Roots and Leaves: The Devil’s Shape

A mix of prose and poetry describing psychological abuse and sexual assault. Not for the faint of heart.

The Bible is not meant to be read literally.

Nor is the title of this article.

This isn’t an article about the big red-horned fallen angel who supposedly hates God and rules over Hell.

Well, that’s a lie, it is.

But not literally.

This is an article about my own personal Satan.

In biblical sources, the Hebrew term satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as he sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity.
– Elaine Pagels, “The Origin of Satan,” 1995

It was then,

As I was a woman

All drawn out of shape,

That the Devil appeared

With his devlish smirk.

He took me up by the mind

And told me his name

I’ve since forgotten it.

But I’ll never forget what it means.

The Devil came up from Kentucky.

I drove him here myself.

We met online.

We’d spent the several weeks previous texting and calling one another every day.

It was going so well.

I’d gone through a divorce about a year and a half  prior and I finally felt ready to date again. I’d dated one other guy briefly. He was nice, but not for me. We’ve maintained a friendship at least.

This time, it felt right.

We met for lunch and then I drove him up tour my hometown.

All throughout the day, everything was perfect. We got along every bit as well in person as we had electronically.

I decided to invite him back to my place.

He sat down, legs spread in my easy chair.

And then, his shape changed.

He became someone else.

Satan revealed himself to me.

He said he was in love

With another woman,

drawn in his shape.

No one could ever love me

But as a waif.

He brought me to

The other side of the veil.

Showed me the void,

and took me to Hell.

He wanted to be called “daddy”

and called me his whore.

If I was a good girl

Maybe I could be more

Maybe he would take me down

For a spin upon his cock

And maybe he would unravel me

From this knitted sock.

The Devil took my shape that day,

And twisted its already twisted form.

Then twisted

and twisted

and twisted it more

And that’s the last thing I can tell you about that. The rest is one big blank I have ripped out of my mind. I honestly can’t tell you what followed.

I can only remember the terror of it.

Complete subversion. Total bewilderment. Utter disorientation.

What did I do? What choice did I have?

I like to think I stood up to him and overcame my adversary right then and there and threw him out of my house.

But I know that’s not what happened.

The nearest memory I have, I was driving again, on the road back to Kentucky.

He seemed pleased.

His shape wasn’t twisted anymore.

He was the same as before.

I thought about driving my car into the Ohio River.

The world would have been a better place if I did.

He haunted me for years after.

My mind was filled with monsters. The world was on fire.

Once you meet the Devil, he’s always with you.

He’ll never stop trying to rip you from Heaven and condemn you to Hell.

But, like any adversary, he can be overcome.

Like God, and like me, I hope you have angels to help if you ever meet him.

It was a long road to calling myself a survivor, but I’m lucky in that I had a very strong social support network in my life at the time. So many wonderful wounded women who had been through similar events helped me to overcome him.

They are all like sisters to me.

Their support taught me an important lesson. The devil can’t catch you if you’re smarter than him. And so that’s what I did, I became smarter than him. I poured myself into my work. I studied and worked harder than I’d ever known I was capable of and became crafty enough that he couldn’t catch me anymore.

In a weird way, I’d like to thank him.

I’m a much better person because of what he did.

But that would require forgiveness, and that’s not mine to give…

The devil almost had me fooled.

He knew the weaknesses of my shape

And exploited every one.

His tricks twisted me

To his own twisted shape.

But I learned from his tricks

Some tricks of the trade.

I learned how to spin

To twist who I am

And I learned how to do it

Better than him

I learned how to shape

my words,

my body,

my thoughts,

my actions,

my movements,

my soul

To be impenetrable by the Devil

I’ve cast from my Throne.

Condemned,

to eternal shaplessness.

He taught me to shape

And how to forget.

He taught me survival

And the pain of it.

He taught me forgiveness…

and the truth therein:

Sometimes, it’s best left to God.

I hope he’s somewhere praying.

He can arrive at any moment

You don’t always hear his chime

He will try to change your shape

He will try it every time

And sometimes, if you let him

While you’re not watching your shape

He will take and take and take from it

And take,

and take,

and take..

