To whom it may concern,
My name is Abby. I have always thought of my name as a place. A feeling-place: a feeling place that is also a sense. Abby: between abbot and alley. Abye: to atone for or to make amends. Do you feel it? It is nice to meet you. I feel so many notches inside of me that need to be kneaded out. I hope you know how much exists within you. How much there is in you that I can depend on if you will let me.
I present myself vulnerably to you. Has that detoured you already? Or is this the kind of thing that you respond to? Vulnerability. Spilling of venerables.
About three years ago, my book Frenzy got turned down at the last minute, by the publisher who was slated to publish it. After reading it over (only once, mind you), the publisher said that it was “unacceptable as a document” due to it not being “coherent” enough to be considered “literary theory.” He went on to demonize the “labyrinthine” quality of the writing. The inclusions. Why is it that in a vulnerable form the inclusions are so often demonized? Anyway, after a number of other negative comments, he said that he was “never sure that a new feminism based on frenzy would have ever worked anyway.” He went on to tell me that I had not proven this “attempted theory” to him, so he would not support it.
During the time that I was writing the articles, tutelages, paradoxes and lyrics that would later comprise Frenzy; I enigmatically ended up in the house of the mysterious lovers: xems. Xems radically changed my life. For a few months after the publisher turned my book down, I looked around for other, similar publishers, who might be interested. After multiple, violent rejection letters, I started really thinking about what it meant that the book that I had written while in xems house had provoked these types of responses in supposedly “open minded,” but in many ways, still very normative individuals (not all of them men, but all of them normative in some way).
Why had I attempted to send Frenzy to these popular publishers anyway? After time spent in xems life, I should have known that what are most often congratulated, encouraged within popular realms, are the very things that must be scrutinized.
The following pages are confessional, wandering, inviting of interactivity (for the sake of additive-synthesis of various types) letters and notes that I wrote (and eventually compounded with some of the pages that I literally tore from my Frenzy book) to what I am referring to as “divergents.” Sweet divergents: animals, mysteries or other aspects of existence that I feel have inspirational qualities (like xems do) even though they are reviled, disliked or simply not accepted by the status quo.
If you leave a sole center within (something that is living) for too long, it rots. See apricot pits, the slow accrual of mold in the pith, if the pit is kept static, within, for too long.
There is something to this, to filling my memory of xems with conversations with (and conjecture in regard to) cryptids: sweet cryptids, fragrant social crypts. Abandoned, but also valiant. They always remain partially hidden. Cryptids are a way to bring the away forward, toward. They are a way (prompted by xems) for me to continue in/ as xems path.
Dear Cymothoa Exigua (Tongue Eating Louse),
After reading about how you enter your host through their gills, I am reminded of how it felt finding xems by digging up xems sacrosanct, rapturous book. Xems got within me by entering me from a side of me. From a susceptible side while that side was in use.
I am impressed by the way that you attach yourself at the base of your host’s tongue. I remember the distinct sensation (when I was trying to walk from the day bed to the kitchen) of xems having somehow enigmatically gotten into my body through my mouth. That xems were residing there as residual insinuation.
In the beginning I drank red tea and red wine as a way to greet xems. Eventually, however, xems were the evolution of all red within me. Xems as permeation, as dripping organism urging me slowly toward sate.
You extract blood through the claws on the front of your body causing the host’s tongue (their first tongue) to atrophy from lack of blood. There is sometimes a necessary fatigue in order to progress the body past the limits that are often imposed on it by exteriors, by firsts, isn’t there? To push the lone body toward bizarre states of fusion?
I find fatigue to be hallowed. I envision it as inducing a looseness. A once-infused hammock gradually withering, drying out. An achene! That first tongue remains edible, doesn’t it? I mean, I enjoy eating dried fruit as much as not-dried. Apricot is apricot regardless of its texture.
You are the only case of a parasite functionally replacing the tongue of the host by attaching your body to the muscles of the tongue stub. I want to find and accentuate, then praise, more cases of divergent success. I am so inspired by you, by considering myself a divergent, by proximity to divergents. I am saying that I still need you in order for me to cross, and I am trying to understand how to best address you, how to best address the things that I am enabled by.
The host is able to use you like a normal tongue would be used after the transition has been made. This transition is really a translation, isn’t it? A body-torque. I am so stimulated by this notion of the foster tongue. The surrogate that continues on with you, inside of you, once having made its place, its residence, within. The louse is a cyborg success that while taking away from the host fish, also adds to it. To act in accordance with, to embody visceral tandems.
Xems were cyborg successes too.
Dear Scarus vetula (Queen Parrotfish),
Definitely indefinite lineage (future? Past? Ulterior?) to xems. A polychromatic species would relate by approaches akin to echolocation. Projecting in order for a touching to occur, because of having let something vast out in a vast space.
Light is processual-exhibitionism. Proceeding by dilation. Of many colors means there will need be many responses to color. Ubiquitous poultice. A population, a mass.
Fortuitous form feeding free.
I am attracted to the secretion of mucus that you emit. Thinking about ways I might emulate that mucus. This draws me to you rather than deters me. I see your production of this mucus as a self-preserving activism: a night-cocoon to hold. It matters to me that the mucus comes from your mouth as a protective layer that hides your scent from potential predators. The fact that I am attracted to the scent of you must mean that I am a predator to you too. Is there such thing as an unintentional predator?
