As I write this, Breonna Taylor’s murderers have not been brought to justice. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a cop in front of his children. COVID numbers continue to rise globally as well as in America. Students and teachers are risking their health returning to school, sometimes only to be sent away again. Portland, Oregon, where I live, is still seething like so many other cities. Hurricanes and fires and climate change are raging. Authoritarianism is spiking; and democracy is fracturing in front of us.
I see all of these threads as interrelated. Anger’s not strong enough a reply. What I feel takes me to an otherwhere: I expand. I contract.
We carry everything that has ever happened to us in our bodies. Everything about this present tense is about a willingness or unwillingness to change, adapt, become something different than we have ever been. I now carry the trace of COVID in my body, as well as the trace of everything that has ever happened to me or around me, personally and culturally. I carry my rage, and sometimes she carries me.
Letter To My Rage is a willing wander inside an important question: Can my rage evolve as I evolve? Can I use it differently than I have in the past? When was my rage born? What can I carry forward and what must I shed forever? How might I transform, my body and its rage becoming a part of other bodies and their stories? How might we express our rage together?
Excerpt from Letter to my Rage: An Evolution
There is a woman more than six feet away from me in a waiting room at a clinic. The woman is breastfeeding a baby, its little hands opening and closing. The woman is also balancing a laptop on her thighs; the baby hangs in a sling-type thing that women who are smarter than me figure out, unlike when I carried an infant, twenty years ago.
The woman also has a small—very small—dog on a leash curled at her feet. They let dogs in clinics now? Is it an emotional support animal perhaps? Or just the fact that we are all in pandemic mode, so rules are bending? I keep imagining the terrible moment when they call her name—will there be a cataclysmic tumult of laptop, dog, and baby? Will I rush over to help her or stay a good-stranger distance away?
The nursing woman is wearing a mask. The nurse behind the glass is wearing a mask. I am wearing a mask. The baby is not wearing a mask, its head is soft, like baby’s heads are, and it’s sucking a boob, which is as it should be. The dog is not wearing a mask, but animals make me feel better about everything lately. The surge and song of them. How they are filling the streets and squares and trees and trails and oceans and rivers … and waiting rooms.
On the television, the pathetic president is not wearing a mask. He looks obscene. Like his face is an anus.
I’m beyond angry.
I’m so filled with you, Rage, I’m having trouble figuring out how to route the anger so I don’t short circuit myself and spontaneously combust. I’m angry at the irresponsible responses to a virus ravaging our loved ones. I’m angry that police brutalize Black people like they are gunning for Facebook likes. I’m angry at the piss-poor president, some sorry-ass excuse of a meat sack in an ill-fitting suit. His image makes my language go strange and tight: immoral repugnant boil. I’m angry at the individuals and institutions and corporations that prop this gasbag fucker up.
I’m angry at the gun-toting Rambo wannabes who get dressed up and threaten women and children, like they are storming the castle, like they are proud and free men fighting for their rights, rather than fighting for the right to irresponsibly kill everyone near them with their own ignorance and violence. They wouldn’t know freedom if it bit them on the ass. They are too busy dominating everyone like angry, purpling cocks. They are trapped inside a need for violence in the face of their disappearing power.
I’m angry about the fact that nurses and doctors and hospital and medical personnel cannot get the protective equipment they need to be safe while they save our lives. I’m angry that Black people and Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted both by this virus and by systemic racism and bigotry. I’m angry because murdering Black people in the street for existing is again on the rise, reminding me that it never wasn’t. I’m angry that Asian Americans are being targeted, Muslims, queers.
I hate our present-tense xenophobia and bigotry on parade passionately. I hate the entire penal system and secretly harbor breakout fantasies, including night vision goggles and zip lines. I want to bring the bolt cutters to all detention centers before we kill everyone we have caged.
I am angry there are women who support male domination in all its forms—faith, father, family, state—against their own interests, against their own bodies, voices, lives.
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The baby across from me pauses its sucking and casts a wary eye my way. I know this baby is too young to “see” anything yet. And yet babies are sly. Can she see my rage? Plus I read this morning about a possible parallel universe where time moves backwards. Maybe babies know something we don’t. Maybe their vulnerability and innocence are wisdom.
Was it there at the beginning of me? Was my rage a strange invisible twin that kept me company in the womb and then held on too tight inside the caul until our bodies merged, she wanted out, she wanted light, she wanted body, she wanted breath, motherfuckers?
Was it already there when they lifted me by cesarean from my mother’s gut, lodged as I was inside her too tilted pelvis, strange crooked cradle, my mother born with one leg more than six inches shorter than the other, her daughters cut from her body, my sister first, then me years later. Was my rage born of the missed opportunity to wrestle free through the birth canal, through the open mouth of my mother?
Or was my rage my mother’s? Or her mother’s? Or hers? An inherited creature?
Mother, you were the saddest person I have ever known.
Mother, you were the most joyful person I have ever known.
That storm. That meeting of extremes.
Was there something in between the sadness and joy? A raging silence?
I loved you. I raged at you.
Adapted, with permission, from Letter to My Rage by Lidia Yuknavitch, published by Scribd Originals.