This bed is a ship

This bed is a ship is a sporadically updated internet journal, 
a home for odd scraps of writing.

Let the death of Charles Manson be an opportunity to discuss the ways in which many men prey on younger women, use sex and love and drugs and religion and fear as weapons of gaslighting, as the carrot and the stick they use to control them.

Charles Manson's favorite book was "How to Win Friends and Influence People"--a book read and obsessed over by many businessmen, politicians, and other people in positions of power. One of the most notorious murderers of America's history used the same prescribed tactics as many of its CEOs.

We think of Charles Manson as exceptional, but he was on a certain level a perfectly ordinary result of the cultural systems that produced him. He simply took what was given to him by toxic masculinity, systemic racism and misogyny, a broken prison system, his religious upbringing and damaged family, and the sad spiraling out of the end of the 1960s, and he mixed it altogether into poison. Manipulating vulnerable people, mostly women, some barely more than children, into enacting your violence for you is, unfortunately, nothing new.

The more I learn about cults and serial killers, the less I think of them as outliers, freak accidents of society, and more as the terrifyingly logical extension of omnipresent and insidious cultural tendencies that we need to push back against in all their forms.

Let this news also be an excuse to listen to the solo work of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boy who thought he could get love by giving people gifts at a never-ending party, and instead found himself with Charles Manson and his Family living in his house, meeting his well-connected friends, borrowing his cars to commit robberies, until Wilson finally cut ties. It wasn't too long after that when things got very, very dark, and it seems like Dennis never quite got over his past enabling of a man he eventually discovered to be such a monster.

The Beach Boys drummer drowned to death in 1983, diving off the pier in Marina del Rey over and over again, supposedly trying to recover a photograph of his ex-wife that he'd thrown off his boat long before. In the 1970s, however, Dennis Wilson recorded some really incredible solo music that has gone fairly under-appreciated. "Pacific Ocean Blue" and the unfinished "Bambu" are really worth a listen.

http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/episodes/youmustrememberthispodcastblog/2015/6/9/charles-mansons-hollywood-part-3-the-beach-boys-dennis-wilson-and-manson-the-songwriter

https://open.spotify.com/album/08CyNpU6VJMtGmR7DYjNmQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB6REIZ5GbM

The horrific realization that one thing that has made me the way I am is the fact that I have forever been accustomed to instability, and that this in turn has made me accustomed to all decisions being reversible. When all is chaos, when the people around you forever turn their emotions on a dime, scream and kick walls and then ten minutes later profess love, beg forgiveness, this has the strange effect of making everything fleeting. The meaning sucked out of all action beyond the present.

Your parents tell you they are getting divorced, and then they don't. Ten years later, they do. Years and years ago, your lover leaves you, and the next day acts like it never happened. This happens at least five more times in four years. You are threatened with death, clinging to metal screaming on the street, you are threatened with money being shoved at you and with money being taken away, you are threatened with sex being shoved at you and with sex being taken away, everyone is too fucked up on something and in this and you are taught that these are romantic gestures. That the turmoil is a sign of care. 

And so, now, a thousand lives away, you learn you still carry those lessons in your heart. That breaking up with someone is a way to show someone that their behavior is unacceptable, that you will not stand for this, but also it's a tool you use because it isn't capital punishment, not the nuclear option. That's the slow, mature, and measured voice you use when severing the limb in surgery, not the heated cries of battle. And now, you are devastated because someone kinder, softer, more genuine than you finally took you at your word. And you don't know what your words even mean, let alone what desires lay beneath them. Ash falls quietly from the sky. 

Sid Branca

(heads up: contains stuff about health and bodies and dysphoria and stuff)

This week I was told I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and because I am the type of person I am, I have spent much of the last two days doing research. Trying to understand what is going on in my body, and trying to figure out which of my multiple chronic health issues might be tied in with pcos. For those unfamiliar and now worried: it’s not something life-threatening, and it’s actually extremely common. There is no cure but it’s manageable, although my odds of developing some other, more dangerous things, like diabetes, are now higher than normal.

This is scary, but also a relief; a known problem can be addressed in ways that a nebulous feeling of something being wrong cannot. Maybe dealing with this health issue will clear up some others. I feel sort of hopeful and excited in addition to worried and overwhelmed. 

The thing about this diagnosis that is somewhat taking me by surprise is the dysphoria of it. So much of the information about PCOS is focused on concerns about fertility, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, passing on genes. The issue itself is often framed as “too much testosterone”, “excessive body hair”, “masculinization of the body”. (From what I understand, this could *also* be framed as “too much estrogen”, because if I’m not mistaken PCOS causes high levels of both testosterone and estrogen and low progestin, but also I’m not a scientist.)

