Monday, December 27, 2021

The 2021 Christmas Octave: HANNAH BONNER, Being Alive Twice: a New Moon Report


We had so many great cover essays for this year's Advent Calendar that we're extending it this time around to include the Octave of Christmas (Christmas Day through New Year's Day). We'll also continue publishing cover essays into the next year, so if you've got an idea, pitch us (email Will or Ander, or ping us on twitter). Happy Holidays! —Will and Ander



After Ariana Reines’ “New Moon Report


Light me on fire / gently —Benny Blanco from Dave 

The second winter of the virus brought consternation, but then again so did the heartache. I didn’t turn back too soon. Neither did I linger. If Orpheus and Eurydice were a game, I was 0 for 1.  

I scrolled Instagram as an exercise in existentialism and ate so intermittently that some might call this health. I screenshot the meme, Self-alienation has reached such a degree that we can experience our own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure, then texted a nude of my tits to my ex. 

A full moon eclipse crept our way, and the advice in the ether was to stay inside for three days, if you could. Everyone was extra sensitive. Everyone was reinventing themselves. Everyone’s pronoun was the collective “we.” Except we weren’t connected or interchangeable or even equal, just closer apart. 
In hot yoga, the instructor invited us to place one hand on our belly, one hand on our heart. This is called nurture, she intoned. I cried in shavasana during the pop country song and stole all the free shampoo. Fuck the breath, I thought, then exhaled. 
To paraphrase the astrologer Diana Rose, at least there’s liberation in the Saturnian importance of saying no. 

The ground gave way under me, but the Midwest sky still hardened, cold and black as onyx. I wasn’t writing and I wasn’t happy, but I existed, all the same. I stopped drinking for a short while and forewent cheese. When my grandfather called, I didn’t answer. When the musician with the girlfriend called I did. 
I became conceptual. I became absorbative. An objective subject readymade. A Thousand Plateaus told me a body was not defined by form nor by substance, but by affects and local movements, differential speeds. Which is to say, we can only ever perceive our own becoming as it occurs in the present moment. The past tense fans out like Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase,” a whirring diverish of being always already at work.  
In the Year of the Rat, we lit firecrackers in an abandoned van just to see what would happen. We took tabs of acid just to walk in rain. We talked about trading partners based on rising signs and stayed up all night, almost every night, but, I’ll admit, we didn’t watch any sunrises. When the police blockaded the station, we knelt before them. When our chants rattled the windows, their weapons of war blotted out stars. We walked the perimeter of the city, down onto the interstate, but somehow we knew the coracle to Cerberus would only get us so far. 

I walked through another mourning field, my skirt haloed around my thighs. I wore lipstick and cried on many couches. Staying up, sucking wine - all the hands felt so good no matter where they went. 

The numbers declined in hospitals and the protests muted on TV. We concealed vaccination cards like fake IDs in our bra cups and tongued jello shots in bars. 

The masks fell. The masks fell like supplication in a basilica. For once the red states and millennials were one in the same.  

In the beginning, we dropped a stone in a well for a bushel of grain. When the well filled with sediment we emptied it again until we could lean into the dark hollow and sing. 

This practice was called commerce. We had no need for ledgers. To barter was a visual endeavor, like pornography or shadow play. 

We placed hands on shoulders in greeting and spit over our shoulders to ward off plagues. We cut flowers for our salads, but never for our hair. The river lathed us in its honey of forgetting, and the petals puckered in the brine. 

Love was something we craved like fire or like food, but if we stared at it, square on, we would immolate to ash. My Venus was in Aries hence the aggressive tenderness. Hence the ardent impatience. Hence the abstract knowledge of the word care. Basically the unspoken understanding was that I never was ok. 

In astrology, your life purpose is encoded in your lunar nodes. My north node is in Pisces and my south node is in Virgo. This configuration speaks to health and to healing, to addiction and to doubt. The crux of conflict is already within me. What matters most is the torment is transient, even when it recurs. 

A predecessor with a north node in Pisces is Joan of Arc. If the next vessel for God is a woman who will scorch the earth, He’ll be waiting a long time. 

It was like being alive twice. / I’ll try to tell you better when I am stronger, wrote Linda Gregg in “The Defeated.” 

In the beginning, there was the flesh, which manifested within us. The affects, that came later, the heart’s differential speeds. Language initially spoke of myths, not of men. The eclipse reached its zenith. The violence of desire crossed at the rings of longitude and latitude in certain lands. 

Listen. Everything follows. With forgiveness, and with time. 

So I sayeth, I am the word in the Red Sea. I am the word in the Red Sea. I am the one parting water which lives in the mouth of the lion. 


Hannah Bonner’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Asheville Poetry Review, Pigeon Pages, Rattle, Schlag, So to Speak, The LaHave Review, The North Carolina Literary Review, The Pinch Journal, The Vassar Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Two Peach. Her essays have been featured in Bright Wall/Dark Room, Bustle, The Little Patuxent Review, and VIDA. She’s the poetry editor for Brink and a creative nonfiction MFA at the University of Iowa. You can follow her on Twitter @HannahB40843697 or on Instagram @hannah__bonner 

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