Putting Holes Through Me: Have You Ever Become an Ecstatic Stigmatic
I want to address the virtue of the bashed in terms of Francis of Assisi urging his fellow minor friars to embrace without retaliation the violence put on them and through their embrace refine a benevolent humility toward an immediate and distant, circuitous triumphant arrival.
It is a matter of leaving what I do to consider that by which I have been tamed.
I want to remark on the holes put through a quiet body. Those degraded past solace — the ones who heighten my most alert fondness — stay perfect to me insofar as the channels of force put on them are not diverted but cultivated as a kind of blossom or badge. A body stilled as meat, or just wordless matter, absorbent of registers of others’ scandal — This is the value inherent to all bruises.
Prettied by split lips, I aspire to triumph within this confraternity of the beaten-up and ass-kicked. Treat me gently now or not –
I think about my friends among the bashed (this sounds like a club starting to catch on) and the coordinates of violence — including the spatial relations and transference of force — of these attacks: a kind of Cartesian field with x-, y-, and z-axes specifying the site and positions wherein my friends were met harshly with their fragility. These defeated, imbued with insect-animal grace, served through these coordinates and trajectories the banner toward which I am now singing merrily.
It is difficult for me to talk about the religious without using terms of trajectories and bodies in space: “Evil, scattered around him, was automatically concentrated upon him in the form of suffering” (Simone Weil).
It’s the same one like the next and another one, who when afflicted becomes a trashcan for animosity, or magnet irresistible to fists and kicks — and tires them out, eventually. The fields wherein these violences perform rely on the magnetism of easy and frail subjects, and darkness swarms upon them like the toy with tiny metal filings pulled across a cartoon man’s hairless face to create a mustache or beard.
(It’s tempting to seek machismo in one’s bruises like the scruff grown nearly thick on a boy’s cheeks — isn’t it still butch to look beaten up no matter how many, if any, punches one throws back — but I want to level this inquiry toward a genderless declaration concerning the toughness of the marginalized, who are possessed by the terrific inability to get out of the way.)
To keep one’s ground, and thus get pounded into it –
There is a matter of what a victim’s body does after absorbing force and emptying, like a reluctant instantaneous vacuum, the air for a time and stilling it. I actually mean, what happens to the evil and where does it go.
And isn’t there a lovely symmetry of opposition between a barrel-chested aggressor and someone much lighter with one of those come-at-me-motherfucker looks, which doesn’t necessarily appear retaliatory but could be as benevolent and serene as a monk’s.
I want to derive a near-palpable affirmation through Francis of Assisi, who suggests that getting beaten up should remind me of bodily frailty within a world and law that’s best to despise (and by despise, he means leave toward arrival elsewhere): ”If we bear such great wrong and such cruelty and such rebuffs without disquieting ourselves and without murmuring against him and think humbly and charitably that he really believes us to be what he has called us and that God makes him speak against us, write that here is perfect joy” (Little Flowers).
Being reviled, they rejoiced — God’s standards are not my own, but I want to apply Francis’ to my present community now coming through.
A scene in the film adaptation of “Little Flowers” (dir. Rossellini, 1950): Travelling alone, a minor friar named Juniper enters an encampment of rowdy warriors. It is soon understood he’s not welcome. They are wrestling, punching each other in the face, and placing bets as to whether their comrade’s bleeding nose can fill his cup. Juniper intervenes: “I talk and talk yet accomplish little.” The goons begin tossing around the monk, using him for a jump rope, after which he concludes that “it’s by example souls are won” and faceplants from a gallows into the dirt pleasing everybody. Raising a monument of stupidity, the composure of the monk’s body alternates between limpness and rigidity hinting toward a tumbler, scapegoat, bound livestock, or holy fool (though I have been called worse). Rigidity to support the pull, limpness to accept the push, the bleeding monk, it’s decided, is to be put to death by getting bashed over the head. (In the end, he lives, but it’s his idiot charm that saves him.)