The foolish thing in all this is

This twisted

twisted

twisted shape

This shape the Devil’s made of you

Is his own devilish shape

The only shape that matters is

The shape you make alone

The shape that you take with you

That pattern you follow

The shape you make is better

This shape is your own

It’s knitted

and drawn

And painted

and sewn

It’s battered

and bruised

and berated

and honed

It’s in the music you make

It’s in the sound of your voice

It tastes just like the taste of your tears

It’s woven into choice

It overcomes the worst you fear

It can bring your thoughts to cheer

It’s in the burden on your back

It’s the plan when you attack

It’s your guide

when nothing’s clear.

 

It’s written into the presence you have

And the way you make your way.

 

Next time Satan tries to twist it:

Overcome the meaning of his name.

RE: RuPaul and the Participation of Women in Drag Race

An exploration of the recent controversy behind RuPaul’s commentary on bio queen and transgender women’s participation in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Last week, RuPaul told The Guardian, “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.”

In this statement, it is made clear that what are sometimes referred to as “faux queens” or “bio queens” are not welcome to participate in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In a followup question, Decca Aitkenhead of The Guardian asked, “So how can a transgender woman be a drag queen?”

To which RuPaul responded, “Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.”

Decca continued, “Would you accept a contestant who had? ”

“Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.”

In a followup tweet which has sparked a great deal of outrage, RuPaul tweeted:

Before I speak to this topic, let me just go ahead and deplatform myself immediately in establishing that I am an outsider to queen culture.

Queen culture is something I have always avoided association with because I have never liked having who I am conflated with what I (and many others) have perceived as a male-exclusive form of artistic expression.

My life as a trans woman is not art nor entertainment for anyone.

I do not want to be on display. In fact, I want the opposite. I want to be myself and live a normal life free from the distress of being forced to live the life of a gender that I am not.

That distinction isn’t easy for many people to make. Just yesterday, an anti-trans activist compared me with Divine, who is best known for their role in John Waters’s Pink Flamingos.

We are not the same.

Avoiding that conflation has led me to avoid appreciation of the expression of the drag artform. I recognize myself as an outsider to this culture and approach my criticism to it as such.

As would be the case with any form of artistic expression, I feel that biologic sex should not matter in the expression of the form. Exclusion of women from queen expression strikes me as similar to excluding women from forms of artistic expression such as writing, painting, music, acting, comedy, etc.

One might say that women have the option to participate in king culture and to create caricatures of men to put on display on their own art, but it’s really not the same, and bio queens very much do exist. As I have come to understand drag, it is more about the expression of extreme femininity in queen culture and extreme masculinity in king culture. It is less about biology and more about the portrayal of a caricature. As such, I do not see why it would be problematic for anyone, in spite of sex or gender, to express themselves as a queen/king or participate in a competition such as RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In a piece by Kashmira Gander of The Independent in which Kashmira, a female at birth, explored the concept of women’s participation in queen culture by, herself, undergoing transformation into expression of the form as a caricature known as Trashmira, Kashmira wrote, “But a question remained. How can a woman be a drag queen, when a drag queen is a man dressed as a woman? This issue has divided the drag community – with bio, or “faux”, queens defending their right to perform alongside their male counterparts. The answer comes down to the fact that drag is about more than just a man wearing a dress, but about questioning gender stereotypes and the norms we are expected to conform to – norms that can stifle us all – all while putting on a blinding show.”

This attitude has brought me to view the artistic intent of drag in an entirely different light. If attitudes like this were more embraced toward queen culture and women were openly welcomed to participate in drag competitions, I would personally begin to find queen culture far more appealing.

Many have been outraged by RuPaul’s exclusionary statements regarding trans women in particular. Initially, I was not offended because I viewed queen culture through the frame that it was a male-only form of expression, as RuPaul himself appears to believe. But I then began to think about how sexist that sounded, a “male-only form of expression” and I began to consider that perhaps it may be time to re-evaluate our perceptions of queen and king culture. The issue here seems to me to be less about trans-exclusion and more about female exclusion.

