Wednesday 17 October 2012

Daily Pages: Voices

(So. Er...hi. I'm back. Sort of. As some of you may know, I got a little bit sick with pneumonia earlier in the year and had a long hiatus in posting on here, made longer by the fact that as the number of days between my last post and what would be my next one increased I felt under more pressure to write something which would (a) get everyone reading up to speed on what's been going down with me over the last several months and (b) rock. I have decided that the only way to keep blogging is to abandon both these strictures: to operate on the assumption that the events of the last few months will gradually become clear to readers as they read over the new entries which will, presumably, refer back to these times, and to abandon any notion of quality control for the time being on the basis that unpoliced content is at least content. To that end, one thing I'll be doing when I don't feel up to writing about anything else is posting thoughts from my daily pages.

The daily pages - usually called morning pages but, y'know, I'm not so much a morning person - is a technique from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. I'll be honest - I tend to give this book a little bit of the side-eye because there is a bit of guff about God in it, and I'm always wary of people trying to sneak Jehovah into things by the back door (same reason I'm suspicious of AA). But the pages are a good idea: you sit, you write three pages of whatever comes into your noggin. You don't worry about whether it's any good. You don't worry about whether you'll publish it or not. You just see what happens. Sometimes you get stuff you can mine for poems, sometimes you get memoir, sometimes you get short stories, sometimes you get gibberish and actually sometimes the gibberish is the most fun to read back later. And, sometimes, you get something like the following, which seemed so much like a blog post I figured it was pretty much crying out to be on here. So, here goes.)

Why do people say 'Oh my God'? Is it a subconscious acknowledgement of the wide and varied panoply of faiths whose adherents hum, chant and flagellate their way around the planet? I don't think so. I think the 'my' in the popular exclamation is an assertion of possession, of the speaker's right to define the views of, to speak for, their supposedly omnipotent and omniscient deity.
Consider the contexts in which the phrase is uttered: instances of shock, disbelief, disapproval. This is something God would not approve of, says the speaker, and I know because God is mine. He is my God. And he agrees with me. On everything.

What arrogance!

The things people say, and the voices they say them with, are a source of constant interest to me. Because my voice has never fit in 'round here. Because I spend so much time and effort training my voice, keeping it out of the diaphragm and letting the fluttering spirit of my words roost instead high in the eaves of my throat. And because I work hard on it when I rehearse for gigs, too, when I choose my words when writing and rewrite poems after rehearsal to make them work better with the sound of my voice when I perform them. Because of this, the voices I am surrounded by day in and day out fascinate and appal me. I wish I could give that somewhat cliched combination its usual idiomatic conclusion of 'in equal measure', but that would be a lie. The fact is I am more appalled than fascinated. Because cis people take so little care with their voices. People whose accents have always been accepted find it so easy and pleasurable to just low along with the herd. People who have never written anything more complicated than a shopping list see nothing wrong in speaking in soap-opera cliches or the nauseating therapy-speak of morning talk shows. They talk of 'wanting space' and 'needing closure' and don't notice that they have penned themselves into a metaphorical sheepfold.

It's hard for me to trust the voices of others. I hear too much barely concealed nastiness in so many. So much sneering, so much petulance, so much anger from people who have been given the world and want to complain because they'd prefer it in a different shade of blue. Or the laughter they share, the little confidences, the bonding over kids or football which remind me that the world they would prefer has no room for people like me. It's not that they hate us, exactly, though some do: it's that their ideal world would not include us so that they wouldn't have to think about us. Genocide has its roots in laziness and ignorance as much as in actual hatred. The ultimate refusal of empathy is not active vitriol or even the pathology of the autistic subject, but the erasure of those who are different because you would rather devote cognitive capacity to discussing last night's X-Factor result than to trying to imagine ways in which such difference could be included. Oh, were you watching that? I'm sorry. I didn't see you there.

The voice to which one feels inclined to listen, the voice with which one feels in harmony, is rare. When found, such voices are such a joy to hear that I often just sit back and listen to them, passively looking in on the conversation of others, smiling. But in most contexts I know that trying to find such a voice will take a long time, tiring me out with no certainty of success. So I try my best to tune out the voices around me and find pleasure in silence, or the digitally-mediated melodies of my MP3 player and headphones. I ignore the man at the stop shouting that we're all cunts until I can get on the bus and listen to Arvo Part. I turn my back to the voices in the canteen and occupy myself creating harmonies of word and image on the bounded desert of the page. Their world, their noise, their ignorance, but I can make flimsy, self-contained worlds of my own for what little time they last, to escape them. And that helps. A little. Sometimes.

Sometimes, I just want to shout will the lot of you SHUT THE FUCK UP? through the largest, loudest megaphone in the world.

Thursday 3 May 2012

The Ballad of CeCe McDonald

Trigger warning: this poem discusses a transphobic attack and its aftermath. Certain verses also refer to prison rape. If either of these things are likely to trigger you, feel free not to read.

CeCe McDonald copped a plea.
Guilty. Manslaughter. Second degree.
She had to. There’d be no fair trial.
Forty-one more months in jail

the best she could expect from them,
the white, cisgendered, Minnesota men
whose prejudice would seal her fate,
ruling ‘inadmissible’ the hate

inscribed on the so-called victim’s flesh,
but saying that her one bounced cheque
would be allowed to testify
against her virtue. Cheques don’t lie,

but swastika tattoos may prove
mere relics of a misspent youth.
That Schmitz said go back to Africa
was, the whites said, neither here nor there:

a man was stabbed, and CeCe’s race
made Freeman think he had a case.
Freeman, who’d tried anti-fascists
but let Darrell Evanovich’s

killer walk, had CeCe bound
in custody. The facial wound
that she’d received that night turned septic,
left untreated, grew and festered,

as CeCe festered in their jail,
each day eroding CeCe’s will
to fight, and making Freeman bold.
He’d show the press how he controlled

those elements – the blacks, the queers –
Tea Party voters tend to fear:
pandering to fears like these
keeps Blue Dog Freeman in his seat

and hapless CeCe in her cell,
while the Caucasian thugs who yelled
abuse and chased her through the streets
are free to party, laugh and eat,

drink beer and cheer at Vikings games
while CeCe languishes in chains
for standing ground that wasn’t hers
in the eyes of pallid jurors.

