The right no

Che Fece [what did]

For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and saying it,
he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no-the right no-
drags him down all his life.

-Constantine P. Cavafy
In December 2009, I walked out of my job with the idea of killing myself. I had the sleeping pills, and I would take them. I said goodbye to the receptionist about one o’clock and went home, and sat in my living room. The strong desire to die went away, but I realised I could not go back to work. I was on a final written warning with an ultimatum “do this or get sacked”, and the next month I resigned in order to avoid being sacked. I took my month’s notice on the sick, and have only worked for six months since.
I had had to get out, immediately, without any plan for what to do next, and only the knowledge that I would rather die than stay there made me do it.
I do not know how this post will end.
I was going to write, “All my life I have run away and hidden and I have to come to terms with that” and-
Is that true? I have not really progressed a career, I have not had many friendships,
but I have transitioned. That took courage.
Perhaps rather than Cavafy, Awdry:
Once an engine in front of a train
was afraid of a few drops of rain.
He went into a tunnel
and squeaked through his funnel
and wouldn’t come out again.
So Henry was bricked up in the tunnel, and with no head of steam he could not call Hello to the other engines. Though it is a children’s story: he comes out eventually, and is happy.
Perhaps rather than Awdry, the Goddess: Durga dancing in me, and me in her.
I wanted to kill myself because I was hurting that badly. I still do. I slowly – no, patiently and carefully, at the fastest speed I can manage, release my own bonds and come to self-acceptance. As I do so, it becomes possible to move on, perhaps to say a Yes- though I cannot yet be sure. And part of this is realising how awful and destructive my self-criticism has been, and mitigate it.

I know what I have to do. I want to get a job. If I want to heal, or to do performance, I have to develop my raw talent and get doing it. I took the opportunity on Saturday 26th: friendly audience of about forty, I compèred, some told me I had done it well, noticed that I had thought out what to say. And after, in the night, I was distraught, thinking of the level of human connection then and the chance to show off and be applauded, and then going back to my loneliness. And-

it cannot always be a high like that, and I have the skills to make more opportunities like that. And there will be more opportunities like that.
My life has been really, really hard. And I have now transitioned, and come to greater self-acceptance than before. And I am calming my fears.
The Episcopal Church ordains trans people to the priesthood. Thanks be to God.

Vernon Scannell

The poet Vernon Scannell was in North Africa in 1942. He was lying on the ground beside an officer, under fire. When he felt able to look around, the officer had scarpered. Scannell later found that the officer had been sent back to Blighty, to a mental hospital.

Shortly after, Scannell himself got into a lorry and started driving. Foolish, really. He did not shave, and when he was asked his business he could not give a soldierly answer, so got arrested. He was, not being an officer, sent to a prison in North Africa. Every day the men carted a huge pile of sand from one corner of the parade ground to the opposite corner. The next day, they took it back. In solitary confinement, he was given a hunk of bread in the morning. He kept some of it for later, and was disciplined for “hoarding food”.

When the authorities sought volunteers to fight in Europe among the prisoners, Scannell volunteered, and got out. He went to a training camp. There was a young man there, very gung-ho, whom Scannell gives the pseudonym Victor Denham. He was always on about how he would kill Jerries, but when the invasion came he collapsed weeping and raving, and also had to be sent home. Scannell’s opinion of him is shown in the initials he gave him.

When Scannell got home, he could not be bothered waiting for demob, so went on the run again until a general pardon in the 1950s.

Scannell’s poetry has the humour of the squaddie, trapped in a world he did not create.

What did you do in the war, Daddee?
Lots of jankers, son.

There is not a lot of respect for the officers, the transvestite brigadier, the bastards who put you on a charge. Some are hypocrites:

There’s only two men in this mob-
And this you ought to know-
Who can catch pox from toilet seats:
The Chaplain and MO.

But there is one poem of his which moves me to tears: “Sentences”, from Funeral Games. He explains that soldiers serving sentences in military prisons are officially referred to and addressed as SUS’s- Soldiers Under Sentence.

Who spiked the water at the wedding
held in the Sergeants’ Mess?
We all know who the fellow was:

And so, on for twelve verses.