In many regions of the world, Parrotfish meat is treated as a delicacy. I treat you, but more than that I want to be treated by you. I want you to treat xems.
As sequential hermaphrodites, you start as females and then change to males. You are not the only ones who have changed in this way. Not the only ones who need to. I remember when that specialist told xem xe was not “stable” enough to have bottom surgery. In writing that just now I felt similarity in it, to my editor not standing up for me, when my publisher turned down my contract. I am saying that I felt shame.
In the female phase you appear to be dull to red, brown or grey, while in the male (post sex switch) phase you are vividly green or blue with yellow or bright pink patches. Do you ever revert to the female stage after having crossed to the male? What is crossing like for you? Do you cross based on inner impetus (identity/ gender) or due to wanting to attract your mate (desire)? Is there any qualitative relapse? Is there a mixed place? A milky between? Do any of you ever get caught somewhere other than either side of? What if someone feels androgynous, but their body does not reflect that androgyny? I ask because as I reflect on these stages of your existence, I am reminded of the muted rouge of xyr clots. How xems ate the clots as impetus for xems own innovative evolutions. I wonder if this consuming on xems part was an effort to materialize reversion?
I vow to you—I will never again eat fish the same way.
How you are referred has to do with your dentition, more than any limiting or belittling definition. Your teeth, fused together and beak-like. Nautical-fowl. Though generally referred to as herbivores the way that you chomp down on coral (coral as meaty-collective) reminds me of emancipation by minor manias. I most certainly relate to those types of emancipations. Counting the beads that have fallen off of my mala strand. Frayed thread, lost clasp. Counting the beads over and over again, during different qualities of luminosity. Luminosity coming through the window as I count is a sort of grinding. Grinding not unlike yours, wherein the coral, is turned to minutia, is actually excreted as sand—a longevity for coastlines.
Your plane, infinitesimal diapane.
I became desperate. Obsessed with the relationship of fossils to frenzy. What exactly are fossils indicative of? Fossus literally: having been dug up. Xems existed in me as instantaneous prayer. With xems I did not have to dig. I only had to apply pressure, page by page. I wonder if my fingerprints, left on xems pages, are a sort of fossil for xems? Having found
me. As paroxysm.
I sat against the recess in my small apartment, day after day. Taking notes on the divergents as I found them. I waited for the cardamom-cello sitting in my dark closet to turn from sediment to savor-able. At times the sounds of the cars speeding by or in traffic below would overwhelm. Like a me is a miscellaneous famine, or something. Like I knew so much more, in much more solidified ways, when I was leaning against the noir-nook in xems house.
How could I miss xems as much as I was? I only knew xems intimately by aftermath. When I reburied xems book was I sending xems away from me? Was I laying xems to rest? Was it a form of faith that I did not take xems book of xems binds with me when I left xems house? I mean I would have taken good care of it. Supplemental bible! I would have placed it between the floor and my mattress, like xe had long kept it between xyr two mattresses. Durations of panic like this, result in my sticking my fingers into the top of the glass bottle where the cardamom seeds are floating. In that touch, that sensation, in small swipe, I somehow become localized.
Was this xems doing the localizing? Or was this me?
I remembered xyr brash bouts with a god that xe perceived as abandoning xem.
Fossils are not only the bones but also the marks left behind (footprints, feces, etc.) by the organism being referred to. A Leptofoenus Pittfieldae (Extinct Species of Wasp) trapped in amber. Xems trapped in and tapering me from the inside out.
Dear Phycodurus Eques (Leafy Seadragon),
You resemble a piece of itinerant seaweed as you float there, in seaweed-rich water. Your movements are slight, so as not to interrupt your defenses against usual detection. Orange and gold hues along your body, but you are also covered in green leaf-like appendages. Your leaf-wings are your ridges, setting you apart only slightly, on a sojourn of underwater flight. How it is ultimately your perplexing flight that differentiates you from what it is that otherwise surrounds you.
I find that I am extremely touched by the wisdoms of your body in regard to defenses and revealings. If only to belong. How belonging is comprised of defense and revealing. Belonging, a magnetism between parts that can hold certain parts into it?
I appreciate that your males carry the 150-200 eggs. Male matriarchy? Sweet eggs carried in a honey-comb shaped area for the duration of the gestation term.
Latching to or lashing by fecund.
Talking about xems is somehow an enabling way to talk about myself as I have been and myself as I wish to become, all at once. To urge speech this way, as a swelling that while it grows, is trembling.
There are the similitudes. The way xems and I both prefer the black stained glass over any other color. And, what does that mean for how we might need to be seen, understood? What does that mean for how we might best see the things we are gazing into and through?
Sight: in constant need of adding and removing aspects, in order for something true to appear (by compilation) as image.
In this way, sight is to psychic surgery. Bizarre healings. Unpredicted placations. With no instruments nor anesthesia, the body is opened, its troubled parts removed. This type of healing is best, if addressing psychosomatic diseases. Healer spits out a clot or a moist tuft of hair. Removes pieces of coconut, large leaves, coins, bits of glass, rope or tobacco from the body in reference. All of this without any traceable incision remaining afterward.
It is hard, because my hair is longer now, and longer makes it more difficult for me to slick back my sides with my own spit, blood and sweat. Why didn’t xems leave a physical scar on me? Scar as reminder, scar as proof? That remainder would have been so useful for me.
j/j hastain is the author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain, Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin and Aufgabe. j/j has been a guest lecturer at Naropa University and University of Colorado.