Meanwhile, Robert Zimmerman
– the dodgy judge, not Bob Dylan –
tells Fox News that his son George
had probable defensive cause

to shoot a black boy in the chest
at point-blank range, then flee arrest:
but George’s victim wasn’t white,
so George posed no risk of flight

(though he’d lain low for one whole month,
while press and police went on the hunt).
So Zimmerman was granted bail:
paid 15K and walked from jail,

where CeCe sits awaiting sentence,
hoping to serve out her penance
for the crime of keeping her friends safe
in a prison where she won’t be raped

by cis male guards and prisoners
with shivs or barks of ‘strip for search’,
a decency that isn’t certain
in the realm of men like Freeman,

governed only for some people,
who are not considered equal,
whatever patriotic lies
its blue-eyed children may imbibe

when they chant their morning pledge,
where millions teeter on the edge
of losing homes to bailed-out banks
while Mormon millionaire mountebanks

pledge to protect blastocysts
and cuff a quarter of the wrists
on Planet Earth, and shackle more:
oh, Amnesty are keeping score,

but who cares? We’re the Great Exception!
For rich white men we’ll make exemptions!
But if you’re not, well – just forget it.
Cop the plea. You’ll get no credit

from the local Fox affiliate.
Justice for all? You’re delirious!
The fact is that America
still operates a colour bar.

See CeCe, in her prison rack?
Her wrists, like most we cuff, are black.

                        *          *          *

CeCe McDonald has been sent to prison for the 'crime' of defening herself and her friends from a racist and transphobic attack. No attempt has been made to punish her attackers. Please sign the petition asking the Minnesota State Governor, Mark Dayton, to pardon her.

Monday 23 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Twenty-Three: Hey, AJ, what's up?

I sit down
and my stomach flips
the way it did
on Spuggy's Bridge
years ago
on the run
to Jarrow

with every step
exhausted legs
by half ten
in the morning

the boredom
of more time
than its plausible
to cope with
watching quiz shows
on the sofa
even Richard
Osman starts
to get annoying

the way once-certain dates
in diaries
sprout question marks
then crosses

       *                   *                      *

Today's poem is about, well, being ill. Just kind of popped into my head while I sit here getting my breath back for another epic attempt on the stairs before I get dressed to go to the doctors' and get my blood test results. I don't usually like the ee cummings 'I don't believe in punctuation' approach because it smacks, to me, of sixth form poets who've not got much beyond copying song lyrics onto their folders, but I've used it here because I think it gives the poem a sense of breathlessness. Ditto the short (well, for me anyway) lines.

Sunday 22 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Twenty-Two: May 'n' the Abu, a Hay(na)ku

I deport.
You, May? Not!

*    *    *

Look, don't judge me, I'm three poems behind here! This is inspired by the prompt from Day 21 to write a hay(na)ku, a haiku-like poem, the lines having one word in the first line, two in the second, and three in the third, and by the continual difficulty the Home Secretary seems to be having in knowing what day of the week it is.

NaPoWriMo Poem Twenty-One: The Body of the Enemy

You tell me that you're zen
and all we have to do is wait
for the body of our enemy
to wash by on the river.

You tell me that everything happens,
and is happening, for a reason.

You don't know what 'teleological' means,
but when I explain you nod and say 'yeah, cool.'

I sit by the river, where I can see stones
amid the low-tide trickle. I wait.
A shopping trolley rusts.

I turn and walk away, passing, on the bridge,
a man in chinos and an All-Blacks shirt
carrying a cardboard Michael Gove.

*     *     *

Face-to-face (well, almost) with Cardboard Gove! I wasn't going to return to him yet, but suddenly the last verse of this one seemed like the perfect place to put him. But what happens now? Does Cardboard Gove get chucked in the river? Who knows?

NaPoWriMo Poem Twenty: Ezra Pound Guest-Edits Nuts Magazine

The tedium
of pages and pages of boobs,

free-floating innuendo-lodestones
orbiting the radio-wave ghost-laugh of Sid James.

*        *      *

Getting caught up with NaPoWriMo after falling three days behind due to the lurgy that's currently knacking me up and which is, I think, a resurgence of my iron-deficiency anaemia. Anyway. This one is inspired by the prompt from day nineteen to write an 'opposite day' version of an existing poem, in this case Pound's 'In a Station of the Metro', and by this Observer story about the woman who, as an editor at Nuts magazine, had to edit their 'Assess Your Breasts!' feature.

Thursday 19 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Nineteen: An Absolutely Commonplace Apocalypse

There were coronal mass ejections:
phone signals were patchy
and those of us with analogue TVs
cursed like dinosaurs stepping in tar pits,
distracted by the strange lights in the sky,
and grappled with portable aerials.

'Fracking' was given the go-ahead
in Lancashire, depite the risk of earthquakes
or running water catching fire
as the Thames so amazingly didn't
at the Milennium Eve celebrations;
a biblical punishment, hot and cold, on tap:
the destruction of the cities of the plain
re-enacted at kitchen-sink level.

Increasing numbers of sheep were born deformed.
As the Jubilee Barge was completed, files,
apparently newly-discovered, revealed the extent
of massacres carried out in the Queen's name
when she was newly-crowned.

There were sightings of giants in Liverpool.
Disabled people closed down part of London.
There was heavy rain in Sunderland throughout the day:
the view from the canteen was grim.

Most ominous of all, however: every paper
in the hospital newsagents
bore 100 DAYS TO GO
beneath its masthead,
counting down, not to some Mayan
Armageddon, but, worse, the advent
of the London Olympics.

      *                    *                   *

Perhaps it's the strain of having to come up with a new poem each day, but all I could think to do for this one was to write a list of the events that made the news yesterday. Ending with the Olympics in place of the Apocalypse just seemed...amusing, really.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Eighteen: CN, Tanita, Dido, Ludwig, Annie

The singer's voice is neither male nor female,
a whisky sweet as mead
and smokey as the Romeo and Juliets
I chomped when I was trying to look butch
and fooling no-one. I drift down

back to the road out by the coachworks,
the bridge that made my stomach flip, Twist
in my Sobriety on radio, my father's angry voice,
'Is that a man or woman?' I pitch forward,

land on your sofa, resting my head on your shoulder
as a whole vinyl record of Tanita's voice
spills out around us. Thoroughly domestic,
all I ever wanted: what chance did I have,
what did she have, what chance any of

the objects in your gravity,
linked in non-locality, colliding atoms
bouncing off this moment?
That night I made White Russians like a tic,
kept that Dido song I liked trapped on repeat
and sang along - 'I want to be a hunter
again' - and somehow got home, drunker,
almost, than I've been before or since;

that repeated snatch of the Pathetique
hummed under my breath
following Maria round the seminary, shamming
that I knew anything real about music;

trying to reorder Asian History,
the last shelf of my section,
while Annie Lennox sings of changes drifting
the morning after when we talked divorce.
No more I love you's. Language is leaving me
in silence.