Who swallowed wine and pissed out water
Couldn’t wake up when Reveille was blown,
Who screwed Colonel Jairus’s daughter
Ate ten men’s rations, all on his own,
Robbed the blind, and beat up cripples,
Flogged his donkey right to the bone?

Johnny Evans, he was the fellow,
Ended up high against the bloodshot sky,
Johnny Evans, the barrack room cowboy,
Arms stretched out like a PTI.
He, and another old Janker-wallah,
One each side of the man who cried
A loud reproach to his stone-deaf father
And promised Johnny, before he died,
A place that night in the Officers’ Mess,
He, Johnny Evans, was a soldier under sentence,

Scannell is now out of print.

Robert Bringhurst

The review said that Robert Bringhurst is a great Canadian poet, not previously published in his own book in England. I had to get the book.

File:Robert Bringhurst.jpg

Picture credit: Jason V

Instantly I am plunged into a strong masculine vibe. The Beauty of the Weapons:

With the truncated butt
caught in the cocked
elbow, the trigger
falls exactly to hand.

Bringhurst addresses the male/female divide. Though I do not imagine that the “Poet” in These poems, she said is Bringhurst, rather than an aspect of him, it rings true to have a woman tell him that “These are the poems of a man who would leave his wife and child because they made noise in his study.”

I love Deuteronomy. This is not a comforting Bible story for children, this is fear and unknowing and uncertainty and urgency in the Desert. Miracles are played down, and the Voices could be madness. And at the end, the task accomplished, tiredness, not fulfilment.

Can words describe the World? No, because they cannot mean the same to two different people, and they cannot encompass the whole nature and variety of the simplest thing, a grain of sand or a wild flower. And yet they are all we have. In Hick and Nillie, a poet talks to a god, of words turning false, until

Silence, like clear speaking,
washes words. In time they will
come true again. But then, of course,
they will be different words.

It is the poet teaching, and the god listening.

Pope, Muir, Eliot

On 2 January, I quoted this poem, and now, as an exercise, I have written a pastiche of it:

Know first thyself, thy heart, thy soul, thy mind
Then look around, see clearly humankind.
By God created, with God’s light imbued,
Creative, loving, pow’rful, by God wooed,
In touch with beauty to enrich the heart,
in nature, other people, music, art.
Mature evolved society is mine
the knowledge of ten thousand years, is thine.
The human animal is Love alive:
Our wars diminish, and our wisdom thrives.
With balance of thought and feeling, all aligned
in safe Unknowing, soon we Knowing find.
Sole judge of truth, beholding Truth unfurled,
we bring forth yet more beauty in the world.


I am not sure whether to share this one.

Resentment is not like anger.
Anger is hot, clean, now, gone.
Resentment is cold and unending,
In the darkness at the edge.
The world turns, and from the edge,
Through a glass darkly, I see possibilities:
Dancing, singing, laughter, acceptance.
I move inwards, shivering, showing my scars
Then denying them, smiling with my mouth.

There is a power in me, I know it.
It keeps me alive in a dark stone box.
The corridor narrows and darkens,
And the light through the doorways
                blinds me and terrifies me.
Through the door, into the garden.
Stay, stay, stay, says the bird-
Stay, where there is no path
And I do not know where I am going.

The opening line is a conscious echo of Edwin Muir, “The desolations are not the sorrows’ kin”, which is not on the internet but in the Collected Poems, available through Amazon. Do click to look inside: more than half the book is shared there, though not pp271-2, where The Desolations is. I recommend Song at p.146, an instantly accessible love poem, metrical and sweet; The Road at p. 223, because life as a Way is an image he returned to again and again, and Annunciation, also p223, because it is an image close to my heart now. Other verse I would recommend appears not to be shared, so, well, buy the book.

My ending is an echo of the first movement of Burnt Norton. Eliot wrote,

Edwin Muir will remain among the poets who have added glory to the English language. He is also one of the poets of whom Scotland should always be proud.

Should I share my verse? If I show my scars and vulnerabilities, I increase my vulnerability; and if I do not, I die, slowly. Or, this is a process of coming to terms with my own scars and vulnerabilities: to be effectual, the acceptance has to come from me- and revealing them helps.

