Everybody Knows I’m a Motherfucking Monster
I just finished season one of Tokyo Ghoul. I haven’t cried so much during an anime since Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill and Kamisama Kiss combined. I think one of the things that touches me so deeply about this anime… and many other things that are touching me deeply right now, is the dialogue it has with my insides about how to come to terms with becoming or being a monster. I’ve been circling around this idea of the feminine as the origin of the grotesque in my mind. Femmes as vulnerable monsters. Two other films come to mind, Descent and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
In A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Sheila Vand plays the part of The Girl, in the Iranian ghost town of Bad City. More than a girl, she’s a monster, a vampire hungrily watching the male inhabitants of Bad City and devouring those who carelessly step out of line. Among her kills are Saeed the pimp and Arash’s father, Hossein, when he drugs and attempts to rape Atti, a local prostitute. One thing I enjoyed in this film is that The Girl never explains herself. There are no long monologues about how she has to kill or why these men have to die. She is not a tragic, tortured vampire conflicted over the urge to kill. She dances to music in her room while she puts on makeup to go out. She rides a skateboard through the streets with her chador flowing behind her like a cape. She even falls in love. Her kills are merciless and righteous. In the end she rides off into the darkness with Arash. She has it all, our monster. How many of us would love to kill our rapists? Would love to murder the men who touched us as small children? When I think of them, those men, I can taste the desire to harm them on the enamel of my teeth and I cry because it makes me a monster. All my life I’ve been afraid that once people get to know me the way I know myself they’ll be disappointed or worse disgusted. I feel so ugly and bloodthirsty. Broken and unsatisfied.
Perhaps the least surreal of these three, Descent stars Rosario Dawson who plays Maya, a college student who is raped by a football player, Jared. Maya, a black woman, is shown early in the film to be smart and involved, she initially resists Jared, a white boy with a sharp nose and blonde hair, but decides to give him a chance and goes on a date with him. After they have dinner and look up at the stars, Jared rapes her in the basement of his apartment. She tries to stop their makeout session but he holds her down, stuffs her pantyhose in her mouth when she screams and whispers racial epithets in her ear while he rapes her. In the aftermath of the rape, Maya cuts her hair short, spends the summer working retail, and begins a friendship with a DJ, Adrian, who introduces her to the club scene which is saturated in drugs and sex. Her withdrawal into herself, her emptiness and numbness radiate off the screen. When she returns to school in the fall, she finds that Jared is enrolled in a class which she is TAing. She uses the opportunity of him cheating on an exam to lure him to her apartment where she ties him up and rapes him with a dildo and then has Adrian rape him as well. While Adrian rapes Jared, Maya sits on the edge of the bed. Adrian asks, “Everything’s OK now, right?” The camera tightens on her face and we hear her thinking, I need to get over it. I know it. And I will. Tears slide down Maya’s face. I don’t know. I don’t think so. When my stepfather went to prison the daughter of my mom’s friend (who had also been sexually abused) reassured me that he would be raped in prison. She wasn’t the only one. It didn’t make me feel better. It just widened the already deep chasm of emptiness and guilt that I felt. Another reason to blame myself. I had sent away the only father I ever knew and terrible things would happen to him now, and I felt responsible.
In episode 12 of Tokyo Ghoul, “Kushu,” Kaneki has been kidnapped and tortured by Yamori. Yamori drugs Kaneki. He cuts of his digits, waits for them to regenerate, cuts them off again and again, while making him count backwards from a thousand by sevens. Yamori places a Chinese Red Head centipede in Kaneki’s ear. Unsatisfied with the physical effects his brutality, Yamori tries to force Kaneki to choose which of two ghouls he will kill. When Kaneki is unable to choose, begging Yamori to kill him instead, Yamori kills both ghouls. Kaneki then has this exchange with Rize (who has been appearing to him as a hallucination since the beginning of the episode) in which he finally fully embraces his ghoul nature.
Kaneki: No… it’s … it’s my fault.
Rize: How are you just now getting it? You’ll just sit there blaming yourself, and keep blaming yourself, but going on blaming yourself won’t change anything. You don’t try to change. It’s all your fault. That much is obvious, isn’t it? Whose fault is it that things ended up like this? Coincidence? An accident? Fate? There’s no such thing as fate. It’s simply a combination of one circumstance and the next. And who is it that creates those circumstances? Who is it? It’s you. “All of the disadvantage in this world stems from a person’s lack of ability.” He’s right, isn’t he? This whole thing started because you’re such a fool to the ways of the world. … It’s all because of you. “It’s better to be hurt than to hurt others.” Which is why you’re going through all this. If you had been strong and killed Yamori, those two would have been spared. … If only you had been strong at that moment. Why are you crying? Why are you sobbing? You choose to be hurt rather than to hurt others, right? You’re nice and wonderful. … There are times when you have to give up on one thing to preserve the other. … Can you still remain on the side of being hurt? Can you abide someone like Yamori?
Kaneki: No… I can’t!… Anyone who tries to take my place from me will get no mercy.