It’s the sissies that you spit on as they try to leave their worlds. Heads get crashed against lockers — Boys are thrown into fountains — Can I design before my enemy a perfect joy or would it be just desperate inversion. A sissy absorbs the disclosure of aggression and happily renounces it through a bruise. The ilk of them becomes subjugated to the order of things then vanishes from it. Could I continue going, obeying, walking, sleeping, dying bicycling subject to all of creation if it was called for. Humiliation’s an angel — Sissies are tied to fences — And the ilk they’re from vanishes into an articulation of praise, and they syncopate in their bathing suits or denim jackets what amounts to a disinheriting of the population, or the outside. They go about thinking each other’s names and peopling their inquiry through whichever loss is newest. Could I be humanized according to them and go about dizzied by the turns of my affection prompting me to look first in this direction — O city that’s out west — and then in another — O other city that’s out east. I could be at risk of undergoing a kind of conversion here, or I shall just get a crick in my neck. I look at my travel plans, and nothing corresponds to the continual departures upon the rosy promise of their air kisses executed from afar between shy abyss and sentimental heaven. A vernacular to restore my rest — Sissies are held by the ankle outside windows of tall buildings — Others are inflicted with velocity — It’s not so much them “failing” all together but a matter of inheriting an order — and habitation whether the houses are removed or the hills depart — that withstands the enormity of their intelligence and care. My gladness is a momentary faded glimpse onto the long lost tranquil city expanse that enacted this request. Meanwhile, the sound of my head hitting the pavement is my contribution among the sissies in the call-and-response of industrious fevers hoping to raise a melodious standard against those who threaten us. Put the shame of my denials around my bare shoulders. I am so fair-skinned, the veins across my body rise to its surface bright blue.
Or is it a matter of grace and nature.
Step on necks and the necks will sanctify your kicks. Piss on ants and the ants will sanctify your piss.
In my Utah Street room, I sleep beneath a poster of Caravaggio’s Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy where the friar has fallen into the arms of an angel the instant after the stigmata are put through him. When I in bed find my attention turned toward him, I am often in pajamas, or less, after drinking, or pedaling hard from a ballgame or drag show and arriving fresh from my failure to level a paradise of urbanites, or steal affections. I mean that my soul can only find solace through transitory glimpses onto the prospect of spilling over my contours â€“ or having my contours penetrated by otherworldly force. So I labor, get, spend, wipe out, fatigue, ruin, rehabilitate, bandage, quake, worry, read the Psalms (ten at a time per David Brazil), think of Jack (Frost, then Spicer: How / Motherfucker can I sing a sad song / When I remember Zion?), and amount to a tower, rather, heap, of bones, aspiration, and genitals getting in the way when pedaling or designing angelic meditations in the slop of my habitat.
The date Francis receives the stigmata is September 14, 1224 in La Verna, Italy. Two months earlier, he brings a few minor friars — Brothers Leo, Masseo, Angelo, and Illuminato — to a hermitage there to fast and pray. Francis is saddened upon news that the holy emperor has decided to launch a new attack of Crusaders upon the Arabs at Damietta, including the sultan Francis befriended over several days of spiritual discourse five years earlier. It is while considering his Muslim friends in danger and the loosening of rules within his expanding order — through weeks of meditation and self-starvation — that a fiery vision kindles itself within the heart from which praise lifted. The vision is later spoken by the friars to be a man with six wings — two above the head, two stretched forth in flight, two veiling the entire body — nailed to a cross, seraphic and passive. Stilled beneath the vision, the founding friar rejoices and sorrows. The five injuries depicted in icons — one through each hand and foot, and a gash in the side — of this pretty harsh bashing, or zapping, are explained by hagiographers as occurring the other way around: they describe a wounding from inside on out stoked by full-hearted devotional imitation of Christ’s Passion. The friar spends the next two years, the last of his life, concealing and bandaging his open wounds as conversation with God — a servitude that began the moment of his conversion to the helpless and penniless holy fool and shaggy mess barely standing within the filth of his loving fervor. That is, he arrived to reveal a kind of grandeur.
To open an inquiry, I suggest that the damage put on me be expelled along my body’s surface by a salvific quiet. Monks are marginalized to offset the sins of the populace. I have been set apart even on my way to the billiards. That it could inhumanly belong to me and so absent me — The divinity behind Francis’s metamorphosis into a repository for violence is irrelevant to his human/insect/animal revolt and rigorous demonstrations of a meekness with which some of us naturally proceed. I want the sissies to be delivered into a benevolent humiliation, or swoon affirming a dizzying necessity to look back elsewhere. This is how somebody attained recognition as a sanctuary for the world and the violence done to him. He was quite aware of what he was going through.
Evan Kennedy is a poet and bicyclist who lives in San Francisco. He is the author of Shoo-Ins to Ruin (Gold Wake Press) and Us Them Poems (BookThug). Terra Firmament is forthcoming from Krupskaya.