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un(der)known writers
 

Un(der)known Writers: Evelyn Pappas

Evelyn Pappas

I remember adjusting my fathers suit during funeral service. Feeling his cold face against my face. I remember watching him go blind. I remember him shooting upright in the bed to say he’s confused. I remember someone giving me a handful of dirt to sprinkle on his body before closing the casket. I remember how his eyes fogged over and he couldn’t see me anymore. I remember the doctors lying to him. I remember laying on my aunts lap for eight hours on the plane. Sitting in a truck for another eight until we got to my village. Waiting another eight amidst a horde of people for them to bring the body. Not being allowed two seconds alone to even cry. Greeting people endlessly greeting people. None of whom knew what I just lived through. Taking him from procedure to procedure all alone, month after month, week after week. Never accepting the eventuality. I thought the dread was something else. I remember trying to explain it and not being able to. I remember witnessing him lose his senses, becoming delusional, speaking to dead people. Asking for people and things he hadn’t asked for in years; cigarettes, his mother, his traveling tote. Seeing him lose touch and no longer recognizing me. Being alone with him while everyone else was busy working and he was dying and neither of us could accept it. Things I never talk about. Things I’ll never process. Watching his body contort and disfigure and then 48 hours later watching it packed into a ditch.

I don’t feel anything at the cemetery. Now there’s a marble tombstone with his name engraved on it, will that make me feel something? I have no interest in visiting his grave even though I’m supposed to light the vigil and put flowers. I have no interest I have no concept of time anymore. Or of rituals and sanctity. I only want to sleep and dream happy dreams.

Evelyn Pappas, “148

 

Un(der)known Writers: Gary Fisher

garyfisher

Friday, April 20, 1984: “Darkness, darkness. Good Friday. I’m feeling a little religious, a little inquisitive, a little frightened, a little lost in the magnitude of what I have to say. It’s not going away, this tenderness under my arms, the occasional burning sensation. A couple of painless red dots – one on each hand. It’s not going away and I don’t feel good about that with AIDS such an issue. I want to blame and beg and apologize to certain people, to God, to my dying mother perhaps. That’s been feeling like a consolation, a bit of relief perhaps knowing I won’t go alone …. Never alone, Gary, just faster”

 

Monday, April 27, 1987: “I’m on BART and there’s a man in front of me, big, white, mustached, glasses, raher cruel-and-solid-looking, kind of military and I’m turned on by him, want to be used and humiliated by him, then made love to in that odd one-sided way….What is this fantasy that cuts across all of me, racial intellectual, moral, spiritual, sexual?…. Can I divorce sexuality from power in the real world and do I want to? Here’s one world explaining the other, and Christ, it’s so hard to get answers.”

 

September 1, 1993: “Andrew Young describes the night MLK was shot. Pictures of burning cities. The riots after the Rodney King verdict was my most exciting experience short of a sex encounter…I’m racing on decadrine or some horrid little white pill ….Look at the excitement in the smallness of things, the fraction of things – days, minutes, particles of time – back it with silver like you’d back glass for a mirror – back it with the silver of distances, of, say, tomorrow, reading your stories to a group of students at Duke, or of yesterday, remembering (re-membering, yes!) your legs so clear and beautiful in the air as Roy fucked you, and your perfect, perfect feet, worth kissing.”

-Gary Fisher, from Gary in Your Pocket: Stories and Notebooks of Gary Fisher

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Excerpted and submitted by Zoe Sharpe. Thanks Zoe! If you have excerpts from writers you think are criminally un(der)known and we should highlight, you can send them to submissions@thenewinquiry.com

 

Un(der)known Writers: Louise Michel

michelmichel

If the reaction had had as many enemies among women as it did among men, the Versailles Government would have had a more difficult task subduing us. Our male friends are more susceptible to faintheartedness than we women are. A supposedly weak woman knows better than any man how to say: “It must be done.” She may feel ripped open to her very womb, but she remains unmoved. With­out hate, without anger, without pity for herself or others, whether her heart bleeds or not, she can say: “It must be done.” Such were the women of the Commune. During Bloody Week, women erected and defended the barricade at the Place Blanche – and held it till they died.

In my mind I feel the soft darkness of a spring night. It is May 1871 , and I see the red reflection of flames. It is Paris afire. That fire is a dawn, and I see it still as I sit here writing. Memory crowds in on me, and I keep forgetting that I am writing my memoirs.