        *               *              *

And, on the stroke of midnight, here's NaPoWriMo poem 18. This was inspired by listening to CN Lester's fabulous album Ashes, which I finally got round to listening to today, and which I recommend you listen to as well - they do a brilliant version of 'Joan of Arc', the Leonard Cohen song. Because I like to be peculiar, the title of this poem is taken, not from a CN Lester song but from a Rae Spoon one, 'Come on Forest Fire (Burn the Disco Down)', mainly because I realised when I ran over the draft that I'd left Rae out and couldn't see any obvious way to crowbar him in there. It's not in response to any particular prompt, but I suppose, in the sheer number of song lyrics quoted, there's perhaps a little bit of a hangover from yesterday's instruction to include a song lyric in a poem.

***Edit 19/04/12***: I've changed the title. 'Ask the Colonial Ghosts' was a nice way of crowbarring a Rae Spon reference into the poem, but didn't really fit on the day when the news broke that Britain had suppressed files about our suppression of independence movements in the 50s. So instead I've just gone for the names of the musicians featured in the poem, in order.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Seventeen: An Open Letter to a Hollow Man

Dear Mr Gove, I hope you don't mind me writing.
Today's prompt was to send an epistle
to an inanimate object. I thought of you
(I know, I know - we're not supposed to know,
but some of us have noticed, Mr G.
Your Secretary does a good impression
of that preposterous voice you used to do.
His talent for ventriloquism? That was just dumb luck).

It's fitting you've gone 2D. Not only since it's retro,
when even silver screens aspire to ape
our dance through pliant space. When holograms
of dead rap stars play live at Coachella. You were never
even that real, Mr G: a big hollow man
with a fistful of sham, and a shitty line in titles.
Celsius 7/7? We're lucky, I guess,
that the only writing you'll be known for now
is the price tag sticker on your back
and the Property of Rupert Murdoch
which I guess someone from the NASUWT
has scribbled where your arse should be.

Anyway, my mission for today, as I say,
is to write to an object bereft
of consciousness, indeed, of conscience - you, in other words -
and, furthermore, to proffer both a fact
and some form of fruit. So, first, let me take you back

to 1989, a viaduct in Aberdeen, a young man
fuelled by commie rage and Tennent's,
detourning a piece of the state apparatus
- a traffic cone, to be exact -
forty feet from Union Street
into the path of traffic passing
on the road below, then finding himself
bundled in a police van. Did you call them pigs?

Because that was you, of course, when you were still 3D,
before you sat in committee rooms and labelled teachers Trots
for objecting to your choice of Commisar;
before your flatpack afterlife propped in the office cupboard,
where you rest now, waiting, patient, for the morning
when your underlings will drag you out, unnoticed.
Long time to wait. Would you like a banana?
No - fair point. Nothing to digest it with. No matter.
Tell you what. I'll leave the skin down here.

             *                                 *                                    *

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt was to write an epistolary poem - a poem in the form of a letter - to an inanimate object. Who better to write to, then, than Cardboard Gove, last seen in NaPoWriMo Poem Nine?

There were a number of other things the poem had to include: a song lyric (here taken from 'Big Hollow Man' by Danielle Dax);  an 'oddball adjective-noun combination' (in this case, 'pliant space' - not that oddball, I know); a fruit (the banana); a street name and a measurement of distance ('forty feet from Union Street') and a historical fact - in this case Gove's arrest for chucking a traffic cone off a viaduct in Aberdeen back in 1989. I bet it really annoys him, that people keep bringing that up...

Monday 16 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem 16: In Ruins

The bottom of the reservoir
is visible: cracked mud,
like a turtle's skin in close-up.

Driverless, the harvester
traces satellite-directed lines
up and down the wheatfield.

There's a gyre of plastic
turning in the ocean,
a belt of metal junk in space,

cardboard spread
in front of empty shopfronts
opposite the rich man's bank on Strand.

There's a hollowness in birdsong, now,
a slowing in the pulse of stars.
Everything is winding down

but the chatter of salaried egos,
selling Right Thought as the factories close,
as if self-belief could mug thermodynamics.

Refresh the page. Above the picture
of the smiling Chair,
the share price tumbles.

       *               *            *

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a piece starting from an image. Leafing through the paper I found a picture of a dried-up reservoir down south and started writing from that. Because the pictures in it share some of the same feeling as the new Patrick Keiller film, 'Robinson in Ruins' (and in fact the image in the second verse is taken from the film), I decided to reference that in the title.

Sunday 15 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Fifteen

This is just to say

I have written
a parody
of that Carlos Williams

you are probably
of seeing parodied

Forgive me
it was so obvious
so short
and so easy

NaPoWriMo Poem Fourteen: Sonnet

Get up. Grit your teeth and you'll get through
the days of people you respect as much
as pubic fungus ordering what you do
with a fake-friendly shoulder-touch
they learned when they got their certificate
in watching eyes and using visual words
as advised by the Bandler pontificate.
Get used to speaking and not being heard:

it's not so bad when you can think of slicing
the tendons of those who say attitude
is all that matters, then advising
them that if they can't walk then they're screwed.
Get up, clench your fists and grit your teeth:
revenge and rage'll get you through the week.

Friday 13 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Thirteen: Deja Vu Pays Your Wages

Morning city light. Not gold or yellow,
not exactly white. A thinning wash
of creme anglaise rolled on the concrete's grey.

The baggy jeans of girls who stand at bus stops.
Poise that doesn't shift from foot to foot
or fuss with hair. A sense of being now
and visibly un-policed. Facade

like all the unsold studios
that look out on the river.
Cool, urbane, a British stab
at New York self-possession.
No-one home.

