A Poem for the Loving/Living – Inspired by Qwo-li Driskill

A Poem for the Loving Living
Inspired by Qwo-li Driskill

Here’s to all the shady queens and bull dykes
The radical faeries and radical theorists,
The queer and now,
To the past, present, and future of queer history theory lives

Give us our flowers while we are still here, instead of the thorns
Drawing scarlet blood from wounds not deep enough to prick,
But deep enough to scar.

We put on our lipstick, red, like war paint, and dance to the cries of change.
“It’s not my revolution if I can’t dance” and oh, the battle cries are singing
songs of melancholy joy,
A whisper in the wind reverberates

“Never again”
Never again
Never again… until the next time

And then it’s a shame
A tragedy, they died too soon
As the crocodile tears roll down
the faces of those who pushed them off the bridge into the Hudson,
the real mourning goes on
behind the scenes.
Continue reading A Poem for the Loving/Living – Inspired by Qwo-li Driskill

Quartz Heart

“With her, I understood finally what it meant to want my hand on a lover’s skin, the weight of a lover’s body against mine. A bone long fractured, now mending (156).”


This is a line from “Stones in my Pocket, Stones in my Heart” but it wouldn’t be out of place in “Written on the Body”. Clare’s intensely personal work on identity in Exile and Pride provides a great lens to look at “Written on the Body” through. The narrator in WotB shaped their identity based on how others perceived them but found themself through Louise. “but then I turn a corner and recognise myself again. Myself in your skin, myself lodged in your bones, myself floating in the cavities that decorate every surgeon’s wall. That is how I know you. You are what I know (Winterson,pg ). 

  Written on the Body is a book not just about love, but identity. Something that could be seen in both works was how one’s identity is shaped by how others perceive them. In WotB the lack of identity given to the narrator is focal to the book. While they are characterized, they can shift with how other perceive them and how they wanted to be perceived (examples of this is how they went from busting the patriarchy with Ignes to going to church with  .A chameleon, able to morph and shift their being with what they want to be seen as. How queer.

  Yet identity isn’t as easy as choice. Throughout our reading of WOTB, some people have assigned the narrator masculinity based off of the slap, and that subsequently changed how they read his character. Yet others assigned them female, due to the lack of seriousness the narrator was treated with in both the scene with the gun and her affairs with married women as well as the flowing, disconcerting style of thought she had. These don’t inform us how the narrator identifies, but it does inform how they were treated. This can shape their identity – or the perception of others can leave one floundering on how they truly identity.

     Identity is agency. Clare’s talk of stolen and reclaimed bodies allows us to see the way that identity is a complex form of agency, particularly for marginalized individuals. His identification with the term butch as a way to make room for his gender and the messy margins it resides in, is an act of power, by pushing aside the hetro-cis-normative gender roles that cast him as female and the ableist stereotypes that cast him as an asexual, genderless being because of his disability. He found a place within queer and disabled communities where he could begin to chip away af the rocky avalanche that is identity, the self, and how he identifies himself. 

    Meanwhile, we know nothing about the narrator on WotB except for their actions. It’s up to them to create an identity outside of others, but with Louise, we see both more of themself being pushed to the surface and more buried deep, locked away to prevent them from being who they actually are, their identity superseded by others preferences. 


The Wriggle of Grief

“The worm of doubt has long since found a home in my intestines. I no longer know what to trust or what is right. I get a macabre comfort from my worm. The worms that will eat you are first eating me. You won’t feel the blunt head burrowing into your collapsing tissue. You won’t know the blind persistence that mocks sinew, muscle, cartilage, until it finds bone.”

The worm of doubt is an apt descriptor. The way doubt wiggles and squirms and feels wrong, like a parasite is inhabiting your body and you are no longer you, but taken over by something outside of your control. The narrator is taken over by doubt, fear, grief, and love after Louise dies. They lost themself in her, they found themselves in her, and when they lost her, they lost themself again.

Throughout the novel, the narrator has been a blank canvas, shaped by the desires of their lovers. They blew up urinals with Inge, begged Frank to go to England with them, and went to church with Bruno. But Louise “has translated [them] into her own book.” (89). She dug them out of the hole they were in, and patched the missing pieces of them with her own story.

I also interpreted this line as the narrator starving themselves out of grief or a loss of appetite due to grief and depression. I’m aware that it’s a stretch but with the heavy connection to the body throughout the book, ties to identity, and the queerness of all of it, it allows you to project parts of yourself onto the narrator. While many projected their ideas of gender based on aspects of the narrator (particularly emotional competence, violence, and their interpersonal relationships), I reflected aspects of depression onto the narrator, and way it causes you to lose sense of who you are. Louise was the narrator’s reason to live. On page 107 the narrator thinks “What is the point of movement when movement indicates life and life indicates hope? I have neither life nor hope”.

The worms are both literal and figurative. Figuratively the worms can be so many things. It could be their grief at the loss of Louise, that’s taking over all their thoughts. The ”macabre form of comfort” that grief can bring is the loss of apathy and the dulling of the senses. It’s raw and painful, but the grief itself is a comfort because it’s real, visceral and means they truly loved Louise. The grief is a reassurance that they can feel. The worm could also be love, particularly the parasitic way the narrator loves, by taking pieces of their lovers to build themselves anew.

The worms are now eating at Louise’s corpse. She’s buried and dead, six feet under, and with that loss of life, loss of love, the narrator no longer feels alive. It’s also a ”macabre form of comfort” to the narrator that Louise will never have to feel the same grief that the narrator is from her loss, because the dead can no longer feel, but the living have to. What I am really trying to say here is that I think the narrator is losing themself in grief, both grief that Louise is dead, and grief that the only person who saw them for who they really are is dead.  It’s both a selfless and a selfish form of grief, nevertheless it’s all consuming and bone deep.