Lidia Yuknavitch’s Weblog

the body of the word

novel: american love


Topic: American love

Setting: Coyoacán, Mexico. At the home of a Mexican sculptor friend of the poet’s. Spring leaning into summer. The sculptor, like the poet, is a lesbian. There are women loving women in every room of the house and outer studio building/barn. There are women swimming naked in a small pond. There are womens’ voices, the smell of their skin, flowers and collections of stones and red clay and hands. Everywhere. There are blue indigo plates and turquoise glasses. There are red beads and baskets and sage and candles. There are tortillas and tequila and guitars and dancing. There is the sense that making love has broken free of the night and overtaken the day, and anything else anyone does. A person could lose themselves in this kind of place. Even masculinity turns to cool water.

Someone has just said “What have we done to love?”


  1. Me, I don’t know about love, but I think Puritanism just became pornographic. Swimming alone is sexy again, voyeur or no; now we can sleep without fear of missing a moment of love.

    Comment by evan | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. Sounds like you finally set it free.

    Won’t find that in America.

    In America everything exotic is trapped, caged and then properly displayed, exploited and profitted from. It’s the difference between a plain in Africa and a cage in a zoo.

    Compare what we have here, all the naturalism, all the freedom, the unencumbered expression… What’s it’s American equivilent? How are these elements, unparalled when coupled, incomprehensible without experience, channeled and funneled into the patently white-washed (I emphasize white) and standardized US MO?

    A Mexican restaurant in a strip mall.

    Some cheesy art-studio – a modicum of expression garnishing an indulgence of pretension – sealed away in a downtown loft, thirty stories above anything earthly.

    A sex party – dark, too wet yet too dry, very guilty, hidden away and unacknowledged – in the panneled basement of a charming, corner house in the middle of some (very) planned community.

    You can’t plan for “love;” not the real thing. That’s why Americans are so scared of it. American love is the obsession with that which we needlessly deny ourselves. We’ve kidnapped love. Chained it. Sold it. Bought it. Sold it. Retired on it. Inherited it. Until, now – when we look at it – it’s not love anymore. What is it?

    Comment by Jesse "The Snake" Walvoord | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. We made it more about the clothes.

    Comment by Tye | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  4. And then we took the clothes off. Speaking of which…

    Comment by Debra Di Blasi | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  5. come here. i want your flesh in my hand.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hold on, you two. I’m going to get a chair and watch. Which is another thing we made it about…

    Comment by Tye | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  7. perfectly american.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  8. They’re drunk.
    The photographer: “I mean it. The so-called ‘story’ of relationships … of so-called ‘love’ . . . THAT’s the problem. There is no such thing as a love story in real life. What you have is individuals fucking up trying desperately to meet the so-called story of love. And failing quite miserably, because it isn’t possible, because what you’ve got is two completely separate experiences of things. Don’t get me wrong, we do love, we love like all get-out, passionately and with gusto. But it AIN’T what we’ve been told it is, and so we walk around feeling like we’ve failed in the most abject of ways. Divorces. Things going busto. One night stands. Love on the move. Multiple partners. Hop-scotching. All failures.”
    The performance Artist: “She’s sooooooooooooooooooooooo right on.”
    The Poet: “So lemme get this straight. You are saying that stories of relationships, of love, are a buncha bullshit?”
    The Photographer. “That’s what I’m saying.”
    The Poet: “But what about relationships we’ve all had that were successful? Are you saying they don’t exist?”
    The Photographer: “I’m saying the STORIES we have about relationships don’t show us SQUAT about how it really is…how it is to be a woman right this second in time fucking and loving and caring and hurting and all of it.”
    The Poet: “And is there another story? One about ‘how it really is,’”
    The Photographer: “You bet your ass there is.”
    The Poet: “Where?”
    The Photographer: “Well it isn’t available to us.”
    The Poet: “Why not?”
    The Photographer: “I’ll tell you why not (standing and swaying and wagging her finger half beautifully and half ridiculously). Because nobody fucking wants to READ the story of being an individual in love, a story with juts and starts and hiccups, a story half hidden by sensory perception and half lived through a body, a non-sensical story, a story without a proper beginning, middle, or end. A story that doesn’t match the archetypal stories of the so-called woman in love. A woman not an object. A woman not following the ‘script’ of a love story.”
    The Writer: (Making a kind of gutteral sound) “…I finally know what the hell she’s talking about. She’s right.”
    The Performance Artist: “How is she right? I don’t get it.”
    The Writer: “If someone really were to tell that story, it’d be all fucked up. Fragmented and disjointed and out of time. Plus it wouldn’t have the mandatory ingredients that people who read and fuck and eat and live and go to movies and watch television and buy art need—it wouldn’t make them feel easy or good or sad for a cathartic reason…it wouldn’t reinforce their lives or relationships or realities.”
    The Photographer: “That’s what I’m saying.”
    The Poet: “Sounds like a poem might have a prayer of capturing it. Why make it a story at all? Why not a painting or a photograph or a song?”
    The Writer: “Excellent point. Except for this (she waves or flaps her hands around in a kind of Woody Allen-ish way): the poem or the painting make the idea fucking hold still and look all transcendent and shit…(she farts, they all giggle, she goes a little cross-eyed for a second trying to find the rest of her sentence) . . . and so that’s fucking fucked up too. And fucking SONGS…don’t get me started. Motherfucking songs (they all nod and drink knowingly even though they don’t know much).”