Thursday 12 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Twelve: Ordet Soy

Frodo sure knows Gollum's funky:
taught his mouse a lively tune!
We berated fire-truckers!
I'm licked-out and highly-toned!
Dinner's down the bin - this weeder
was outmoded! Stringy shite!
All I mentioned was the Whedons.
Whoa, that Santa's frugal, right?

Sights on schlongs, a million long men
tease a goose, the gadgies melt
butter, mmm - but stir no felt
moose - a weirder farter, phoning
Dan, the grosser, warty young'un.
Anus fundies fund Zeus-seeing:
War on Holness! Why's he ringing?
Mischa's signing Joe's balloon.
Jawa rock, no rhyming sealer
sigh, nine toffs? Damn! Merde! Gerunds!

       *              *             *
Today's NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a 'homophonic translation' - basically, to translate a poem in a foreign language into English by changing each word into an English word it sounds like. So, here's two verses of Schiller's 'Ode to Joy' translated thus. I stopped after two because, really, where can you go when you've been reduced to swearing at gerunds?


Wednesday 11 April 2012

Why do you have to be so DIRTY, AJ?

When I began addressing my gender identity in my poetry, there were two things I was scared of talking about. One was just my gender identity itself. But the other thing that frightened me was writing about sex. Addressing sex. Talking about sex. Because, you see, when it comes to sex and sexuality, trans people - and trans women especially - have to face a hell of a lot of policing. This post, by Monica Maldonado, gives a really deep insight into that. I urge you to read it. What really got me was this bit:

'Trans women are given two options: we are either the mute eunuch, “approximating the appearance of a woman” (as Benjamin said), or we are the supposed pervert or rapist who must be denied access to either medical treatment or social accommodation. Given such little leeway, and the deep stigma ascribed to each of these two options, trans women so often end up very reluctantly going along with the “less frightening” of the two. We become the compulsory eunuch in spite of however uncomfortable it might make us. Both options are non-choices for which the table is stripped by cis people of any other possibilities of what a trans woman could be — or is allowed to be.' - Monica Maldonado, 'How gatekeepers made me hate my body',

That is why I was so afraid to write about sexuality in my work, and that is why I will continue to do so. My sexuality is a part of me, and I don't see why I should have to supress a part of me just to fit in with what a cis doctor feels I should conform to. The single artist I most admire, Tori Amos, has never made any secret of addressing her sexuality in her performance - why should I shy away from doing likewise?

According to gatekeepers, and to a certain brand of prescriptive, transmisogynist 'radical' feminist, there are two strikes against me: one, the fact I'm trans at all; two, the fact that I'm not only a trans woman who dares to have sex, but I also dare to have, shock horror, kinky sex! It's no surprise to anyone who's attended one of my gigs or read my work, but I'm kind of a masochist. I like to be treated rough, slapped around, dominated, etc etc, blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Only consensually, only with other girls, and only in safe space (and if you try beating me up without my consent, I will definitely do everything I can to put you in the hospital), but for some, even safe, consensual, mutual sadomasochism is going too far. It betrays the sisterhood. It replicates patriarchal power relations. It's violent (well, duh!). It's icky and dirty and pervy and why can't you be a good Catholic girl (actually, I do occassionally suspect that it's being a good Catholic girl that makes me such a masochist, but I digress)?

Sure, the radical feminists are hardly queueing up to get me back in with the Pope (though I am toying with doing a post sometime comparing second wave feminism to what St Paul did to Christianity, and of course there's always this cartoon), but you see what I mean.

There is massive pressure on you, as a trans person, to conform to a script that makes cis people feel unthreatened. So I knew, when I started writing about being trans, that the smart thing to do, the sensible, unthreatening thing to do, would be to leave sex, especially kinky sex, out of it. But, again, why?

The only reason for not talking about sex in my writing and performance was that to do so would frighten the horses. And that was the same reason I'd given myself for not writing about my gender for so long. And I wasn't going to waste any more time censoring myself.

So I stopped censoring myself, and I started writing about my sexuality as well as my gender, and I will continue doing so. Because no woman, of any sort, should feel afraid to talk about what she desires. And if you think that trans women should keep quiet? There's a name for people like you, and it starts with 'B' and ends with 'igot'.

NaPoWriMo Poem Eleven: The Quality of Light in Humberside

So much sun and so much water,
a million sparkles, like a cheap effect
- the kind that always works. The deep voice
in the movie trailer, electric guitar screech.

The feel of cobbles underneath my worn-down New Rocks.
Fruitbasket odour in the local Lush
as, sweating from the late September heat,
I ask what goes well with You Snap the Whip,
am handed soap that smells like seaside rock.

The warmth and strain of bodies, squeezing thighs,
legs spreading legs like wishbones, ragged breath,
sipped water in the breaks between our bouts,
snatched talk of girls and Manchester
and where John Godber's theatre used to be.

The fizz of lager in my throat,
the weirdness of compliments,
the paranoia of the long kebab shop queue.
Strange music in the taxi - only the strong will continue,
do you have it in you - thinking, silent, yes. Yes. Yes, I do.


NaPoWriMo Poem Ten: Stealing Thom Gunn's Falcon

I thought I was so tough, but, gentled by your hands,
cannot be quick enough to fly for you and show
that when I go I go at your commands.

There was a time when I gave orders, made demands,
when everyone who heard my name was cowed.
I, once, was thought so tough. Now, gentled by your hands,

I jump to your requests as if entranced.
Resigned, delighted at my overthrow:
now, when I go, I go at your command.

You set the rhythm and I dance your dance:
you script the drama I jump to run through.
What once was tough goes gentle at your hands.

I, who was feared, fearful of your glance,
cast down the head I held high, my eyes lowered,
humbly going only when commanded.

Do you like what you've tamed? The catch you've landed?
Enjoy it while it lasts. All falcons know:
however tough, how strong the gentling hands,
it's we, the thrown, in going, who command.


Monday 9 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Nine: What We Talk About When We Talk About Gove

Nobody's noticed so far.
The Education Sec is sure of that.
His subordinates say he prefers to stand.
His silence is interpreted as pensive;
his pose as friendly, jocular, on-message.

His choosing to remain in Cabinet Rooms
even after Dave and Gideon leave
is seen as diligent, though there are whispers
that it shows he wants the top job.
Nobody wants to make a fuss though.
They all know he's Rupert's boy.

