f u g u e s t a t e p r e s s
p.o. box 80, cooper station
new york, ny 10276
by James Chapman
Before I saw her, I prayed to a god without a name, called plain “God,” and he had no mother and no wife. No mother, no wife. No mother and no wife.
Before I saw her, I watched the street outside this church and said the following prayer to the god God:
Lord, because you’re a demanding father who expects divine indifference of us, you created these dancing girls who loll their bodies on the stone steps, and drape themselves in doorways, and know how not to look at me so I’ll be free to look at them as long as I want. You created the young men who walk pouting their mouths, making their faces into waterfalls of beauty. You created maidens who pass with their faces turned to the left but eyes rolled to the right, as if watching a bee, just to create unguarded beauty in the face. Lord God: you created the flower in its brief irresistible perfection. Then you told us to hate the flower, told us a flower is without meaning.
Today as I stood watching the city from your door, I prayed with love and gratitude to your son Jesus, thanking him for being permanent among this evanescence. I held his presence pressed into the hollow of my chest. As dozens of women passed me on the footpath, I felt my skin seethe, yet Jesus without anger explained to me the emptiness of these faces, the lack in their hearts, the inability of a flower to understand death or eternity. Lord God: I swallow my entire mammal self, I try to adore death and eternity, I gaze at the placid face of your son who does not desire. I let the enormous sky-spanning stone of you, God, fall upon me. I crush my sex against stone, and shudder.
Lord God: when you came to earth to walk in the garden, did you look on Eve’s body knowing she couldn’t understand the beauty you’d put there?
Lord God: when you impregnated Mary, did you intertwine her soul in the night till her core trembled and became like silver in the furnace? Did she flow toward you like light through water, and vanish into you like the desperate lost hours of a human girl who was born to be forgotten, and who never did worship the flesh, never knew about the world?
She loved you for the gesture and the presence without words or names, and there was not even joy because joy is one thing and you are all. Did she never ask you a single question? Not even to find out if you only chose her for her beauty?
“Lord, my mind is a grain of salt on the seashore, I will be dissolved in the next tide. Your mind is the whole ocean. You could take any woman of this world. Creator of the universe, what have you done? You’re too immense. I’m thrashing, terrorized, mute, weeping. Why are you reaching into me?”
Qurratulain came into this world through the sex of a woman. She was many different ages when I saw her. For sixteen years I had worshiped the purity of the desolated Jesus.
The day I saw her, I already knew her. Those sixteen years she'd prayed into the heart of earth from morning to night, creating me from nothing. She, who created the world, she stepped into the world and devoted herself to me. She spoke this way, and I heard it:
Beloved, I came to earth again, this time to a city of yearning. I came to find you. My skin was so new it absorbed the beauty of every face. I glowed with the desires of all humans. The earth was flesh, begging the sky to press against it.
Human flesh feet padded along every sidewalk, imprinting heat so tender it softened the stones.
Each flesh face was a world held in orbit by need.
I’m here. I hold the long spoon that stirs skin and need into each other. I need to stir you so deep into my liquid world that even sunlight is a thick cream inside us.
In the envelope of a plain girl I’ve walked here for years, loving every face. But if I spoke—if I came up to one of these glowing men or women, and said to them, “You,” they became small again, skittish mammals biting at clumps of their own fur.
So I would gaze and not speak.
Some days beauty would rise and re-exalt itself until it vibrated unbearably.
People who passed me were filled with the remains of the old gods. So many suns, oceans, rivers passed me in the streets of your city, so many winds and flames, There is Diana and there, and there. There is Seshat whose body is poetry, stretching the white cord within herself. None of the beautiful strollers knew their power; they didn't know that if they would press their foreheads to my belly, with their fingers inside me, they could steer the ship of the universe.
I’m every woman today, I’m every fragrant wine. I’m coming for you.
Your eyelashes flicker against the skin of my name.
Your ears are milk, aching to be churned by my name.
My joy pours into you, like the joy of crawling into the body of the beloved.
The creator within me poured her creation into me, and I filled with our universe as I walked along. I was overflowing honey and amber and liquid jewels of the goddess who makes the core of her body into words that lick our lips.
When you look at the human world through sheets of honey, everything is sweet amber flesh, shimmering heat for our bodies to bake in.
In love trance I walked, my feet took me to the small stone fortress you inhabit. In the door was a human face, a pair of eyes that can love endlessly, as they all can. As always I wanted to stretch out my arms, kiss, give, pour myself, I had everything to pour.
But this time the face was yours.
You saw my eyes through to the bottoms of my feet.
A Christian X was on your door. The black air of the church, saturated with love in mummy form, love bandaged into duty, that dark air poured out the door around your body. In my short life on earth I’d already loved men and women, and some were Christians. So I knew about Christians. So I was afraid you’d be frightened, easily angered. I thought you'd hate me and beat me with that god if I spoke to you.
I looked away, but from my hip to my throat I felt the sun enter me. It had been waiting.
I felt you watching me. You watched me like plowing circles into the earth to confuse all the rivers.
You watched me like stroking my body with all the stars.