All posts by Heather Martel

Fistful of Love

annadidone

 

In the painting Anna embraces Dido.  Dido with her sword, Anna with her belly and navel exposed, they are a complimentary pair.  Together their singular breasts make a pair and remind the viewer to think of Amazons (a pair of Amazons) who were believed to have removed a breast in order to wield weapons in war.  Cupid and the dove, love and peace, devil and angel on their shoulders.  It is no use Anna.  Dido is looking out of the painting and I am thinking about the lyrics to Antony and the Johnson’s Fistful of Love:

I tell you I love you and I always will.  And I know you can’t tell me.  I know you can’t tell me.

So I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols of your devotion.  So I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols of your devotion.

And I feel your fists and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel the whip and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel your burning eyes burning holes straight through my heart.  It’s out of love.  It’s out of love.

I accept and I collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.  I accept and collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.

When I first heard this song, I thought it was a great song about unrequited love.  And it is.  But as I listened to its melancholy horns and the brave, gender bending voice of the singer, as I looked at her picture on the YouTube screen, I felt grateful for drag queens, for Antony and the Johnsons, for this perfect representation of love in the closet, of loving a person ashamed to commit to that love, who can’t tell you he loves you.  You’re left to pick up the hints, the little symbols, the hot glances, the innuendo, her “devotion.”

And it hurts.  The disavowal hurts.  But you think it’s enough, that it’s what you deserve.  Punishments for your desire.  You accept and collect upon your body, memories.  Bruises from fists.  Lashmarks from the whip.  Burns.

For me the song is also about coming up queer in a straight world.  It resonates with my determination, to love who I love.

Queer, you eroticize martyrdom.  You must.  And for the highest purpose, true love, you are willing to risk violence.  And you walk through violence, even when not one fist has struck you.  You bruise on the inside, you burn, you feel the lash.  As in the song, the violence comes from those you love who can’t declare their love.  From friends and family who need time to get used to the idea.  Who may disavow you.  From lovers struggling to find the courage to take the same brave walk out into the light.

So you have to have compassion and you have to be brave.  And as you watch your loved ones suffer for loving you, both allies and lovers, you may not notice the stigma, the scar, the deep secret shame that, proud, gay me.  I thought I had overcome.

It’s a political act to declare to the world who it is that you love.  Whether it’s easy or hard it’s a political act.  It was when I was twenty and it is still.  And it has shaped me as a person, being gay.  Knowing I was gay since I was a kid, 9, 10 years old.  Learning to hide that secret from my parents, from my sister, from my teachers, and friends.  For an entire decade (I came out when I was twenty).  And I kept the secret because I knew it was shameful.  So nobody knew me, at the core, I remained hidden.  It’s a hard habit to break.

And I feel your fists and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel the whip and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel your burning eyes burning holes straight through my heart.  It’s out of love.  It’s out of love.

I accept and I collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.  I accept and collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.

And in the very deepest sense, these are my fists.  It’s my whip.  It’s my eyes burning into the mirror.  I have embraced and disavowed myself for so much of my life.  It’s in the very cells of my body.  The memories of my devotion.

It’s a part of my writing process to recover from the idea that I deserved those punishments, all the hurts from a life of trying to love, but being secret at the very core of myself, ashamed behind the mask of pride.  Beneath the birth legend, all my characters must recover from the shame of their origins, from violence and abandonment.  From that fistful of love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgwp-iQenn4