Queering Bodies and “the concept of ‘closest'”

There are a couple of lines from Sara June Woods’ poem “SEA-WITCH 6” that really struck me and I’m not entirely sure what to do with them yet. So in an effort to process the links, I offer these two quotations, various lists, and hopefully some linkages.

“Some bodies don’t lend themselves to a clear separation of beginning or end & in some bodies that separation is too great. Exhausting, even.”

And: “I am usually satisfied with anything I can connect to the concept of ‘closest’.”

Proliferating Woods’ poems are bodies and intimate or violent moments of contact that are ephemeral:

  • Bodies that come into contact: “I kissed Sea-Witch & felt the rock moving inside” (“SEA”)
  • Or fail to: “waiting for someone & not knowing if they are coming” (“GIRL”)
  • Bodies that blur into one another: “Some bodies don’t lend themselves to a clear separation” (“SEA”)
  • A body that is blurry: “The shape Christmas lights make when you aren’t looking at them directly” (“GIRL”); “Mine has always been some combination of both” (“SEA”)
  • Contact that is violent: “A flock of turkey vultures taking turns throwing their bodies against your window at night.” (“GIRL”)
  • Contact with inanimate objects: “Touching a rock on a beach & feeling an overwhelming sense of affection toward & connection with that rock” (“GIRL”)

Woods offers up queer bodies and queer forms of contact (here I am using the term “queer” more capaciously, following J. Halberstam et. al. who talk about queer are referring to non-normative desire as well as non-heterosexual desire). It feels fitting, then, that any contact that does occur is with inanimate objects (the rock, shaking a tree branch, filling a pillow case [“GIRL”]) or with animals or supernatural/witchy beings (the Sea-Witch(es), bees that “feed from you often”[“GIRL”]).

So what is the relationship between the queerness of these bodies and forms of contact and adolescence or “girlhood”? If we want to take the title of the first poem, “WHAT BEING A GIRL FEELS LIKE,” and probe its list-like examples of contact and bodies, then being a girl can feel kind of queer. Being a girl means that you might feel more intimacy with a rock than you do with another human being — but that such a connection to the earth, to the surrounding world, is a beautiful thing.

The body of the adolescent girl doesn’t lend itself “to a clear separation of beginning or end.” And for some, that can be a cause for celebration, a moment to resist the heteronormative bonds that demarcate bodies. But for some bodies (and given that we’re discussing trans-subjectivities this week, it feels like trans bodies might be some of bodies I refer to) the “separation is too great. Exhausting, even.” To find a cause for celebration in bodies that refuse a “clear separation of beginning or end” would be to ignore the privilege that those celebrating bodies hold.



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