When sure the coast is clear,
the under-secretaries lift him up
and fold back his supports.
One takes the legs, the other holds the shoulders,
turned so that his glazed eyes face the fly
of a Dege & Skiner three-piece,
his plain white backing turned to face the world.

At close of play they prop him in the office.
The cleaner, mute, Nigerian - is she Nigerian?
Somewhere like that, anyway - bumps the Henry's nozzle
against his cardboard feet. Says nothing. No-one knows.
Nobody knows exactly when the real Gove disappeared, where he is.
And he looks convincing. Lifelike. Nothing's been said so far.

                    *                  *                  *

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem in another persona. Somehow, thinking through personalities to assume and write from, I thought of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary of Britain's unelected, mandate-less Tory-led Coalition Government. And then I remembered something I'd seen over the weekend. The NASUWT, Britain's largest teaching union, has been holding its conference this week, a conference traditionally visited by the Education Secretary. This year, Gove himself chickened out of going, and, deciding to compound his cowardice with a staggering degree of high-handed arrogance, he didn't send an underling from either his own Tory party, or the Liberal Democrats, very much the Richard Hammond to the Tories' Jeremy Clarkson.

It's usual for the General Secretary of the union to address the Education Secretary at conference. Sometimes this can be a jocular and friendly exchange, sometimes it can be more combative. Given that Gove's approach to Britain's education system seems to be that the way to improve it is to destroy it, it was pretty clear that this year Gove was going to have to sit there and take his lumps. The fact that the Secretary of Education couldn't take a telling-off from teacher gives you the measure of the man.

But this gave NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates a problem. How could she deliver the address to Gove if he was too much of a scaredy-cat to show up? Fortunately, a solution was found. A cardboard cut-out of the Education Secretary was acquired, and Keates duly delivered her speech to this novelty Michael Gove standee.

This led me to wonder: what would it be like if the cardboard cut-out took over from Gove full-time? After all, in showing up to conference it had already shown considerably more courage than its real-life counterpart. And so...this is what resulted. I quite like the idea of Cardboard Gove in government. If nothing else, a 2D Education Secretary is unlikely to get any ideas about battling aliens.

Sunday 8 April 2012

What is the meaning of this, McKenna?

I've been posting my NaPoWriMo poems here almost as an afterthought to posting them on my Facebook notes page. This is largely because, between work and gigging, most of these poems have been written quite late at night. Now, with it being Sunday, the Easter weekend, family visited, gifts given and received, I have a little time to provide a little context and explanation. I'll try not to make it sound too much like the dissertation accompanying a Creative Writing portfolio.

(I attended a lecture on feminist psychoanalysis at university where the lecturer explained she had used up her allowance of film clips in other lectures, and would instead have to resort to saying 'cunt' [for entirely good feminist reasons] in order to shock us out of our undergraduate slumber. I'm no good at embedding film clips in blog posts, but I'll try to avoid saying 'cunt' as much as possible.)

Mirror, mirror - nothing to do with the film which is out at the moment, aside from the allusion to the Wicked Queen in the title. The prompt for the first day of NaPoWriMo was 'carpe diem' - the example given was Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'. I was in a pretty low mood at the time - I've just started a new run of laser sessions after a loooooong, unintended hiatus, and was getting a bit annoyed waiting for the hair to fall out. I found myself thinking that I wished I'd carped my diem a lot earlier with regard to transitioning. So I started the month on a nice down note. Go me!

Way Down - The prompt for day two was to write a poem inspired by the song at Number One on your birthday - tracked down using this site. Turned out that was 'Way Down' by Elvis Presley, which I've never heard. However I am familiar with Tori Amos' song 'The Way Down', from her album 'Boys for Pele', and this is basically a song about listening to that. Bit of a minor piece, but it's in the nature of the challenge that not everything you come out with will be brilliant.

Not the Royal Wedding (I'm Sure) - day three's prompt was to write an epithalamium, or wedding poem. So I wrote about what I and my friend Katie did on the day of the wedding of Good Prince Bill and Duchess Katie Godblessherhasnthersistergotanicearse, which was go out in the gay village of Newcastle and find the thing a complete bust. The village is pretty desperate at the best of times (well, that's my bridges with the Newcastle LGBT scene burned...) but up until we got to The Yard, by which point we were too tired and emotional to enjoy things, everywhere was dead. It's not really about the Royal Wedding, of course (hence the title, which is also a hangover from the Tori poem on day two, 'Not the Red Baron' being another Pele song); in fact, to my surprise, I found what I'd written was essentially a poem about trans exclusion from cis LGB spaces. If it's not too big-headed to say it, I'm quite proud of this one.

Scrawl from a Blue Room - this was a raid on my morning pages, basically hacked out to hit the one-poem-a-day deadline. The title was basically a cynical attempt to find some way of relating the piece to that day's suggestion of writing a twelve-bar blues, a challenge I opted not to take up, being entirely too much of a bluestocking to write blues. I said, I'm too much of a bluestocking to write me some blues. Couldn't write me no twelve-bar blues even if I choose, uh-huh, no way, no how, yeah.

Catflaps at Dawn - another morning pages raid. This day's prompt was 'openings', which functions here on two levels, obviously: catflaps are openings and dawn is the opening of the day. Do you see? Yeah. I'm geet clever like, me.

The Imp of the Perverse - the prompt was to write about animals. I chose to write about Animal from the Muppets. About halfway through the poem I thought it might have been cooler to write about Hawk and Animal from the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom, but by that point I'd committed. I may still write the Hawk 'n' Animal poem, though. I just need to decide if I include Rocco or not.

The Peculiar Beauty of Meat is a line that Francis Bacon used on occassion to explain the very carnal, brutal content of his pictures. This poem, based on yesterday's prompt to write a poem where everything is the same colour, seemed to be a good fit with that expression, not least because it references Bacon's 'Three Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' and his series of screaming Popes inspired by Velasquez. There are also references in here to Louis Bunuel's film 'Un Chien Andalou', Diamanda Galas (la carne maccelata, 'the butcher's meat' is a line from her song 'Sono l'Antichristo') and, yes, Tori again.

And most recently, Big Fat Love Poem. I had a bit more time to write today, so started on this one before the prompt went live. It's another morning pages raid, based on a little stream-of-consciousness written after seeing an awesome-looking fat girl on the bus to work. It should, of course, go without saying that we lesbians never objectify other women sexually, not at all, not at all. So this poem is, of course, about my admiration of the way she defied patriarchal conventions of beauty. Yes. Of course. *serious lesbian feminist face*.

