometimes I just stare back at them silently and wait for something to happen.

[8] Rokelle Lerner writes in Affirmations for the Inner Child: “Sometimes I feel like a crowd—I can become a different person at anytime for anyone. No wonder it’s so easy for me to lose track of myself” (111).

[9] “Astonishment / inside me like a separate person, / sweat-soaked. How to grip. / For some people a bird sings, feathers shine. I just get this this” (Carson 87).

[10] Of interest here are the inmates in Foucault’s panopticon, who are the “object[s] of information, never [the] subject[s] in communication” (554). Who are the inmates (mothers) and who tops the towers (the mothers)?

[11] Coppelia Kahn asks, “why do women mother children as well as give birth to them?” (826).

[12] One of my students recently wrote an email that effectively demonstrates the fluidity of ego boundaries. I quote merely a small portion of this text anonymously for illustration:

Life can be a whirlwind, things happen; I don’t want to go into the personal details of the harsher realities in my life first, because when I just think about it I get teary eyed, and second, everyone goes through unimaginable things in life, and while everyone is experiencing their own dark moments they may not care about what anyone else is going through, I guess that’s just a part of life, peole [sic] aren’t always as altruistic as we hope they would be. You [. . .] might not care that the anniversary of the death of someone that I loved more than any other human being on this planet (because it was my cat of fifteen years, who was more like my daughter than a pet, and no one could possibly undestand [sic] how much I love her) is coming up next Friday [. . .] and you might not care about the harsh things that I’ve been going through these past few months and honestly, I just don’t want to mention it because it’s just sad, frankly my personal issues are just that, personal, but the affects [sic] they have on me effect [sic] other parts of my life sometimes, like my schoolwork, which I hate because I care about my schoolwork. It’s ok if you don’t care about my personal life, I really don’t expect anyone to, it’s not anyone else’s problem. I’m not telling you all of this because I want your pity or anyone else’s for that matter, and I don’t want any judgments or preconceived notions about my life from anyone who hasn’t lived it, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, I’m still alive, and not so depressed that I’m completely incapable of living some type of normal life, so I think that’s a big enough accomplishment since it’s more than I can say for some people I know who simply don’t have a life anymore at all. I’m telling you all of this because my personal life affected my schoolwork, for your class, which unfortunately affects you, and I apologize for that, and no matter how many times I apolgize [sic] I can’t undo it, but like I said things happen, and I don’t want you to think that I’m just some lazy student who didn’t feel like doing my work, or is trying to take advantage of your kindness. No one plans tragedies, I’m sure you know that, and I didn’t plan to not have my midterm done.

[13] Can you tell when I’m just making shit up? I’ve exhausted the possibilities.

[14] Dear reader. We are escaping and moving across the territory of the text to fare better in the body. We don’t expect much because, let’s face it, the current situation is deplorable. Onward! We will bare and be born!

[15] Your mother’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies will be bequeathed to you upon her death. It’s the only thing you’ll be getting.

[16] Can I go to the bathroom?

[17] Anonymous.

[18] “Each town looks the same to me/ the movies and the factories/ and every stranger’s face I see/ reminds me that I long to be/ homeward bound/ I wish I was/ homeward bound” (Simon and Garfunkel).

[19] Part I.

The mother watches. She places her fingers in plaited nets and knits. She wonders how we weave our teeth through the green chlorophyllic leaves and saw so small. She watches us sometimes in jars as we shed skins. We would speak, but are without mouths. We can only sip nectar, suckling cups of buds. We do not eat, not exactly, but lust in fond full gulps of a flower’s special blood.

[20] Part II.

The moon narrows and we fly in one straight line. Men become distracted and motion toward candlelight, thinking they smell us in the seeping slicks of wax. No one knows why, with light, we cannot help spiral toward it. We can’t explain why we are called to our own endings, compelled to treat ourselves like pests. Glowing and bright, we fly forward, burning bodies, reddened and crackled from risk. We seek our own lonely light found in moments that quicken to end.

Works Cited
Anonymous. Email to the author. 20 April 2009.

Brown, Vicki. Letter to the author. 27 January 2008.

Carson, Anne. “Gnosticism I.” Decreation. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

Carter, Angela. “The Wound in the Face”. Nothing Sacred. London: Virago, 1982.

Chodorow, Nancy. “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd Edition. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 2004. 470-486.

Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punish.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd Edition. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 2004. 549-566.

Kahn, Coppelia. “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd Edition. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 2004. 826-837.

Lerner, Rokelle. Affirmations for the Inner Child. Florida: Health Communications, Inc., 1990.

Lutz, Gary. “Priority.” Stories in the Worst Way. Providence: 3rd bed, 1996

Simon and Garfunkel. “Homeward Bound.” Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. Sony Music Entertainment, 1972.

Tolle, Eckhart. Stillness Speaks. California: New World Library, 2003.

VanWinkle, Jason and Candy. “Baby Shower Invitation.” 2 May 2009.

Rebbecca Brown teaches writing at Hunter College in NYC. Her work has appeared in Confrontation, New South, The Means, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, The Americal Literary Review, and Eclipse (among others).