“My blouse gaps. My zipper may not close. I make my fingers sore forcing it up. My sides and belly have a deep red ridge in them after a day of that. My pants wear out on the inseam, thinning and splitting where my legs rub. I have to walk delicately, as if that were possible, as if I met only at the crotch, as if the whole of my legs weren’t intimate with each other, rubbing together just as my arms rest on my breasts and my breasts rest on my belly. The clothes can’t get into every fold and separate every layer of flesh from itself. The dark blues can’t camouflage me, the vertical stripes can’t hide me, and no foundation garment can keep me in.”
This passage is one that has resonated with me, more so than any other in our class. As someone who has struggled for years with bad relationships with food and my own body image, this paragraph speaks volumes. My fatness depends on who you ask about it. If you ask the small cartoon version of myself that lives in my mind, she’ll say go look in the mirror and find out. If you ask my father, he will say something that when you read in between the lines, means yes. If you ask my mother she will say no. If you ask my sister, I suppose she will say no (we are basically the same dimensions so i’m not too sure how she would see me). If you asked my grandparents (when they were still living of course), they would say no. If you ask one of my female physicians, she would say “well she was fat 20 pounds ago”.
I would see other girls my age who looked so different from me and it would just fester in my mind. I was also an early-ish bloomer in comparison to some of my friends. I was also genetically burdened (or blessed, depending on your outlook) with larger breasts than most of the people I know. This meant I got more dirty looks from a younger age. Moms at the pool would glare at me because my chest looked a little too grown in bikini tops. For the majority of my adolescence I was trying to figure out how to make my body look like those of my friends, who were all at least 5 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than me. Getting told “are you really gonna eat all of that?” or “do you really need to be eating right now?” are some phrases that echo in my mind, even though they were said to me almost 10 years ago. These comments seem to materialize whenever I dress myself or look at my laundry. My ungodly tight Madewell jeans seem a little tighter than usual. I look in disbelief that my shorts are a size 12 when my leggings from the same store are an 8. I notice that most of my wardrobe is loose fitting clothes in neutrals, to distract from my body underneath. I pose myself as to hide the parts of me I don’t like, which gets hard when you don’t have much of yourself that you like anymore. From whenever we form a conscience, we are shamed out of ourselves. These negative ideals swarm you like mosquitoes until every positive thought has been evicted. You are reminded of your shameful body every time your thighs chafe, or your clothes are left in the dryer too long. This body is harassed from doctors, fathers, mothers, friends, as well as internally. You try to drown yourself in black or navy blue, wearing sports bras to bind your chest, “shaping” spandex to reign in your flesh. You skip a meal here and there, take the stairs more, drink more green tea. But no matter how well you try to conceal it, something always ends up spilling out. I like to think that when you become a womyn, is when you can climb back into the mind you got shamed out of so many years ago. You finally realize that you are fat, and simply don’t give it a second thought.
“As it did go. They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.” There were only the two of them on the mountain flying in the euphoric, bitter air, looking down on the hawk’s back and the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below, suspended above ordinary affairs and distant from tame ranch dogs barking in the dark hours.” (pg 15)
Although Ennis and Jack had such an intimate relationship, their own ego’s and internalized homophobia kept them apart. Their relationship was so organic and didn’t need to be clouded by conversations of what it meant or what they were. At first their sex was only in the tent as a one off way to release steam. As they became more comfortable with each other and their desires, their locations for sex became more and more visible. It was love in such a way that the location did not matter but rather the act itself. They believed they were invisible to the outside world as well as invincible. The secluded nature of Brokeback Mountain allowed for their intimacy to flourish without the harsh gaze of society. Ennis was quick to say that he isn’t a queer, asserting that what they had done was only some sort of release with no emotional meanings behind it. Ennis avoided the labels that he considered dirty, not from his own experiences but from what society had to say about gay individuals. His aversion to being blatantly gay was also seen when he embraced Jack from behind (42). He could not face his own demons and ideas that he couldn’t physically face Jack. These moments of intimacy as well as tension are extremely visible in the movie as well as the novel. Seeing the movie after reading the book made it a much more emotional experience for me. Being able to see their feelings rather than just reading the words on the pages made it so much more powerful. Not to mention the star studded cast that portrayed these characters so well. The ending scene of the movie/the first pages of the book were so raw and emotional in an almost tangible way. You could feel the hurt radiating from Ennis as his child is soon marrying and his own love has passed away without being able to say a final goodbye.
(Carol, in the park, chewing on straws)
This poem was particularly striking to me because of the external dialogue that starts the poem and later returns in the second half. The quotes are about how Carol has taken a woman as a lover and how it’s seen as such a misfortune. These quotes also are some of the only forms of perfect rhyme within this poem (do, you, say, day). The rest of the poem details Carol’s day and the things she does in private as well as how she appears outwardly. There is an interesting play between hard and soft motifs within lines 5-9. During the day she smiles and pretends to be shy and meek. But then when she gets home she pounds her own nails, fixes her car and makes bets. But at the end of line 9 Carol does this all “with her friend”. To me I see this as societies denial of lesbian couples as passing them off as friends and invalidating their relationship.
Carol tries to stay as far away from men as possible. The poem doesn’t seem to elaborate on this further but it could be due to a previous bad experience with men. She often daydreams of being different things or animals. Within the imagery of the second half of the poem has lots of connotations with freedom and being light or airy. The end of the poem is how she is full of this electricity and passion, which can be found in every woman. Even if it isn’t surface level.
Adrienne Rich’s Dialogue looks at an interaction between Rich and another woman. The poem starts with some imagery of the woman sitting during their long conversation, a shift in the poem occurs when the narrator gets up to make a cup of tea. This shift is mostly seen at the end of the first stanza and carries through to the end of the poem. Rich utilizes enjambment as well as certain punctuation within the lines in order to create pauses and alter the flow of the poem. Rich also uses parentheses in order to show the narrators thoughts about what the woman had to say. The words that are said are all in italics, starting in the first stanza and all of the second stanza.
The second stanza is full of “I” and question words. She is talking about what she had done in her past and how it made her feel. This retrospective conversation is vague but it can be inferred that she is talking about her feelings or lack thereof for someone. She is confronting her past and trying to make some sense of it, even if there isn’t a strong resolution that comes out of it. These lines come across as an internal dialogue, but could also be words shared from the woman. The ambiguity of this poem is something that makes it so striking and engaging.