So, anyway, that's the context for the outpouring of poems below. If I have time next week, I'll include commentary underneath each poem when I copy it up here. For any I don't manage to include commentary for, well, join me for another catch-up post next week!

NaPoWriMo Poem Eight: Big Fat Love Poem

Fat: the apples on a cheek, the fake smile
gone Duchenne as you brush blusher.
A perfectly round ass in blue cotton sweatpants,
green hoodie clinging, riding up in places.

The shape of your red hair framing
the face that I can't see:
full lips glossed pink, a rounded nose,
eyes made up, but gravid as if opened

just this moment. Freckled, dimpled. Flushed.
A glimpse of shining flesh between
the waistband and the jacket hem,
the inward curve from hip to spine

a valley to be measured, arching
warm and soft beneath the tracing fingers.
A room to be in on our own,
space and light enough to see and feel,

the arc of hands, the shiver in the flesh,
the quickening breath, senses, beings fused;
your curves, the muscle sheathed beneath
your fat. Perfection. Fulness. Plenitude.

Saturday 7 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Seven: The Peculiar Beauty of Meat

The city burns. The engines race
without much hope. Our skin, soot-speckled,
dusted with the ash of others, shows where
it shows as molten as a furnace.

The cloth is offered to the bull,
the thinnest blade withdrawn from the hide.
The muscle makes a sucking noise and then
what was beneath begins to trickle forth.
The razor blade is slicing up the eye.

The neon lights the smoking woman's body.
Each inhalation reignites the tiny sun
decaying to a point between her fingers.
The gangs of men who roar outside the window
take on its hue as veins in temples throb,
boozy blood cells rushing
to the head and other parts.

The creature at the cross' foot is screaming,
like the Pope, like the monochrome mother,
like la carne maccelata,
like a Krakatoa sunset,
like what flows in a Whitechapel gutter,
like the girl who pounds the keys,
like the blood I'll never bleed,
like the police cars burning through the long hot summer

Friday 6 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Six: The Imp of the Perverse

pink dreadlocks,
a gammadon of canneloni arms playing
the drums like a hurricane,
a Hindu Keith Moon, with free reign

come and screw
up any regularly scheduled sketch
with the freedom of the antic wretch
to, without permission, fetch

in any set-up
and deconstruct it, growling just his name,
disregarding all rules of the game:
maximum soul, Animal, unchained, untamed!

NaPoWriMo Poem Five: Catflaps at Dawm

Technically they call it morning twilight,
astronomical, civil or nautical
depending on what can and can't be seen:
landmarks, the larger stars, or the horizon.

I tip the cat food, wet and dry,
into two bowls and fill a third with water.
There were nights, not all that long ago,
when I wouldn't be in bed yet at this hour:

all-night pseudo-raves in Student Unions,
caning ice-pops and still water,
fellating Chupa-Chups as much
for sugar-rush as sexual suggestion,

dancing solo in the dub room,
sinuous and feline in my head,
heavy liquid bassy spaces
breaking out the girl.

Summer fruit juice, waiting,
in the Nibelheim beneath the shopping mall,
for the first bus of the morning.
A bump. The catflap opens.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Four: Scrawl from a Blue Room

Come here. It's time for your lesson.
You've taught us well, but it's your time to learn.
How it feels to be afraid. To be unwanted.
How it feels to be the bottom of the pile.

How it feels to hear every day
that we only matter when we're making trouble,
when one of you has to take one of us out
and your media blowhards make him out the hero.

We're here to teach you what it's like
to be made to feel your only worth
consists in meeting sales objectives
to keep some reptile yank in what he calls suspenders.

You're her to learn how we resist,
and we have to, as much as you hate it
because the fact that we resist reminds
you what you do is genocide.

Lower status monkeys die off quicker.
Lower status civil servants
are the first to clutch their chests.
Did you know that? I suspect you do.

You're a gunman who can't look along the barrel
but you never miss because it's point-blank range.
And you pull the trigger countless times each day:

When you ignore the girl who makes your morning latte.
When you treat the person on the helpdesk line
like a punchbag made of air. A service drone,
non-human, a passive bin for all your scrunched-up hatred.

Every back-slapping, bigoted joke you guffaw at
with your gang of mates at the end of the bar,
loud enough the quiet, bourbon-drinking girl
hears every word.

It's an epidemic you create. A genocide
of strokes, infarctions, self-inflicted cuts.
Immune responses going limp. You made this.
And you profit from it. And we're not supposed to fight?

Tuesday 3 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Three: Not the Royal Wedding (I'm Sure)

Bright sun and almost empty bars.
The sofas tattered: no lights in the toilet
where, by Blackberry flash, I applied
just lipstick and mascara, plus
the powder from the compact you'd discarded.

The extra holiday meant buses coming later.
Few were out yet. Those who were, were loud:
braying white cis gay guys. Such a bunch
of personalities we found another bar.
I thought of London, the siesta-silence of a Soho pub
shattered by a wanna-thesp whose voice dripped privilege,
declaiming 'CUNT!' as if two pints had made him Withnail.

We figured we'd see less guys in the Dog.
We were right: just us, two more dykes and the barmaid.
Paint-stripper techno drowning conversation.
More women entered. Nine or ten. A crowd!
I kept my head down, scared of being made
by rads, or, worse, knocked back for looking rough.

Switch was even emptier. A whole bar
to yourself falls short of what's expected,
especially when the Guinness comes in cans.
We drifted leftwards, one more for the road,
and found the only place with something like a party.
Too tired to dance, to weak to fight for seats
with drag queens dressed like Kate and Pippa,
we finished up, hugged awkwardly,
went home to news of cleared squats
and burned-out Tesco Metros.

NaPoWriMo Poem Two: Way Down

I recognise the artist and the name
but not together. I know this song sung
by someone else - a song with this name anyway.
Maybe I'm the afterglow
'cause I'm in a band, y'know...

A minute of music sung under my breath
in moments of boredom or nerves,
lyrics changed according to desire.
Gonna meet a great big star,
gonna drive her great big car...

The temptation of surrender
to the natural way of things,
a pleasant self-forsaking
as the gospel choir sings
gonna have it all here
on the way down...