In the night of May 22 or 23, I believe, we were at the Montmartre cemetery, which we were trying to defend with too few fighters. We had crenelated the walls as best we could, and the position wasn’t bad except for the battery on the Butte of Montmartre—now in the hands of the reactionaries, and whose fire raked us—the shells were coming at regular intervals from the side, where tall houses commanded our defenses. Shells tore the air, marking time like a clock. . .

In spite of my comrades’ advice, I chose to walk there several times. Always the shells arrived too early or too late for me. One shell falling across the trees covered me with flowered branches, which I divided up between two tombs.

My comrades caught me, and one ordered me not to move about. They made me sit down on a bench. But nothing is as stubborn as a woman. In the midst of all this, Jaroslav Dombrowski passed in front of us sadly, on his way to be killed. “It’s over,” he told me. “No, no,” I said to him, and he held out both his hands to me. But he was right.

-Louise Michel, Memoirs

 

Un(der)known Writers: Diane di Prima

DdP

REVOLUTIONARY LETTER #9

advocating

the overthrow of government is a crime

overthrowing it is something else

altogether, it is sometimes called

revolution

but don’t kid yourself: government

is not where it’s at: it’s only

a good place to start:

1. kill head of Dow Chemical

2. destroy plant

3. MAKE IT UNPROFITABLE FOR THEM to build again.

i.e., destroy the concept of money

as we know it, get rid of interest,

savings, inheritance

(Pound’s money, as dated coupons that come in the mail

to everyone, and are void in 30 days

is still a good idea)

or, let’s start with no money at all and invent it

if we need it

or, mimeograph it and everyone

print as much as they want

and see what happens

Continue Reading
 

Un(der)known Writers: Silvia Federici

sFed

Women are present in the history of heresy as in no other aspect of medieval life. According to Gottfried Koch, already in the 10th century they formed a large part of the Bogomils. In the 11th century, it was again women who gave life to the heretical movements in France and Italy. At this time female heretics came from the most humble ranks of the serfs, and they constituted a true women’s movement developing within the frame of the different heretic groups. Female heretics are also present in the records of the Inquisition; of some we know that they were burned, of others that they were “walled in” for the rest of their lives.

Can we say that this large female presence in the heretic sects was responsible for the heretics’ “sexual revolution”? Or should we assume that the call for “free love” was a male ploy designed to gain easy access to women’s sexual favors? These questions are not easily answered. We know, however, that women did try to control their reproductive func­tion, as references to abortion and the use of contraceptives by women are numerous in the Penitentials. Significantly – in view of the future criminalization of such practices dur­ing the witch-hunt – contraceptives were referred to as “Sterility potions” or maleficia, and it was assumed that women were the ones who used them.

In the early Middle Ages, the Church still looked upon these practices with a cer­tain indulgence, prompted by the recognition that women may wish to limit their births because of economic reasons. Thus, in the Decretum, written by Burchard, Bishop of Worms (circa 1010), after the ritual question–

“Have you done what some women are accustomed to do when they fornicate and wish to kill their offspring, act with their maleficia, and their herbs so that they kill or cut the embryo, or, if they have not yet conceived, contrive that they do not conceive?”

–it was stipulated that the guilty ones should do penance for ten years; but it was also observed that “it makes a big difference whether she is a poor little woman and acted on account of the difficulty of feeding, or whether she acted to conceal a crime of fornication.”

Things changed drastically, however, as soon as women’s control over reproduction seemed to pose a threat to economic and social stability, as it did in the aftermath of the demographic catastrophe produced by the “Black Death,” the apocalyptic plague that, between 1347 and 1352, destroyed more than one third of the European population.

We will see later what role this demographic disaster played in the “labor crisis” of the late Middle Ages. Here we can notice that, after the spread of the plague, the sexual aspects of heresy became more prominent in its persecution, grotesquely distorted in ways that anticipate the later representations of the witches’ Sabbat. By the mid-14th century the Inquisitors’ reports were no longer content with accusing the heretics of sodomy and sexual license. Now heretics were accused of animal worship, including the infamous bacium sub cauda (the kiss under the tail), and of indulging in orgiastic rit­uals, night flights and child sacrifices. The Inquisitors also reported the existence of a sect of devil-worshippers called Luciferans. Corresponding to this process, which marked the transition from the persecution of heresy to witch-hunting, the fig­ure of the heretic increasingly became that of a woman, so that, by the beginning of the 15th century, the main target of the persecution against heretics became the witch.

-Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch, 2004

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