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  9. and don’t get me started about mood lighting, moon-lightning or mooning. please, please, please, just let’s take our clothes off now.

    Comment by evan | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  10. Mmmmm… Ouch. Wait a minute. Hm. I said wait.

    You know, if I didn’t have names for all of this and all of you and all of it and those and that I’d enjoy this a lot more.

    Comment by Debra Di Blasi | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  11. Their mawkish eyes were swollen from weeping.

    Comment by tetra | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  12. “A study conducted of Americans earlier this year shows that instead of using their emotions to express how things are, they use emotions to express an idealized vision of the way they think things are supposed to be.”

    Comment by tetra | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  13. “It’s good,” she said. “I think I’ll drink forever.”

    Marguerite Duras: Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night

    Comment by marc lowe | August 12, 2007 | Reply

  14. let’s see who can eat a blood orange the sexiest. you film it. ok? make them all close-ups.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  15. We threw away the etiquetee and with it the prolonged glides and hot gazes. We cut the fat and lost the flavor. We shunned the mystique to lavish in the raw and openned the unlimitted possiblities with limitted probablities. We destroyed love.

    Comment by Jacklyn Attaway | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  16. “Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you know me? Do I know you? No. Nobody gives a fuck about anybody but themselves. Quest for orgasm, quest for animal lust, instinct, the need to procreate, the need to wonder just what the fuck love is so that we can survive day in and day out in this fucked up world.”

    “So you wanna sleep together or what?”

    “Yeah, sure, why not?”

    Comment by Ali | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  17. What have we done to love in America, this aesthetically violent, puritanical, homophobic country? That’s why my need outweighs my shame as I slink off to the S&M club I mean coffee shop, liberty bell a’clanging, pierced to my clit, and that’s why I am obsessed with her. I am addicted to you, to you to you to you – I am addicted. Is there a better word, something stronger than “obsession,” “addiction?” Because you make me feel it. I wish I could find the word, because there has to be one word, ONE single thing that I could love more than you, and I can NOT fucking FIND it. I can’t find it in my tears, I can’t find it in your clit, I thought I found it in my tongue but it was just another quest – more meaningless, empty words that talked themselves into circles and disappeared like cigarette smoke rings from my lips, her lips, her tongue, my tongue. The perfectly formed O from those lips smeared with blood-red lipstick that you never wear, that I would hate you for if you did, because nothing should come between us, not even something as flimsy and temporary as grease paint – your full, pink, pouty bottom lip that my eyes are riveted to, blue-pink glue; I can’t even kiss you because I still can’t believe you’re real. You called my eyes “glacial” once, but I am only frozen with the knowledge that I love you too much to just fuck you; I cannot just fuck you – I need you in me, I somehow need YOU INSIDE MYSELF, but how? The plastic dildo doesn’t count because there’s no connection – you come and I come but there’s this dead thing in between the two of us – I’m touching you but you don’t feel my desperation to grasp YOU. I could strangle you with these hands, push you into me but where would you go? You would still never become a part of me even if your sweatsalt melted into me, hardened like the sugared rim torched by the bartender, giving only the false illusion of permanency. Your skinsmell – your skin smell is my skin smell. My hand tangled in your hair is still your hand, and I cannot tell the difference. The closest I can hope for is what others might merely see: my hands lifting your ass to my mouth mashed against your pussy tongue licking wildfire and this sounds so vulgar because no one can understand why I love you, I haven’t found the ONE thing because I can’t concentrate on anything, nothing, but you.

    Comment by Ali | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  18. She marinated it in soy sauce and black pepper while throwing it on the grill and sizzle for 15 minutes. It was enjoyed on the fourth of July but no one ever kissed the cook.