Healing my soul

This is a month for my healing. This is the month to face the demons on my back and take their power for myself. This is the month to take my insane arrogance and insane self-abnegation, and forge a synthesis of sane self-regard- I am a human being.

How could I hold such contrary self-images? I became aware of them aged twenty in pain from love at first sight and an unrequited obsession with a woman, and saw that they were both ridiculous and wrong, and wondered how I could hold both, and now I see how I can.

I am worthless and of no account in my own mind because as a child my feelings were not acknowledged or accepted, and my spontaneous reactions were always wrong. So, early, I learned to control my self-expression to give what my parents wanted. Because my feelings and expression were a threat to me, I feared and despised them. I saw them as completely wrong and bad.

And- I am the centre of the universe. I developed this extreme narcissism in my desire to survive, and my enforcement of my control on myself.

Now is the time to heal those two complementary self-images, to- I am a human being. I was going to excerpt Pope, but cannot choose between all these wonderful lines:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

I am a human being, with all the great value and wonder of that, one among seven billion. Loved by God so that each hair on my head is numbered, evolved over four billion years to fit, here, now, and- one among seven billion. I can see where I am going.

How to do this? I will bring to consciousness all my suppressed rage and terror over that early trauma, and I will feel it, and I will mourn it. In this pain I will cling to my new found appreciation of my own courage, creativity, truthfulness and love. I will work through it, I will mourn it, I will at last let it go.

Why am I telling you this? Two contrasting reasons. I do not care. I am at rock bottom (Please God, this is rock bottom, there is no further down!) and do not care what you think of me, or who knows this; and I am gathering my support network around me to hold me as I do this work. Pray for me, hold me in the light. Encourage me. Kingsley asked me if I felt I had a burden, and I said no, I feel as if I am crushed under a boulder bigger than myself. And I am so grateful to feel the pain, because I might be free of it.

Yesterday’s Wisbit is a motto for this blog:

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised and misunderstood… For it is not difference which immobilizes us most but silence…


Boldini- Franca FlorioI have been so ashamed of being who I am. First ashamed of being transsexual, then ashamed of the bits which do not fit the box called by others “primary transsexual”. Imagining that a “good person” is not like this and then lying to myself that I am that kind of “good person”, so that I have been enmeshed in lies and evasions. Denying parts of me which are good and healthy. Hiding away because I felt the Whole World would judge me for who I am, which was almost entirely my projection onto it: on investigation I find far less judgment of me in others than has been in myself. Collecting stories of, say, nutcase Evangelicals in another continent who object to a trans child expressing self congruently at school, so I can tell myself my fear is right. Ascribing so much importance to a casual insult in the street, far more importance than to acceptance by a friend or colleague. Having no self-respect, so needing to generate it from the regard of others or from achievement: but only perfection was tolerable, anything less was a shocking failure. So gradually withdrawing from all challenges whatsoever, to control of my life within my own living room. This is why I am unemployed: I could not bear to feel my own fear and anger, so I withdrew from life, to create a situation where I would not feel them.


Always, always healing and growing. Always exploring, a compliment I cherish is “You are interested in life”, interested in everything Human. Always moving forward into expressing myself more congruently. Even after I transitioned in 2002, and now even after I see that being transsexual is blessing, not curse, wonderful and beautiful, I had so much rage and terror and pain to process. I held myself together without self-respect, knowing that I was Disgusting, and when I realised I am Beautiful, as a human being, I felt the full hurt of having endured the other for so long. And I am now processing that.

It has been so hard to accept myself. And I think I have done it.

Created in the image of God, and therefore loving, creative and powerful, I am good and beautiful separate from my achievements: and I have accepted that. And this frees me to get things wrong, and learn. And to accept the World as it is. And, in my own time, move on from here.

This poem needs quoting in full:


I was there at your conception,
In the epinephrine of your mother’s shame.
You felt me in the fluid of your mother’s womb.
I came upon you before you could speak,
Before you understood,
Before you had any way of knowing.
I came upon you when you were learning to walk,
When you were unprotected and exposed
When you were vulnerable and needy
Before you had any boundaries….