As a genderqueer person with ovaries in my body, I am not loving spending this much time thinking vividly about those ovaries, and–the bigger problem–the expectations and attitudes put upon my body. 

So here are just a few things I want to think through in type, mostly for myself. 

Not everyone with a uterus wants to bear children. (Many do, and I absolutely wish them health and happiness in that endeavor! But this shouldn’t be your default assumption about strangers.)

Not everyone with ovaries is a woman, and some women do not have ovaries. Gender is not determined by genitals, or hormones, or secondary sex characteristics, or even by deliberate decisions you may make about genitals and hormones and secondary sex characteristics. 

A hormonal imbalance is something to be addressed due to the stresses it puts on the body and the potential hazards of underlying problems with the body’s systems that may be causing that imbalance–not because it’s inherently “bad” for a female body to be “masculinized”. 

I am still myself regardless of how much hair I do or do not have on my legs, or how I feel about my body, or how my moods may fluctuate. I am still myself regardless of whether symptoms I have been dealing with for a long time get better, or worse, or stay the same, or change. I am always myself, regardless of how I feel about my gender. I am always myself, regardless of any and all diagnoses I have received or will receive. I hope to heal my body, and to learn that body’s needs and serve them as best I can, with love and without judgement. 

back in my mother’s house, shifting through long-abandoned stacks of paper from my foolish youth:

I regard my intellect with a rotten eye. Blood on your hands like a bedroom stain. A new hyphenated love of comparative emotion. A new unbinding of a tangled rope. An immense detachment convulsed and split to give you entrance. Give hope to your butterflies and let them consume me. I am amazed at my kindness and at my cruelty. I am chipped, I am scratched, I am unbalanced. I have remarkable potential for failure. You have a remarkable capacity for pain. We’re no two of a kind; I’d have slit your throat by now. I don’t know the space between tolerance and cowardice. Indecisive, I tear myself to bits. I don’t need to make a choice but I need to know what I want. Disjointed, yes. A plane flies overhead. Fidelity is nothing in the face of desire. We will see where my desires lie. You will contain all my irrelevant secrets. Sending desperate messages over temperate climes. Encompassing a world in a few cluttered lines.

December 2, 2016 (written for [Trans]formation)

confession:
whenever I am taking up space in a space made officially queer
not just in practice but in title, in queers only
I am seized by the panicked certainty
that I’m not queer enough to be there
in any of the relevant ways

because I don’t feel like a woman
but I sometimes feel like a femme
or like a permanent drag
or like a circus clown

and so people look at me and see long hair and lipstick
and the stubble on my partner’s cheeks
the broad shoulders on his tall frame
they recall the man before that
they forget the one before

they do not hear my thoughts
they do not know that no woman I have ever fucked or loved
has deigned to date me
to make me hers
despite my best efforts

they do not know that when I picture my body
it is exactly the same except
not defined by illness, or by anyone else
and maybe I have abs
and my hair is ten inches longer
and my dick six

and I say I changed my name to be more easily googled
and I guess that’s true
but as time goes on it gets less so

and as I get older I get less butch but more masculine
whatever that means
like I want to put on a skirt and interrupt you in a meeting
I don’t know

I am feeling not only a little adrift
but like my writing is truly suffering from being this direct
like I’m embarrassed, like it’s crass
like I don’t have the right to get up and say
hello my name is Sid Branca and I’m genderqueer
and you can use they and their when you talk about me
because you and I and anyone with eyes most days
we all know I’m femme as fuck

and while we say presentation and identity are not the same
if you’ve been around for a minute you may have noticed
that if you were born with a vagina and you like to wear dresses and kiss boys
it doesn’t matter how much hair you grow out
or how many girls or how many more complicated constructions you are kissing
or how many more complicated constructions you build yourself into
and destroy and build again
you will be seen over and over again as straight and as a woman

even if in your mind you’re not even human
but more like something that fell like a meteor in a field
or crawled out of a tree, all sticky with sap

I picture myself a thing made out of mud and whispered over
bits of sapling trees and string
or the workings of igneous rock
or a robot built out of spare parts in a desolate future
where we don’t have time to give a shit about gender
because we are busy scouring the desert for water

or I come from an alien planet where all sex is telepathic
and genitals are things that morph with thought
and not a fixed item to be compared with your fashion sense
to determine which diversity grants you can apply for
or who yells at you in the street
but when I look to the oracle of the internet
to show me a reflection of myself
to see what I should call me
I google genderqueer and I do not see an ocean the size of a body
or a person carved from wood and given life through sheer will

I scroll through masculine people, whatever that means,
who have vaginas and short haircuts like I used to
and I see beards paired with lipstick
and truly they are all so beautiful and handsome and good

but I’m not genderqueer enough to be here
because the bodies that I see the most of myself in
are those of certain trans women
which is surely some kind of offense
some kind of thing I should not say
when you consider that when I was born they said it’s a girl

even though in my fantasies they say
dear god what is that thing
it must have come from the crash site
or they say, look what I made at school today
or they gasp quietly into the laptop night
because finally, after all these years,
they found the extremely specific porn they were looking for
and they wept

cw medical shit, gross graphic metaphors for pain

Someone is taking a long thin needle and piercing the skin just behind your left ear. They push it through slowly until they reach the sinuses, the eyes. 

