'Glowing in sweat, Dancing in dazzle'
This issue gathers:
Winnie Mo Rielly
This issue tells the second chapter of Ariadne's story.
Scattered in are links to inspiring figures and flaming words.
The water is turning fast around the boat,
like never before. Ariadne sits down, dizzy, trembling hand in hand with the ropes and the sails. The sea is swirling firmly, lifting her almost.
I cannot identify the direction or oppose it, but the spiral movement knows where it’s headed. I trust it. It must be the driving current Darya told me about, it must be time now. I let go of the oars and lie back. I can feel the vibrations running against my spine, the strength of the running water. I recall her words: ‘We’ll rejoin again soon. The islands are where the sea gathers all learning minds to meet and fuel themselves’.
The vibrations grow, in intensity and in volume.
It’s becoming a deep and low swooshing, a silent scream, a crazy laughter. I stand up to see further. There is a dense opaque purple smoke all around me, holding itself a few hundred of meters away from the boat. From the top of the pole I see the cloud breathing. It’s coming closer, withdrawing, coming closer again. It does not look threatening, more like warm and protective, and it whistles softly when its limbo meets the cold water surface. It wears an intense and deep cold purple, exactly the colour of those iris flowers my island was covered in.
I weirdly feel blinded and looked after at the same time, the cloud is a dazzling shield.
It smells of amber and of sandal smoke. And now it starts dissipating itself, gracefully. Suddenly the water stops moving, petrified. It has a grain, a lighter colour. It’s a cliff! It’s stone! It’s land! It’s all around me, it’s a bay, and the smoke is going out of all its pores. It looks dazzling, I’ve never seen anything like it.
The sea drinks my tears and leads me gently towards the coast.
There a huge crater overlooking the island, it shines through the smoky air. The soil of the island is pink and blue and black and orange. There are big stone statues along the cliffs, a chain of silhouettes, made out of immense round shapes, there are the tallest flowers I have ever seen.
Illustration by Klara Graah
for 'Glowing in sweat, Dancing in dazzle'
My boat stops against a blue rock, covered in green shells. I jump onto the island, and I meet the women.
‘Great fields of scarlet poppies have been trampled underfoot. Their heads, their torn petals hang loosely or lie in confusion on the ground. Not a drop of dew is visible on the flowers. The women dance. They hold each other round the neck and let themselves fall to the ground, lips black, eyes starting. They say they are drunk. Their arms and legs are bare. Their loosened hair hides their cheeks, then, flung back, reveals shining eyes, lips parted in song*’. They guide Ariadne towards the bonfire, give her fresh food and a bed to rest. She feels like her own body is petrified, the movements are heavy, her balance uncertain. They tell her she needs to acclimate again to the stillness of the earth. They smile with their sharp teeth, and Ariadne smiles also. Just like her they all wear their dagger knotted to their waist. They look like fierce warriors. And Ariadne realises she looks just the same. She looks around and she finds Darya. Her eyes look at her too.
We all start climbing barehands, our daggers between our teeth, the ropes tied around our hips. We’re headed to the ‘forge’, they told me it is the place where you abandon what you produced in the past weeks to burn into a common tank. Your words leave the molten paper, your sculptures melt. They will solidify into a new shape which will surround the volcano. It adds to the endless collection that so many hands brought up here. The ascension left bruises on my legs and my arms are rusty, my shoulders tensed. I sit above the tank and watches the boiling lava, playing with the blade of my dagger in the palm of my left hand. Darya sits on my right. She is hypnotised by the lava, she keeps her eyes wide open, staring at it with an insane smile on her lips.The steam makes me sweat, I nervously rub my forehead with my hands so I can keep on watching. The lava is roaring, it reaches a scarlet red when someone throws something new in. I threw everything I had with me, the carved branches, the wooden crown, the weaved hammock. I feel a bit agitated, and all the waiting faces I see through the steam look restless as well. But we all smile, we all smile towards the fire, we all smile with our red cheeks and dropping temples. I look at the agitated fire, full of bubbles and splashes, and I say into the burning air:
‘It is impossible to say in advance what this being of air and flesh in me, that has made itself out of thousand of elements of meanings taken from various domains of the real, linked together by my emotions, my rage, my love, my desire, will be, or what it will resemble; just as there’s no foreseeing the forms that lava will take as it cools. It takes on the form, the literal face, that suits the part of it that wants to be expressed. If the feeling it wants to convey is war, political battles, it flows out in theatrical form. If it’s a feeling of mourning, oh! you have abandoned me, its body is sobbing, stifled breath, blanks and crises of the Inside. If it wants to explode into orgasm, spill forth, recover, plunge, it becomes entirely Breaths.*’
* Coming to Writing, Hélène Cixous, 1992
Now they throw the sea in the lower crater to harden our offerings. As soon as the lava is cooled down, the water races out. We are all standing now, eagerly waiting for the steam to decompose so we can see the shapes of our batch. It all melted into one long mineral chain of smaller shapes, it is a spiral that wears many arms, breasts, noses, feet, mouths, lips. It slips away towards the sea, slowly, they emerge a few feet away from the crater’s end. It joins all the statues that guard the island, those I saw when I landed here.
