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  • Writer's pictureTuur Verheyde




A dream, one night:

Some demonic demiurge,

A skinless, noseless fiend

Casting a corporeal curse,

Imprisoning my self or soul

Or something in a floundering

Flesh-puppet for them to jolt,

Prod and plague, sending pangs

Of pain to penalise arbitrary

Indiscretions. His bluntness

Notwithstanding, Dream is right;

That is how it feels sometimes.


A memory, one of the first:

I stand in front of the mirror

And see my childlike self,

Buried in an embodied

Meat bag, face like a freak show,

Big-nosed, cross-eyed, pimple-faced,

Body like a barrow, bony and pale,

Clumsy and coarse, a mouth like

A sewer drain, spewing monotonously

And without end. I remember

First realising, despondently,

The uneasy correspondence.

Over the years, necessity bred

Resignation. I tried my best,

Tried to make this vessel mine.

Performed masculinity, which

Never suited me—alas, to escape

It is a quest that itself seems ill-fitted

And ill-fated— so I softened

Its crude edges, but never managed

Total comfort or mastery. This body,

Its responsiveness often reticent or obtuse,

As if held back by some laughably bad lag,

Still seen through the othering gaze,

It seems like some cosmic parody,

Inexorably pitiful.

And yes, I know

This isn’t helping. Some science

Or sagecraft says mind is body

And body mind and any separation

Is just Neoplatonist self-indulgence.

I know. I know, but knowing

Is not living.


Then there’s this undignified display:

Self regarding self, the quotidian struggle.

For me, at all times, it is akin to an armed peace

Between the various bits of mind and body,

Always on guard, always silently seething

At this involuntary coexistence. Subtly foaming

Sneers come bubbling to the surface, waiting

For a battle cry, sudden like a flare above

No Man’s land—BLAST! Now

The lacerations come flying fast,

Bellowing like whizzbangs, goring

The mindscape into a blood-soaked mire

Of muddy recriminations—then quickly

As it came, a refreshing breeze rises

And all open hostilities cease without

Reconciliation or closure.


D.H. Lawrence said

Something along the lines of

The loveless reveal themselves

By searching for love, and so

Can never find it, only the loving

Find it easily and they do not

Even need to look.

To the loveless these words might

Sound like yet another reprimand

From culture’s romantic reinforcers;

The loveless are losers, sad, guilty

And contemptible at worst;

They have heard it all before.

It is plastered on every screen,

Like proverbs for the incurious.

Society says: look for love lest

You become the despised loner,

Only to condemn those who

Do, finding the search itself

Sufficient reason for scorn.

But who decided that loveless

Meant worthless? Who decided

That partnered life is the way

And anything else is worth

Only pity or derision?

We know who.

We know who wields

The dread of the lonely—

Unavoidable—and the shame

Of the celibate—insignificant—

As patriarchal tools to whip

The malleable into reactionary


Societal shame is useful

Only to those that seek

To do harm; to fashion it

Into a noose, a lash or a garotte,

So that they can bear their shame

By spreading misery around.

But there is no need

For shame. Virility is not

Virtue nor is fragility

Some sin. Shame

Is the mask of powerless

Rage, which leads to

The only truly pitiful state:

To live thinking love

Is some panacea, or else

Is nothing but the chemical

Cattle prod for reproduction;

To live thinking sex

Is worth and romance

Is possession; to live thinking

Family is a mere accident

Of birth and friendship simply

A means to an end.

To live like this is to hollow

Out each meaningful connection

Of its nourishing flesh and bin it,

To sit there munching on the flavourless

Rind, thinking its noxious

Hardness will make you stronger,

Even as it makes you sick.

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