What exactly precludes women from the expression of themselves as queens?

What exactly precludes men from the expression of themselves as kings?

I’m not convinced these questions have valid answers. I can only speak for myself as an outsider who has never appreciated the form. The boundaries we might construct in answering these questions are a detriment to the form. If we can push these boundaries, I know that I personally will become much more interested in these forms of expression because, as is true in most things, diversity brings strength to forms.

Leaves: A Leaf

A dead, green leaf drifting

Through sunshine waterfalls

Falling

From the brazen branch

 

 

[This is a quickie imagist poem I wrote  a long time ago, hope you’ve enjoyed it! I primarily just wanted to make a quick post to say I’ve re-categorized all my poetry to fit the theme of my blog and there’s now a dedicated section called Leaves to differentiate it from my Roots & Branches series. Updates for all are coming very soon!]

Leaves: The Shack

We know the pen is mightier than the sword, but is the voice mightier than the gun? For what it’s worth, I hope so.

A boy and his gun

Were having some fun

When his dad got home from the army

He took him out back

They shot at his shack

And his dad went back in the morning

They repeated like that

Every year

Every time

A new piece of gear

 

His father was his hero of course

Three tours in Iraq

But more than that

A fourth one he feared

A fourth one to take his dad from his years

 

But he taught him how to respect his guns

And how to shoot and how to have fun

He taught him how to shoot at that shack

Just like his dad had shot in Iraq

 

And then when his parents divorced

And his dad left them

Alone for the course

He had to support his mom

And he said, “I’ll get a gun to protect you mom.”

“I swear.”

 

He struggled as he worked

From store to store

Longing for a weapon

To fight his own wars

But he never got one

He couldn’t afford

Because his mom needed surgery

And there was this girl, who worked at the store…

 

He wanted to provide for them

To control his own ward

Where he’d keep and protect them

And guard from the porch

When they came

He’d pull out his gun

And ward off his ward

To protect his sons

 

But he couldn’t afford one

And so he lost his girl at the store

And a few years later

His mother died too poor

 

His family gone

He now lived alone

Money problems over

He could finally afford

A gun like his father

Had taught him to sport

He’d finally be able

To fight his own wars

 

He got his gun

And he took it back

To where he’d learned to shoot

To shoot like in Iraq

He learned to fire

To care for and clean

His brand new, fully featured AR-15

Collapsible stock and quick magazine release

So he could shoot and protect his streets

And keep on shooting..

 

Modified to repeat repeat repeat

He shot that old shack ’til nothing was left but concrete

 

finally after the deed was done

on that same foundation

where he was cleaning his gun

he thought of his father

and remembered the fun

but his father was gone now

sixteen years weighed a ton

 

he wanted to cry then

but he held back his tears

his father had taught him

“real men don’t cry”

“their fire dries tears”

“they never give up:

they set fire to the world

and enchant the girls with

diamonds and pearls”

 

it was a valuable lesson

he held to its truth

though try

though he might

he cried like a fool

“my father was wrong..”

he thought

“…or might I not be a man?”

 

he stood up and shouldered his tool

to prove

his own truth in this war

to make things like they were before

 

he’d lost his father

and family to (((SJWs)))

who’d taken over his pews

and kept him their tool

he knew what to do

he’d strike at the source

he’d take his country back

and he’d take it by force

he’d stop all the marxists

their ideology

he’d take it all back

with his AR-15

 

and so he marched

with it strapped to his back

ready to shoot it

like he’d been taught by the shack

he took it over to district 67

and marched in the school at 11

 

he shot 7 teachers there dead

and fired 16 more shots

all of which missed

12 ricocheted and tore through the door

where a group of kids hid

twenty and

four

who were shot in cold blood

no way to escape

 

when he saw them lying there he felt

the tears come again

and the lies overcame him

like a bullet to the head

Leaves: Cipher

go about your business–

there’s nothing to see here–

just a girl in a corner

looking for words–

words to teach of a new way

to see– and define things for

what they truly may be–

 