I came upon you when you were magical,
Before you could know I was there.
I severed your soul, I pierced you to the core.
I brought you feelings of being flawed and defective.
I brought you feelings of distrust, ugliness, stupidity, doubt,
worthlessness, inferiority, and unworthiness.
I made you feel different.
I told you there was something wrong with you.
I soiled your Godlikeness….

I existed before conscience,
Before guilt, Before morality.
I am the master emotion!
I am the internal voice that whispers words of condemnation.
I am the internal shudder that courses through you without any mental preparation….

I live in secrecy in the deep moist banks of darkness, depression, and despair.
Always I sneak up on you, I catch you off guard, I come through the back door,
Uninvited, Unwanted, The first to arrive.
I was there at the beginning of time with Father Adam, Mother Eve
Brother Cain.
I was the Tower of Babel, the Slaughter of Innocents….

I come from “shameless” caretakers, abandonment, ridicule, abuse, neglect – perfectionistic systems.
I am empowered by the shocking intensity of a parent’s rage,
The cruel remarks of siblings;
The jeering humiliation of other children;
The awkward reflection in the mirrors;
The touch that feels icky and frightening;
The slap, the pinch, the jerk that ruptures trust.
I am intensified by a racist, sexist culture,
The righteous condemnation of religious bigots;
The fears and pressures of schooling;
The hypocrisy of politicians;
The multigenerational shame of dysfunctional family systems…

I can transform a woman person, a Jewish person, a black person, a white person, a gay person, an oriental person, a precious child into,
A bitch, a kike, a nigger, a cracker, a bull dyke, a faggot, a chink, a selfish little bastard.
I bring a pain that is chronic, a pain that will not go away.
I am the hunter that stalks you night and day.
Every day, everywhere,
I have no boundaries.
You try to hide from me, but you cannot
Because I live inside you,
I make you feel hopeless, Like there is no way out….

My pain is so unbearable that you must pass me onto others through control, perfectionism, contempt, criticism, blame, envy, judgement, power, and rage.
My pain is so intense, You must cover me up with addictions, rigid roles,
reenactments, and unconscious ego defenses.
My pain is so intense, that You must numb out and no longer feel me.
I convinced you that I am gone – that I do not exist – you experience absence and emptiness….

I am the core of co-dependency, I am spiritual bankruptcy,
The logic of absurdity, the repetition compulsion.
I am crime, violence, incest, rape, I am the voracious hole that fuels all addictions. I am insatiability and lust.
I am Ahaverus the Wandering Jew, Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, Dostoyevski’s underground man, Kierkegaard’s seducer, Goethe’s Faust.
I twist who you are into what you do and have.
I murder your soul and you pass me on for generations….

“Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing your Inner Child.”
by John Bradshaw

The joy is that we are learning this, and helping ourselves out of it.


They’ve wanted to buy humour
but he just wouldn’t be bought!
They’ve wanted to kill humour
but humour gave them the finger.
Fighting him’s a tough job.
They’ve never stopped executing him.
His chopped off head
was stuck on a soldier’s pike.
But as soon as the clown’s pipes
struck up their tune
he screeched out ‘I’m here!’
and broke into a jaunty dance.

From Humour, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, set for bass soloist and male voice choir in Shostakovich’s thirteenth symphony. Where the rulers are the enemy, the only weapon of the ruled against them is mockery. Where the rulers are the enemy, it is a fight to the death.

The Barcelona Series by Joan Miro shows monstrous creatures with sharp teeth: Franco and the Fascists. Yet: what is this? There is such uncertainty in these distorted eyes. Cupidity, of course, lust, violence and destructiveness- but also fear. You need to guard yourself from these monsters, but the proper attitude to them includes pity. There is sympathy in the pictures, an attempt to understand what it is like to be these creatures. The act of drawing includes sympathy: Alasdair Gray says that you cannot paint or draw an expression which you cannot wear on your own face.

Possibly I am reading too much into the Barcelona Series (I have not quite accepted Derrida). Yet it is something I want to see in the pictures, because it is my own attitude: What is it like to be this person? always has to be a useful question. Where is our common ground?

Solzhenitsyn says,

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.