We sit around the fire, we speak altogether. About the island, about the sea, about the men. The women say
‘with an oath, it was by a trick that he expelled you from the earthly paradise, cringing he insinuated himself next to you, he robbed you of that passion for knowledge of which it is written that it has the wings of the eagle, the eyes of the owl, the feet of the dragon. He has enslaved you by trickery, you who were great strong valiant. He has stolen your wisdom from you, he has closed your memory to what you were, he has made of you that which is not which does not speak which does not possess which does not write, he has made of you a vile and fallen creature, he has gagged abused betrayed you. By means of stratagems he has stultified your understanding, he has woven around you a long list of defects that he declares essential to your wellbeing, to your nature. He has invented your history. But the time approaches when you shall crush the serpent under your heel, the time approaches when you can cry, erect, filled with ardour and courage, Paradise exists in the shadow of the sword.*’
* Les guérillères, Monique Wittig, 1969
The women say ‘the language you speak poisons your glottis tongue palate lips. They say, the language you speak is made up of words that are killing you. They say, the language you speak is made up of signs that rightly speaking designate what men have appropriated. Whatever they have not laid hands on, whatever they have not pounced on like many eyed birds of prey, does not appear in the language you speak. This is apparent precisely in the intervals that your masters have not been able to fill with their words of proprietors and possessors, this can be found in the gaps, in all that which is not a continuation of their discourse, in the zero, the O, the perfect circle that you invent to imprison them and to overthrow them*’.
* Les guérillères, Monique Wittig, 1969
They say ‘they have the strength of the lion the hate of the tiger the cunning of the fox the patience of the cat the perseverance of the horse the tenacity of the jackal. They say, I shall be the universal vengeance. They say, I shall be the Attila of these ferocious despots, cause of our tears and our sufferings. They say, and when by good fortune all women wish to rally to me, each alike shall be Nero and set fire to Rome. They say, War, rally! They say, War, forward! They say that once they have arms in their hands they will not yield them. They say that they will shake the world like thunder and lightning.*’I hold Darya’s hand strong.
* Les guérillères, Monique Wittig, 1969
We are leaving tomorrow. This time I’ll go with Darya. We spent the past week building a solid ship out of our two boats. It’s as splendid as we are when we make love.
For our last afternoon we dance with the others in-between the flowers and the birds, and we chant the song of the island, the oldest one, which is carved deep into the big yellow stone above us.
‘GOLDEN SPACES LACUNAE
THE GREEN DESERTS ARE SEEN
THEY DREAM AND SPEAK OF THEM
THE IMMOBILE BIRDS OF JET
THE WEAPONS PILED IN THE SUN
THE SOUND OF THE SINGING VOICES
THE DEAD WOMEN THE DEAD WOMEN
FERVOUR FOR THE STRUGGLE
INTENSE HEAT DEATH AND HAPPINESS
IN THE BREASTED TORSOS
THE PHOENIXES THE PHOENIXES
FREE CELIBATE GOLDEN
THEIR OUTSPREAD WINGS ARE HEARD
THE BIRDS THE SWIMMING SIRENS
THE TRANSLUCENT SPANS THE WINGS
THE GREEN SUNS THE GREEN SUNS
THE VIOLET FLAT GRASSLANDS
THE CRIES THE LAUGHS THE MOVEMENTS
THE WOMEN AFFIRM IN TRIUMPH
THAT ALL ACTION IS OVERTHROW*’
* Les guérillères, Monique Wittig, 1969
We sit down with Darya against a purple translucent rock, and we write our own song: We are sirens, singing high to the dark sky, crying because the wind is so salty. We have frail boats, some of them we had to build ourselves, and they tend to go in circles. But we also have pirate ships, that carry fearless souls and cannot be threatened by the high waves. When storms come, we throw ropes at each other, we form the most solid knots, we entangle hands. We are our own lighthouses. When the sun rises the water is still again. We entangle hands and we uphold the most immense spider web, floating just above the surface. At night we fade in. When the sun shines on our joined threads, we dazzle the eyes. We rely on each other. We work side by side, produce independently and sometimes in a larger gathering. We cannot be scared because we should know if they were to blight our segment of the web everyone around us would still be standing, and would assemble a new rope within the night to throw at us. And we scream from boat to boat, and we fight with each other, and some leave circles to listen to further crafts, others join from miles away. We spread our ideas and our thoughts, our fears and our victories, and sometimes from words of mouth we hear stories similar to ours, or actions we had dreamed of. We are not one, but that is what makes the weaving between our hands so complex to unravel. The war is uncertain and unpredictable, but we are many.
Darya and I walk hands in hands towards our ship. We kiss everyone goodbye. Some stay longer, some already left. The island disappears and the purple smoke reappears behind us. The beautiful warriors that yelled still reverberate in our heads. We’re not afraid anymore, of nothing.
For lights were already placed on the water we stride, and help the journey. For when the last fireworks we threw finally extinguish on the distant grounds, they leave undying traces on the rocks and on the sand, traces to be read, traced again, extended.
I keep inside all the voices I got to hear, and I combine them to compose my own. I write theirs and sketch mine, and my apprenticeship will go on until I gathered enough to embrace the new and whisper about the ancient. And I will put down my pen when it gets dark. I will raise my eyes and sing with the choir. We all sing softly but barefaced, our lips warm, our teeth cold.
I lie under Darya’s arms. We’re alone on the sea now. Above us peacefully sparkles the reflect of our own constellation.