she’s so close to

meaning

but so far away–

maybe she’ll find it

some sane day

when she takes the time

to find the right rhyme

and the rest of the song

falls into place

 

but the rhyme doesn’t

matter– it only gets in the way

of the rest of the message

she’s grasping to say– to you–

you who she already told

to just go away–

watch some television

or some other thing–

get on Facebook–

look up some porn–

whatever you do

when you find yourself bored–

that’s what life’s about

for you– nothing greater–

nothing more

 

what have you done

to learn how to know

what’s happening– here and now–

what do you know about

the girl in the corner–

who’s writing these lies

about you down– nothing–

nothing, nothing she’d say–

there’s nothing to see here–

just go away

 

[Originally written, 2008]

Leaves: The Paint

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a poem I wrote with a broken heart.

you were the paint

in my blue, blue sky

the green of my trees

that green from my eyes

a brush stroke passed

and washed away

the blue, blue blends

and turned into gray

you were the paint

that made my world blend

the mix and the hue

that made my blood red

a dead dry brush

hardened by the paint

put to rest in water

soaked up the cup

you were the paint

yellow and scraped

across intangible lines

drawn around and draped

a drip drop dripped

tears down the canvas face

ruining the rhythm

purposing the pace

building down to nothing

the paint devoured all

and rolled up the color

into fat violet balls

you were the paint

that covered my world in fire

the all consuming orange

that blazed my desire

a dancing flame flickered

caught concocted copse

flirted with flesh

and licked the last drop

 

[Originally written, 2012]

The Versatile Blogger Award – Thank You!

versatile-award

I’ve been honored by Love and Everyday Affairs with the Versatile Blogger Award!

Thank you so much! I would encourage all of my followers to check out their blog for writing every bit as versatile as my own. I’m so honored to have been in their thoughts when they assigned nominees for this award!

Here are the simple rules for the Award:

Write 7 interesting facts about yourself.

Nominate 15 blogs of your choice.

7 interesting Facts about Myself

  1. I was an English Literature major who now somehow works in a high level IT position.
  2. I’ve been writing creatively since I learned how to write. Writing has always been a very important form of self-expression for me. I wrote my first stories and poetry when I was 7.
  3. I’m a transgender woman who grew up and transitioned in Mike Pence’s hometown. It’s every bit as traditional, Christian, and Conservative as you might imagine. It was terrifying in the beginning, but the presence of myself and others transformed that community. Today, most churches there embrace LGBT people as brothers and sisters.
  4. I’ve been involved in activism for women, children, and LGBT rights for most of my life, though in recent years my career has taken precedent and my efforts on these fronts have become confined to the internet.
  5. I take the Daryl Davis approach to engagement with those who hate and/or fear me. I regularly engage with transphobes, TERFs, the alt-right and far right, gender atheists, religious traditionalists, and sex essentialists. I keep the focus of the conversation on their concerns and ways I can help them overcome and the fears at the heart of them.
  6. In addition to writing, I’m also an avid reader, knitter, and gamer.
  7. I’m a bit of an arborist if that weren’t obvious by my plethora of tree memes.

Nominees:

  1. https://druidlife.wordpress.com/
  2. https://justrandomthoughts416799382.wordpress.com/
  3. https://wearywandereroflife.wordpress.com/
  4. https://educatedunemployedindian.wordpress.com/
  5. https://lestecel07.wordpress.com/
  6. https://kiramoorescloset.wordpress.com/
  7. https://pastreminisce.com/
  8. https://kaurdot.wordpress.com/
  9. https://thestoriesinbetween.com/
  10. https://sundaramchauhanwrites.wordpress.com/
  11. https://iamaman2015.wordpress.com/
  12. https://anoptimisticapproach.com/
  13. https://muselessthoughts.com/
  14. https://emptyspaces2017.wordpress.com/
  15. https://rad-femme.com/

Phew, a list of 15 is difficult for a new blogger! I’ve done my best to compile the versatile bloggers I follow! Congratulations, all!

If any of the larger blogs I’ve nominated would like to pass on the award to any smaller blogs which might appreciate this sort of award more, please let me know and I’ll replace you on my list!