    Comment by Jacki | August 19, 2007 | Reply

  19. Near a set of rocks in the corner of the yard, at quite a distance from the noisy grill and cutlery, two women spoke.

    “I don’t know how you feel about me anymore, but I’m just a tad uncomfortable at the sight of you,” Mae Loomis said.

    “Oh-ho,” said the other one, Isobel, or Isi. “That’s simply because you’re uncomfortable in your own skin. And because your mother is against you and your very own way of life.”

    “What of it?” Mae said, trying to open a jar. “I said I am not comfortable around you anymore, and that’s the whole gist of it.”

    The two women had gone on a ferry ride, but it had worked out badly, not only because one of the other passengers, a labile male nurse in uniform, had squeezed both the womens’ legs, then ran away, but because a desperate feeling to escape the relationship had arisen then in Isi, followed by a reactive impulse in Mae to lie atop Isi on one of the ferry’s hard benches, trying to squash her, suffocate her, make her lie still.

    The best endings are abrupt, full of tears and lies.

    Comment by slinks | August 23, 2007 | Reply

  20. Of course, we will call it _American_ love. We want to own love like we own things. On a Thursday, I had been meaning to tell you that I don’t love you when we’re fucking. What I mean is that I always love you when we’re not. And by fucking, I mean penetration, you know? There’s still something uncomfortable to me about that moment. I can’t love you then, because it makes me feel like I own you. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, and I know you look at me like I am as flat as wet cardboard when I say things like this. But they’re true. I only love you when I’m not owning you. Is that too much honesty for you? This is loving you outside the realm of reality television. This is.

    Comment by JT | August 23, 2007 | Reply

  21. love and ownership. jesus. yes. in america, i’m afraid love IS ownership. this is my house. my car. this is my partner. my joint bank account. my bed. my relationship. mine.

    i bought it.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  22. my blood orange. how are we going to go about this? how many oranges you got? is peeling involved? because that adds another dimension — fingers.

    … and my fingernails are knawed to shit.

    Comment by alyssa | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  23. fingers, mouths, whole bodies. somebody get the camera.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  24. who is? loving what? which america? who are you all talking about? who are we talking about? narcisissm. right now we’re loving in the same. it’s not enough to say we’re separated and storied into safe havens. yeah, ‘we’ receive the stories about love we view, love story, and ‘we’ make up stories about love relationship, and ‘we’ also dismantle them, all the time. i talk to people. you do too. i swear anyone i’d talk to on the street would agree, about the stories–‘america’ knows about the stories. but like, i got this thing from my friend in LA. this page of writing. it totally sucks. but he’s an old friend and i feel obliged. anyway one of the ways it sucks is that the page doesn’t know how ironic it is. the page has meticulous detail about an apartment building, and the tone is as if the narrator–there’s this narrator–as if the narrator is describing with a distanced, critical eye. but the whole page is completely self-absorbed. so it’s really like an apart-ness building, ha ha ha. anyway, i’m saying that shitty page is like “america’s” knowledge of love–we know it’s all bullshit, all the stories, we know our actual experience is radically different from what is called ‘story,’ and we’re also completely narcissistic, like, for one example, two people fall in love and discover together how all the stories about love are bullshit, that’s an old, tired trope, in stories and also in poems, and if i ever write a poem that has that as a punchline, come hunt me down and shoot me.

    Comment by raphael | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  25. love is a choice. and it’s an action. love is a choice because it’s actions. love is a verb. to love someone. in america, which is all i know, we make love into a feeling-place that’s static, we think we go inside ourselves to a still pond and emote, statically. so because love is made static, it’s depoliticized. politics is always action. politics is always maneuvering, negotiating in the sense of navigating, politics is never static. but really love is political, and it’s action. it’s not a goal, which is what we’ve made it into, a static feeling-place that’s an end to itself. no, love is action and action and action. the static thing is just need.need.need.