NaPoWriMo Poem One: Mirror, Mirror

A year of laser and the stubble still
specks my face like buckshot. Mocks the mornings
when I drag a blade around my jawline.
Too few blank spaces. Too much stubborn black.
Sure, every session, less and less grows back,
but how long will it take? Another year?

And even then, there's still the chest, the arms;
the parleying with doctors over hormones;
the shaking conversations with the people who should care:
how long will that take? Yet another year?
Another two? And how will I look then?

Nearly forty, heading spinsterward
at lifespeed? Every pill and pulse of light
can't work its science fast enough. I age.
Heat travels one way. Entropy ensues.
I should have started earlier, when I had time to do
it all: instead I count the hairs and mark the years
and hope I have enough of one to beat the other.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Banter Rant Canto

Like everyone in Britain who has some brain cells, I've been getting heartily sick of this phenomenon which people have decided to call banter. Banter: an interesting word in itself. Meant to denote the dashing interplay of duelling bon vivants, wiseacre intellectuals who delight in tossing bon mots around, giving each other metaphorical duelling scars with their rapier-like wit, the Algonquin round table, Oscar Wilde in full flow, all that jazz - banter, as a word, always had the problem that it's a stupid word. Seriously. It's clunky. Banter. Ban-tuh. Ban-tuh. It sounds like the Hulk trying to say 'bran tub' after being punched in the head with Thor's hammer.

It's a stupid word for something which is meant to be intelligent, but it only completed its segue into total douchery when misogynist trollscum at knuckle-shuffler hang-out 'UniLad' started using it to defend jokes about rape.

I don't think jokes about rape are 'banter'. I think they're harmful and horrible and demeaning and contribute to an environment where women (and many men too) are made to feel unsafe. There's a very good explanation of why rape jokes are problematic on Tumblr, which boils down to this: if you speak to a group of, say, ten guys at a bar, there's a pretty good chance one of them is a rapist, and there's also a pretty good chance one of those guys at the bar was raped themselves. When you tell your rape joke, the guy who was raped has to relive all that trauma again, while the guy who's the rapist gets confirmation for his sick delusion that rape isn't that big a deal. Not. Cool.

The UniLad trolls seem impervious to this reasoning though, because they have their magic shield: banter. Mighty Ban-Tuh, god of stupid, thuggish jokes, protects his people from the basic human moral duty of examining their own actions. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant advocated the Categorical Imperative that one should act in such a way that one willed one's actions to be a universal law: essentially, you should only do something if you think it acceptable universally, by all people at all times. Not so much 'everyone's doing it, why can't we', more 'I will do this because I think it's right that everyone should do it.' A position which imposes a high standard on the moral actor. A position that UniLad readers will find hard to engage with because they're too busy making up jokes about what Kant's second name sounds like.

How, then, to get through to these idiots? What words might get them to realise the fundamental indefensibility of their moral position? How could one reach them?

Well, I think I have a way. I've tried to reach them in the following poem. It's a sensitive piece. A plea for understanding. A demonstration that 'banter' isn't really a valid shield for saying the indefensible. An attempt to get them to empathise and to see that, if the shoe were on the other foot, the 'banter' defence would ring hollow. It's an attempt to build bridges, really, which is why I call it...

You’re Fucking Dead LOL Jokes!

I see you at the bus stop. I see you in the bar.
I hear the sordid shit you jeer, leering from your car,
see you laugh in homeless faces while the hundreds you withdraw
you stuff, dead-eyed, into the garter of a girl that you call whore
because you know she has to take it, and pretend she doesn’t hear.
I watch you. And I dream of how I’d make you disappear:

strike while you stumble homewards at the end of Friday night,
then take you to a secret place and tie your hands up tight,
bind chains around your back and metal shackles to your feet,
then, just to make my pretty little picture look complete,
cinch a ballgag in behind your head to keep your piehole shut
then spread your legs and kick your balls and sweetly whisper ‘Cunt.

That’s what you like to say, no? It’s your special little word?
Like wench and slag and slapper, growler, fuckpig, bitch and bird?
It makes you feel good, doesn’t it? Makes this soft thing feel so hard...
Well, it’s time that you were hoisted by your little pink petard.
I’ve been looking through your hard drive. I’ve seen everything you stored.
You’ve heard, of course, that some say virtue is its own reward?

Well, vice can be rewarding, too, when used to the right ends.
Your sobs tell me you’re very, very keen to make amends.
Is that what you want (nod for me)? Forgiveness for your sins?
Well. we can begin.
First, I’ll...’ Sorry? What was that? You say these lines offend?
Forgive me. For a moment there I thought that you were men,

‘cause it’s just banter! It’s just banter! See, I’d never do that really!
I’m just jokin’, love, it’s banter an’ I mean that most sincerely!
It’s just banter, it’s just banter darlin’, can’t you take a joke?
It’s just banter, that’s my humour, see, coz I’m a fackin’ bloke!

Banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter
excuse me if I come over all Lisbeth Salander
when I hear your banter,
banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter:
anti-homo faux-heroic woman-hating slander.

Joke about domestic violence, chuckle about rape:
put it on a T-shirt ‘cause it’s just a little jape!
Joke about rohypnol, be ironic about poofs,
then smirk and roll your beady eyes and mutter, weary, ‘Strewth!
You can’t say anything these days! Political correctness!
Next thing you’ll be telling me John Terry’s fucking racist!

Banter. Banter. Oh-so-witty banter.
I feel battered by these ever-mounting chants of
‘Banter! Banter! Oh-so-witty banter!’
I’ve never seen a whiter more entitled pack of wankers.

They tell you the life unexamined isn’t worth the living,
but when you’re white and male and cis the world is so forgiving,
so why inspect your conscience? Why try being better men?
A guy who sneers calm down dear’s pissing right in Number Ten!
Make your Facebook pit off-limits to the ones who won’t click ‘like’
because if a girl doesn’t like banter, baby, she must be a dyke!

Banterbanterbanterbanter oh-so-witty banter:
Bantering in numbers that would baffle Mr Cantor.
Batting round such bullshit they make Sutcliffe look like Santa.

