Venus is reclining, and she knows.
It won't be long before they come to devour her.
But she sees the hunger,
And she waits.
She wants them.
Those men wrapped in fantasies
Of sea foam and gilded fish.
Because they whisper,
Until she commands them to stop.
In 2016, friend and poet James Wojtal asked me to collaborate with him and composer Andrew Perricone to create a multimedia art experience based on a collection of his poems. The result was the exhibition VENUS, funded by a Horn Gallery Grant.
Over the course of a year, the three of us had the creative pleasure of growing from one another's ideas and mediums. The poems originated as an expression of personal trauma filtered through the lens of Wojtal's fascination with classical mythology, and the ensuing music and artwork came to center around the themes of sexuality, both as a source of power and terror, and violence, including self-harm, as experienced in the dark and potent world of mythical heroines. Ultimately, I hoped for my contribution of visual art to have healing potential, stressing love for one's own imperfect body, the beauty in masculine vulnerability, and artmaking as an outlet for overcoming suffering.
James was unflinchingly open about his own history of survival, and allowed himself to be photographed nude with great bravery. In their final form, I printed the resulting images and hand-wrote the poems over them. Finally, he and Andrew assisted me, using razor blades, in symbolically cutting and reassembling the prints.
hair entwined in his fingers
and the taste of foam on his lips
i am born to the ocean, a pulpy mess of sinew and muscle
razors on the edge of the water, ready to cut
my birth of castration, thrown out of the sky
while milky froth holds my head underwater
as his fingers inch up my thighs, open my legs
i bend over and gasp, cough, atop the jagged rocks
they drag me ashore by my long, tangled hair,
the air is salty from the ocean, or maybe my bleeding tongue
they set me atop the altar, till i start to weep or,
i spread my buttocks; bloody, and ready to perform.
pushes past soft white stone.
tickles the throat,
her neck bent in reverence.
The pain of desire,
traveling up a curved spin,
Makes the cold armless form
I go down to the watering hole,
Observe lily pads,
Fat in the sun
And the wading birds
With their stick-thin legs.
The heavy air weighs down, humid
We try to breathe.
He waits for his prey,
Clumsy, inexperienced, but men
Are always dangerous.
He pulls my body closer to his.
I let myself get dragged
Through the tangle of vines,
The murky water settles
Once I pass.
He has hooked me with
Curved teeth, like a crocodile.
His mouth is over mine.
As he reaches out his hand,
I rub myself against him
Trying to slough off my skin,
Pull it back and pick out the fibers.
Gnaw at it until the hunger fades.
It is easy for me to cup his face in my hands.
But as he draws me in, my knees parting his thighs
Our stomachs, grazing each other's lightly
Our crotches, grinding, melding
I whisper to him, "I do not know how to live without hurting myself.
Trickle down my leg.
Stumbling across the street,
I'm your first.
You seem me, standing there.
Visions of the sharp silver
You rush to clothe me,
Swirling ocean - They end with
Please. Just bring me inside.
A sharp crack at the back of the head.
and you get to see the
Bright white form
on a seashell.
After a flurry of white feathers,
The snap of his bill,
My mother relented
As is the fate of beautiful women.
And thus I am born of an egg,
Woven from smooth, golden skin, long dark eyelashes.
Everyday, as the hours teased her,
Pulled her hair,
The walls groped her legs, her breasts,
She prayed I would not be beautiful.
Soft like crimson,
He pours it down my throat.
It's hard not to choke
On the wine of a goddess.
Back arching and fingers curling,
I reach up and cry to her,
As he pulls me down,
And sits upon my chest
I recoil from sacred duty,
And yet she asks of me to
Stay silent, remain still.
I will linger for as long as it takes
And cry out:
“Ἀφρόδιτα, μή μ' ἄσαισι μηδ' ὀνίαισι δάμνα, πότνια, θῦμον!”
The light keeps flickering
His eyes itch, burning.
He pushes it out.
No one watching can see
The tears coursing
Down a clear path on his face,
Only the water dripping from the showerhead,
The full moon is waning,
Laughing at him through the window.
Angry, he grips tighter,
Hate making it harder to finish.
Outside, it's too dark
For him to see us,
Red lips escape his mouth,
Now. He releases,
He impregnates the bathtub,
And he knows we're watching him.
He's going to get someone
To touch him.