    Comment by raphael | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  26. man we all sound so cynical. are we really all this cynical? i think the answer might be yes…because the deepest love i have ever known in my life always pretty much ravages me. it’s excrutiating. i’m not talking about the layers of wonder and beauty. i’m talking about how it…well i guess it sort of kills me, if i let it, and i come back up and through it like i’ve passed through some kind of crucible.

    and the times someone has done it with me have been astonishing, you know, to arrive on the other side WITH another human…but more often than not, two people can’t seem to pass through it at the same time or rate or with similar intent or willingness…so one person busts through and looks around like WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED while the other one’s leaving white tire tracks in the road.

    i mean the most authentic thing i can say about love is that it kills me. the me that wants things to just stay the same. the sleeper me.

    need man. hey remember that woman poet we knew who wrote “need drives the fist?” that was a good line.

    where are the hot springs from here?

    i need to be baptised.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 25, 2007 | Reply

  27. cynical? god yes. but i think it is because i have pretty forgotten what it is like to be in love. not that i don’t love. but you know what i mean. LOVE. the kind that grips your gut and burns the air when you’re close. i know you know.
    i can’t even remember the last crush i had.

    Comment by vince | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  28. excrutiating? you think love is excruciating? i think that says more about you than it does about love. pain freak. maybe it’s all overdramatic and painful and “crucibleish” because you make it that way. you know what you need? time in tibet. alone. you need a good old fashioned spirit quest or some shit to clean out all this pain-centered bile.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  29. i think our crushes and our love affairs happen while we are watching tv and movies now. then when we try it on real people we’re shocked that it goes badly…

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  30. i’m in love with everyone in the room.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  31. um, keep working on those boundaries, babe. i know you are learning about them late in life but SAVE YOURSELF. how you love everyone in this room is gonna get you.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  32. Love American style=sentimentality. Feigned reactions. It’s proof one does not feel something authentic but has the deepest craving to. Now if only we could just own up to this, it would be the most redeeming thing we’ve ever done as a ‘nation’.

    Comment by tetra | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  33. Honey, can you pass the Splenda? No, well, how about the Sweet N’ Low? No? Ok, well then can I at least have some Equal? No again? Fuck, who’s a girl gotta blow to get some real fucking sugar around here?!

    Comment by tetra | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  34. “I saw the most beautiful image at the airport once, back home in the states.”

    “I was on the main concourse, just leaving the secured area to go home.”

    “There was this family from Mexico just arriving; an old woman and her husband. Not city Mexicans mind you, but old school tribal Mexicans…may not have even been on a plane before. But anyway, they were being greeted by their grown children now living in the states. ”

    “So anyway, the old woman was so small, barely 4’10. She had really, really long black hair with these glorious strands of silver sprouting up from the top of her head. Her face was this radiant brown and lined with these deep grooves, as if her face had been carved out by the sun.”

    “Her husband was about the same; short, stout, and covered in sun spots.”

    “The both walked slowly, with a slight limp to their gate, hip bones shifting weight side to side in a way that allowed me to imagine what their skeletons looked like.”

    “Oh, and they had on these really brightly coloured clothes that looked hand woven and hand dyed.”

    “So then their son who’d been waiting for them to arrive, walks up to them with this beaming smile on his face and puts his arms around them both, and starts walking through the airport with them, arms around them with so much pride.”

    “There were also grandchildren, about 5 and 6 years-old, they ran up with their father, and wrapped their little arms around their grandmother.”

    “Then they just all walked together, a tight cluster all holding on to each other excited and gleaming like the hand dyed threads of the grandmother’s dress. They just kept walking and smiling in this tight ball…footsteps in unison.”

    “Their Spanish was thick and raw and crackling with the love of a home-cooked life.”

    “I’ve never seen people love each other so well before. I’ve never seen a family so authentic in their relations to one another.”

    “They meant every step, every word of Spanish that rolled off the tongue, every wrinkle from the sun, was a gift to be shared amongst them all.”

    Comment by tetra | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  35. and as an american, all i could do was watch

    Comment by tetra | August 27, 2007 | Reply

  36. the massai. most beautiful love i’ve ever witnessed…that i couldn’t touch. a mother with her children.

    did you know that many of the massai have cell phones?

    Comment by lid | August 28, 2007 | Reply

  37. yeah right, it’s easy to romanticize the “image of love” when you look at other cultures or indigenous people…that’s an american move too. jesus. maybe it’s like in annie hall…we need a different word to purge our shit. like loooof. or lauv…

    Comment by lid | August 28, 2007 | Reply

  38. and then we saw each other in public and pretended we didn’t know each other

    complete freedom

    i’ll never hold you back

    i’ll just watch you scream while i cry and say ‘it’s okay, i haven’t run away yet’

    and you know what’s worse? i’m listening to a chick screaming ‘stop, it hurts’ and i’m pretty convinced that’s normal. shit. fucking shit. but normal.

    yeah. now she’s laughing. i think they’re all drunk. i love when screams echo.

    Comment by Laura | October 16, 2007 | Reply

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