But one day you might find your jokes aren’t funny anymore.
You might be beaten down and humbled by the girl that you called whore,
be relieved by force of those ill-gotten hundreds you withdraw.
You might just not quite make it from the nightclub to the car.
One day the ones you laughed at might just make you disappear
and amuse themselves by sticking razor blades up your urethra....

It’s just banter. It’s just banter! We’d never do that really.
Trust us. It’s just banter. And we mean that. Most sincerely.

Banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter:
isn’t really much but rape-culture propaganda.
Banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter:
well, what’s good for the goose...

Saturday 28 January 2012

What Would Batman Do?

I've always liked Jonathan Ross. Even before he became the UK's answer to David Letterman, before he became famous for dressing outrageously, asking David Cameron inappropriate questions about Margaret Thatcher, and pulling off juvenile phone-pranks with Russell Brand. Even before his wife Jane Goldman became famous for writing the scripts for Stardust and Kick-Ass, I liked him.

I've liked him, in fact, since I was twelve, and I read the introduction Ross wrote to Batman: Vow from the Grave, a Titan Books reprint anthology published way back in 1989. What I liked was the fact that Ross had written the introduction. There was a lot of talk in those days about how 'comics were growing up', but here was a famous, successful guy, a bloke who was on the telly and that, unashamedly confessing his love for the antics of a man who fought crime dressed like a flying rodent, and in particular his love for the intelligent take on the concept written by Dennis O'Neil and thrillingly illustrated by the great Neal Adams. Look, I could shout at people who mocked me for sitting in the lunch queue reading Death in the Family or Challenge of the Man-Bat, you lot may think I'm a moron for still reading comics instead of porn I've found in the woods (what we had before the internet, kids: ask your parents), but Jonathan Ross reads them and he's on telly, so kindly drokk off!

And then they would sneer that Ross was a poof with a speech impediment and beat me up. But, still, the fact that a successful grown-up liked Batman was a comfort to me, during those hard teenage years before I was able to invent an army of terror-meks and wreak a bloody vengeance on all those who had mocked me in my youth. The fools!

If you've been following this blog, you pretty much know what's coming at this point. 'AJ's began a post by praising someone,' you're thinking. 'She only ever does that when she's going to put the boot in.' And you're right. Because this morning, courtesy of Paris Lees of Diva and Meta magazine fame, I learned that Ross, who I've admired and followed since I was a gawky, squeaky-voiced teen, turns out to be just another scumbag who thinks transphobic 'humour' is the funniest thing EVAR.

I hate discovering that my heroes are transphobic. Finding out Tony Judt had helped hound a young trans woman out of university made me burn with rage that a supposed 'liberal' thought this kind of shabby treatment of vulnerable women was acceptable. But with Ross, I'm just disappointed. Disappointed that, despite providing the introduction to Vow from the Grave, he seems to have forgotten one of the most important stories in that collection: 'Night of the Reaper'.

'Night of the Reaper', like many of the best Batman stories, is about the morality of vigilantism, and what happens when one goes too far. In it, Batman encounters the Reaper, a Holocaust survivor who has taken to dressing up as death to enact a grisly revenge on the Nazi camp commander who tortured him, and some disgruntled fellow Nazis who seek to punish the same guard for embezzling party funds. In the course of his rampage, the survivor, Dr Gruener, cuts a swathe not just through the fascists, but everyone in his path, including some of Dick 'Robin' Grayson's college friends - including his Jewish friend, Alan. And, then, in one of the most haunting shots in comic-book history, Gruener comes face-to-face with what he's become.

Gruener believes his actions are justifiable, admirable, even: like Batman, he dons a costume to battle evildoers. But when he kills people, when he takes the lives of his prey, when he acts as if endangering the lives of innocents is just a means to an end, he goes too far. And, realising that, he leaps from the dam he stands on and takes his own life.

The message is: you need to have limits. You need to have boundaries. You need to have a line you must not cross. And that applies whether you're a comic-book vigilante or just a comic. Ross may feel his jokes are justifiable: admirable, even - he's giving people a laugh at the end of their working week. But in making trans people an acceptable subject of cheap, mocking, humour, he legitimises the kind of  prejudice which sees trans people verbally abused on the streets, attacked in public or even in their own homes, and murdered at a rate much greater than that of the cis population. In doing that, he crosses a line. His comedy ceases to be inclusive and welcoming, as befits the host of a show on one of the main television channels in a diverse, modern country, and instead becomes exclusionary and unwelcoming for some of the most vulnerable people in that country.

Just as Gruener didn't want to become the kind of killer he hunted, I don't think Ross wants to be the kind of comedian who makes that type of joke. But I don't expect him to jump off a dam to redeem himself. All I want, like the thousands of other people Ross has alienated with his thoughtless attempt at humour, is an apology, and an undertaking to try harder as a comic in future, to make jokes that don't exclude members of his audience who've been fans for twenty-three years just to get a cheap laugh. Because, as a comic book fan, Ross really should know that power - even, perhaps especially, the power of an entertainer - comes with responsibility.

That's the main moral of Spider-Man, of course, but the message of pretty much all the great superheroes, the thing that makes them awesome, is the same. Batman may beat up criminals, 'a superstitious and cowardly lot' to be sure, but he always protects those who are truly vulnerable; Spider-Man will crack wise at anyone going, but he never mocks the weak. Real heroes never do. And those of us, trans or cis, who've thrilled to the exploits of the mythic metahumans know that while we can't be the last children of a dying planet, get bitten by a radioactive spider, be born carrying the X-gene or train our bodies and minds to the peak of ninja-detective perfection, we can imitate them morally. The superheroes represent our best qualities: tolerance, openness, physical bravery and moral courage, too. When I get angry at cis people like Ross and burn, for a moment, with the thought that we should go terrorist and exterminate all the brutes, I remember that the X-Men protect the world that fears and hates them; when I wonder if I should go back to the closet and hide for the rest of my life I think of Mystique, in X-Men 2, telling Nightcrawler that she doesn't disguise herself as human all the time to please the humans 'because we shouldn't have to.' Mutant and proud.

All of which is really a long-winded way of saying: Jonathan, we read the same comics. We have that much in common, if nothing else. And what we both know is: Batman wouldn't do this. Spider-Man wouldn't do this. Superman would die before even considering doing something that would alienate a single human being. We're not superheroes, and we'll always fail to live up to their ideals, but we both know that kind of thing is wrong. And when you do something wrong, you apologise. Don't you?