Someone has given you eyedrops of hydrochloric acid. 

Someone has taken two small vices and gripped them to the throbbing tendons at the back of your neck.

Someone has made a mortar and pestle out of you, someone is slowly grinding stone against your temples until you are made of powder, a fine flour that will cake with weeping.

A single candle strikes the whole house blind. A whispered word an agony. Two floors down you can tell someone has a television set switched on. The sound is off but you can hear it, the high-pitched whine of a cathode ray tube obsolescing in someone’s living room. The filaments of every light bulb are screaming at you, ready to burst. The refrigerator that keeps your ice packs cold is a dull roar you can not satiate or escape. 

You piss in the dark because you cannot stand the light. 

You sob in the emergency room of every hospital in town. 

You actual use personal massagers for their marketed purpose.

Benadryl, Motrin, Reglan, Imitrex, Amitriptyline, peppermint oil, hot showers, tepid baths, neck rubs, your mother’s expired painkillers, someone else’s brother’s weed, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep. 

An entire day gets disappeared. 

But this is something you are used to. 

Since you were small. 

Sitting in English class scraping plastic forks and safety pins and the crescent moons of your fingernails across your body just to stay awake. The doctor’s note that said nobody knew what was wrong with you but that you had a tendency to faint and when everybody else got mono from smoking Rob Percarro’s weed they got better and you didn’t. You slept for most of two years. You were so tired. You are still so tired.

And then in college they tell you your blood doesn’t work, that it’s cute and small and broken just like everything about you but don’t worry, it’s an asymptomatic form of the disease, I don’t care what all those people on the internet say, you’ve got bad blood with no symptoms, you’ve got bad blood but it doesn’t matter.

and then later your baby brother loses his mind and swings his fists at the air in the hallway full of lockers where you used to take caffeine pills to keep from falling down and they tell you that you’re almost ten times more likely than everybody else to develop schizophrenia and any children you might have would be five times and that’s if the thalassemia doesn’t get them but don’t worry you have bad blood but it doesn’t matter.

but you wonder if that’s not why someone sticks a needle into your skull or grinds away at your temples and disappears days into pain and exhaustion and terror and you wonder how to turn this all around into something good, or at least something of use. 

Justin O. Schmidt is an entomologist at the Center for Insect Science in Arizona. Since the 1980s, he has been getting himself stung by bees, wasps, and ants, on purpose, so that someone with the proper scientific training can write down what happens when you get stung by bees, wasps, and ants. The Schmidt Sting Pain Index is something you can look to when you want to know what a human can survive. The sting of a Tarantula Hawk wasp is completely agonizing, overwhelming, utterly devastating in the moment, but thanks to Justin we know it only lasts for five minutes. The bullet ant sting is almost as painful, but lasts for hours. He describes it as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.” For five hours. 

But now we know. And if we find ourselves stung by a bullet ant, we know we can make it. I’ve endured five hours of intense pain dozens and dozens of times. And I know I can make it. And I can write about it, I can say to someone else who might be afraid hey, look, you may be a fucking mess and so am I, and having this human body is so strange and dangerous and confusing and painful but you can take more than you know.  

We are all so much weaker and so much stronger than we think we are. Pain is both frequent and surprising and somehow not the end of us. And so we describe the stings, to let the others know. 

Sid BrancaComment

november 17th 

so right now I’m sort of in this place of crisis, of why write about my stupid feelings in the face of so much real shit, like how– or honestly why?—would I give you a poem about how I feel neglected by my father and so I have weird sex about it or about how I once had a dream about my crush standing next to a pickup truck in the rain and it fucked me up for five years?
or how I have taken the fact that I am shitty at being an older sister and internalized it as a metaphor about how I’m sort of generally an asshole
how can I keep on doing this when it feels like the actual fucking apocalypse is coming?

when climate change might actually kill me and everyone else before my anxiety about old age really kicks in? when a dude who straight-up wants to treat cute lil sexual deviants like me with electroshock therapy like we’re in the fucking Bell Jar is going to be the Vice President of this country I’m in love with? when so many things feel like they’re gonna get worse before they get better, and climate change might actually kill us all before we get to the better? why write poems?