Rize: Do you have that kind of strength?
Rize: Even if that is the wrong choice?
Kaneki: I’m not the one who’s wrong. What’s wrong… is the world!
After this exchange, Yamori comes to kill Kaneki. But Kaneki escapes from his chains and fights back. Kaneki cannibalizes Yamori, inflicting the same torture techniques and finally eating Yamori’s kagune, or predatory organ.
This time I didn’t go to the hospital or call the police. I didn’t want to be poked and prodded physically or mentally. I hid at home and then forced myself into work a day later, pushed myself through the motions, empty inside, wearing my skin like a costume. Keeping busy so that I could keep the taunting questions and feelings of deep inadequacy at bay. I don’t want my friends worrying about me. I only go to places where I know I’ll be safe. I come down hard on myself for being afraid. I expect myself to cope better, heal faster. Twice, late at night, someone has buzzed the apartment from downstairs. I freeze and pretend I don’t hear. Maybe he’s watching me. Maybe I should have stabbed him when he was putting on his clothes and asking me for a glass of water in the kitchen.
Are you allowed to be afraid and be the baddest bitch on the planet?
I’m afraid of so many things. Spiders. Going down escalators. White dudes on the internet. I’ve been anxious to the point of nausea before every reading I’ve given in the past year. I never imagined reading some of the poems in Dream Machine aloud. In fact it’s against family superstition to speak of your dreams in the dark. And nice girls don’t say things I’ve written. I’m not a nice girl. But none of that matters. As I’m reading, the poetry floods my body. I am spitting out tornadoes of vulnerable chaos. I’m standing still in front of you but I’m vibrating through the room like thunder. There’s no difference between the person you see and the torrential force of my voice. In that moment I’m everything I ever wanted to be. I am bloodletting, violent, revenge seeking, a monster. I would love to experience myself the way I live in my poetry every second of every day for the rest of my life. I only ever read Dream Machine to an audience but maybe Katy was on to something when she said I should read it to myself and remember how powerful I am.
I want to say that I have that kind of strength. I don’t want to and won’t apologize for anything I feel. I want to say I’m a bad bitch. I want you to think that I’m broken and unbreakable. You can see me shaking, but I am still sure of my power. Revel in knowing that I am devastated as I devastate you.
- Reading in Chicago on Friday with Daniel Borzutzky, Nikki Wallschlaeger, and Johannes Göransson. Johannes and I drove into Chicago talking about poetry, listening to Girl Talk, Trap Queen, Nicki and Bey and You Must Remember This podcasts on Charles Manson. We had impressive coffee in Wicker Park and ate dinner at the Chicago Diner with my publisher, Steve Halle (I always love it whenever Steve can be at a reading I’m doing). I was all nerves for this reading. Chain smoking, faded, milkshake and white wine fueled, hugging and tearful nerves. Devin and Caroline at Sector 2337 were amazing hosts, they have a phenomenal space. And the audience was full of gems, my good friends D’Angelo, Josh and Bobby showed up, some shouty britches, some Chicago poets, and Nikki brought her whole squad (I GOT TO HOLD HER NEW BABY) and it gave me so much energy and joy. I had been feeling so empty. Meeting Nikki, getting to hug her, it was like reuniting with a sister I never knew. This weekend my goal is to absorb her book Houses into all the cells of my skin.
- Sometimes I am up in the middle of the night wishing that I was talking on the phone to someone. Over the weekend that wish was granted by a realtalk phone call with Robert John Meehan, coeditor of Tagvverk. We talked until the sun came up and it was everything. I’m excited about the things he’s still trying to find a way to write about.
- I’m starting EMDR sessions today.
- Not going to lie, I’ve been enjoying the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
- A couple of weeks ago I started reading Gina Abelkop‘s I Eat Cannibals. I was looking to read something femme and fierce. I especially love the first poem of the book, “i’m a cassowary you’re a cassowary too”. Excerpts can be found here, here and here.
- Sometimes I wish I lived in a world where only good things happened to me and the people I care about. But that would mean being a rich, white, cishet, able bodied man and just ew. #safeblackgirls #McKinney #sayhername #blacklivesmatter #unconventionalblackbeauty #MyVanityFairCover Kalief, Freddie, Mike, Eric, Renisha, Rekia, Tanisha, Aiyana, Tamir, Akai, Penny, Mya…
- Adventure Time!!! The last several episodes of this season were SO GOOD.
- I read Lee Siegel’s NYT article flaunting his defaulting on his student loans. And all I could think was fuck this dude. Listen I’m all about never giving the government a cent back of its precious blood money, but when I talk like that there are people who write me off as an irresponsible, hopeless cunt, just leeching off the system, never contributing anything, with the nerve to be ungrateful when Amerikkka has given me so much. Lee Siegel is a white man with a byline. Read this article instead and figure out a way to use what you have to give low income, talented kids a way to thrive in this shitty fucking country.
- The speech given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at Girls Write Now. She also gave a wonderful speech to the women graduating from Wellesley this year.
Tata my lonely britches, Tyler this is for you.