So I treat mockery with great care. It creates barriers. It makes conciliation less likely.

Hope and fear

In secondary school, I read of “mutually assured destruction” and how the USSR had Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, with multiple nuclear warheads enough to destroy the World many times over: the one targeted on RAF Machrihanish would probably be the one to kill me. And then, the year I left University, the Berlin Wall fell and the World changed and MAD ceased to be a threat- and RAF Machrihanish is now a commercial airport.

And now, there is the Global Financial Crisis and the “Six weeks to save the Euro” have elapsed without the Euro being saved as George wished, and the UK will continue borrowing more and more at least until 2015, and there are wars, and rumours of Depressions.

And there is Millennarianism. 2012 is the end of the Mayan Great Age, and either some

rough beast, his hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born

or we will enter on the New Age of global harmony and Love.

Actually, I think it is happening. People are seeking spiritual reality, more and more, and finding each other and mystic insights granted to the few in past centuries are now granted to the many. And something which may be sensed- call it God, if you wish- seeks us out and builds us up. 2012 will advance it, and there have been great leaps forward before.

The world is still not exactly as I might wish. Egypt has had its revolution, and is under military government, less free than Turkey. Globalisation means unemployment in Middlesbrough, and R2P.  And I find hope in nuclear fusion, and the slow patient eradication of maleria.

There are those who would build the Temple,
And those who would prefer that the Temple should not be built. …
So they build as men must build
With the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.

but as we become more tolerant of difference, more accepting of the World as it really is, and people as they are, there is less need for the sword. Everything is OK. More and more I realise that.

So, though I do not believe in all this Mayan stuff, and numerology, I do believe in the power of symbols: so on 11 November I will participate in the Portal Activation Meditation.


Every child has known God…
The God who only knows four words,
and keeps repeating them, saying,
Come, dance with me
Come, dance.

This was the first Hafiz poem I heard, and I loved it, and wanted to hear more. It is rendered into English poetry by Daniel Ladinsky. Compare and contrast

For our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
and urge the mind to aftersight and foresight

This comes from the second movement of Little Gidding. The monkey mind’s continual searching of past and future rather than being in Now might be thought of as a search for “Aftersight and foresight”.

I see these artists as naming here two equal ways of being, yin and yang. I had a rationalist phase, when I thought anything might be explained and understood, and then mysticism began to appeal to me, began to seem more than woo-woo gibberish, and I began to value being without words, stilling the mind, being in the moment.

And now I seek to get the full benefit which words and arguments can give me. They can take me to the verge of Unknowing, into which I can just jump off. But they just might protect me from that which might fool my mystic side, might have the appearance of truth. There is a constant I, that part within my skin that Wants; and what it wants is fulfilment, whatever that might mean; life in all its fulness, love and truth. Connection with others. And this I journeys on using better the tools in me to find these things, tools of rational judging and evaluating with words, and tools of spontaneous relating and responding. Rational analysis can see things which spontaneous relating cannot. Spontaneous relating can see things which rational analysis cannot. Behind all is the drive of desire.

Movement and repose

If they ask you, “What is the evidence of your father in you?” say to them, “It is movement and repose”

– Gospel of Thomas saying 50, part 3. Mmmm. Action when action is needed, rest at other times. Still the mind, the ego and the worry. Movement and repose together as one.

Here is something from Hafiz, interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky:

When your truth forsakes its shyness,
When your fears surrender to your strengths,

I find this so beautiful that almost the consequence is unnecessary, the “When”, not “if” in those two lines and their promise is enough. But here is what happens:

You will begin to experience

That all existence
Is a teeming sea of infinite life.

While I am sitting here, thumbing through my Kindle, here are the first two lines of Burton and Watson’s Tao Te Ching translation:

Tao called Tao is not Tao.
Names can name no lasting name.

So much wisdom from the millennia, just– there, just- everywhere I look, just- ready for me to take it into my heart and my life. Wisdom, and beauty, knocking on my door all the time, importunate, demanding, only needing for me to notice. Wisdom, and beauty, and Love.

She bangs on the door importunately, and will not be denied,
She bangs on the door, and cries,
“OPEN UP! OPEN UP! My Darling!”

Go well.