so I was thinking about this, and for some reason I kept thinking about all of the times I dabbled in being a dominatrix. I’ll come back around to that in a minute.

whether or not I think of myself as like, a human woman changes on pretty much a daily basis, most of the time I feel like some kind of genderless space alien who crash landed into a high school production of a second-rate musical and then just kind of… went along with the whole being a human thing because, you know, when in Rome.

but I like wearing bold lipstick and showing too much side boob and devouring the hearts of men and getting spanked and calling people daddy and getting bought presents and literally punching men in the dick when they’re cool with it and wearing nipple clamps while sitting in a dark theater and making plans to help someone put their girlfriend through the stations of the cross

and probably in my heart of hearts i’m a bratty teenage girl with a big dick whose primary interest is making people nervous
especially men
And I think about the man who paid me to go to a hotel by the airport
And get sent to the principal’s office with a teacher’s note
(did I mention yet that I am a teacher?)
and spanked with a hairbrush against the hotel mirror

And I think about the man who paid me to piss in his wine glass
In the bathroom of a fancy downtown restaurant
And I think about how they thought they were in charge
That their money made them the ones in control

And I think about the men who yell at me in the street
Who think their voices make them the ones in control
Or their fast cars
Or the way they get away with it

And I think about Lolita, our little lady of dolorous haze
How, spoiler alert, in the book, She dies in childbirth
Because every old man narrator knows that being a woman kills character
That a femme with agency blooms too big for the page
and will outweigh a novel
And I think about how everyone seems to think
That the dirty old man is the protagonist
Even though the girl is the one who changes

And I think about how we scare the shit out of you
All us dirty little girls
And it doesn’t matter who is holding the paddle
We are powerful because you are afraid, you are awed

You are a new father staring at a mystery
You are a new lover frightened by the breadth of your desires
The future is femme, and she wants to meet you in the woods
Behind the high school, but that doesn’t mean you know what to do with her

If you really want to do it for me
You’re gonna need more than three hundred dollars
and a sense of entitlement
I want to watch you reach up inside yourself and
find what you’re afraid of
and make out with it
until you feel whole

Sid BrancaComment

notebook scraps (perhaps some of these made it into this tumblr when they were first written but whatever, I’m recycling a lot of paper tonight)

*******cw violence and sexual harassment*************

the internet squeezes out cats into your living room

all my words are stolen
the language of a scavenger
feels good in my mouth

all these shapes force themselves through my body, glowing scripts in some reaching– I send long thick lines from my teeth through the air to you, all my languages the tongues of want, a bringing in of–

my body and my words are inextricable from each other, these oceans of language that pour out of me into a dozen glowing boxes, they are all made up of my blood

the wind that is the god

the word, any and each, is never separate from the world

Having a casual one-woman wine and cheese party alone in an ugly basement, trying to keep the sickly-sweet smell of panic from my voice. Suddenly recalling that New Year’s Eve years ago when with those 4am drugs and a little white dog playing on the floor my friend got a call from the stranger who kept calling her and masturbating and saying awful shit in broken english and I took her phone and I told him exactly what I would do to him, how I would find him, where he lived, find his bedroom and go there and put my hands on him, with my bare hands I would rip his cock off his body, I would tear the foul thing right off and he would scream and scream and scream in pain and I would barely hear him over the roar of rage pouring out of my mouth like the blood poured out of his stupid body. I hated him so much in that moment I could hardly see, I only half-remember the sound of his voice but I think he really sounded scared or maybe surprised or maybe it’s wishful thinking but I think he apologized before he hung up. It was weeks before he called her again, something I only knew about later, when it had finally stopped, maybe he found someone else to bother, she was pretty sure it was someone who used to work at her old job, phone numbers on the work schedule contact sheet, and how someone clears dishes doesn’t necessarily tell you how they’ll treat a woman when they think they’re anonymous and god I love technology but every time I read a glow screen sentence about punitive–I feel so incredibly violent that I question a couple of things about myself. 

I want you I want you I want you I want you I want you I want you

so easy to make the slip–so easy to make the slip–I want you–some foolish mistake, some words slurred by the haze of lusting, I would happily look into those deep wet eyes for all the time allotted me, you make me want to care for all those things so long neglected.

where the world stops and the person begins. being in a group, “I would not do a violence to any of you, because it would be doing a violence to myself.”

the hegemony of Cartesian dualism– but then is any attempt to supplant it with any other all-encompassing, universally applied theory on how people and bodies relate going to be equally hegemonic?

if you sound bored by the act of speaking, the act of listening will likely be boring too. 

Sid BrancaComment