MERCY
by Andrea Dworkin

Copyright © 1990, 1991 by Andrea Dworkin.
All rights reserved.
Excerpt from Chapter Nine

In October 1972 (Age 27)

I can't even close my eyes now frankly but I think it's because I'm this whatever it is, you can have sophisticated words for it but the fact is you can be sleeping inside with everything locked and they get in and do it to you no matter how bad it hurts. In magazines they say women's got allure, or so they call it, but it's more like being some dumb wriggling thing that God holds out before them on a stick with a string, a fisher of men. The allure's there even if you got open sores on you; I know. The formal writing problem, frankly, is that the bait can't write the story. The bait ain't even barely alive. There's a weird German tradition that the fish turned the tables and rewrote the story to punish the fisherman but you know it's a lie and it's some writer of fiction being what became known as a modernist but before that was called outright a smartass; and the fish still ain't bait unless it's eviscerated and bleeding. I just can't risk it now but if I was a man I could close my eyes, I'm sure; at night, I'd close them, I'm sure. I don't think my hands would shake. I don't think so; or not so much; or not all the time; or not without reason; there's no reason now anyone can see. My breasts wouldn't bleed as if God put a sign on me; blessing or curse, it draws flies. Tears of blood fall from them; they weep blood for me, because I'm whatever it is: the girl, as they say politely; the girl. You're supposed to make things up for books but I am afraid to make things up because in life everything evaporates, it's gone in mist, just disappears, there's no sign left, except on you, and you are a fucking invisible ghost, they look right through you, you can have bruises so bad the skin's pulled off you and they don't see nothing; you bet women had the vapors, still fucking do, it means it all goes away in the air, whatever happened, whatever he did and however he did it, and you're left feeling sick and weak and no one's going to say why; it's just women, they faint all the time, they're sick all the time, fragile things, delicate things, delicate like the best punching bags you ever seen. They say it's lies even if they just did it, or maybe especially then. I don't know really. There's nothing to it, no one ever heard of it before or ever saw it or not here or not now; in all history it never happened, or if it happened it was the Nazis, the exact, particular Nazis in Germany in the thirties and forties, the literal Nazis in uniform; when they were out of uniform they were just guys, you know, they loved their families, they paid off their whores, just regular guys. No one else ever did anything, certainly no one now in this fine world we have here; certainly not the things I think happened, although I don't know what to call them in any serious way. You just crawl into a cave of silence and die; why are there no great women artists? Some people got nerve. Blood on cement, which is all we got in my experience, ain't esthetic, although I think boys some day will do very well with it; they'll put it in museums and get a fine price. Won't be their blood. It would be some cunt's they whispered to the night before; a girl; and then it'd be art, you see; or you could put it on walls, make murals, be political, a democratic art outside the museums for the people, Diego Rivera without any conscience whatsoever instead of the very tenuous one he had with respect to women, and then it'd be extremely major for all the radicals who would discover the expressive value of someone else's blood and I want to tell you they'd stop making paint but such things do not happen and such things cannot occur, any more than the rape so-called can happen or occur or the being beaten so bad can happen or occur and there are no words for what cannot happen or occur and if you think something happened or occurred and there are no words for it you are at a dead end. There's nothing where they force you; there's nothing where you hurt so much; there's nothing where it matters, there's nothing like it anywhere. So it doesn't feel right to make things up, as you must do to write fiction, to lie, to elaborate, to elongate, to exaggerate, to distort, to get tangled up in moderations or modifications or deviations or compromises of mixing this with that or combining this one with that one because the problem is finding words for the truth, especially if no one will believe it, and they will not. I can't make things up because I wouldn't know after a while what's blood, what's ink. I barely know any words for what happened to me yesterday, which doesn't make tomorrow something I can conceive of in my mind; I mean words I say to myself in my own head; not social words you use to explain to someone else. I barely know anything and if I deviate I am lost; I have to be literal, if I can remember, which mostly I cannot. No one will acknowledge that some things happen and probably at this point in time there is no way to say they do in a broad sweep; you describe the man forcing you but you can't say he forced you. If I was a man I could probably say it; I could say I did it and everyone would think I made it up even though I'd just be remembering what I did last night or twenty minutes ago or once, long ago, but it probably wouldn't matter. The rapist has words, even though there's no rapist, he just keeps inventing rape; in his mind; sure. He remembers, even though it never happened; it's fine fiction when he writes it down. Whereas my mind is getting worn away; it's being eroded, experience keeps washing over it and there's no sea wall of words to keep it intact, to keep it from being washed away, carried out to sea, layer by layer, fine grains washed away, a thin surface washed away, then some more, washed away. I am fairly worn away in my mind, washed out to sea. It probably doesn't matter anyway. People lead their little lives. There's not much dignity to go around. There's lies in abundance, and silence for girls who don't tell them. I don't want to tell them. A lie's for when he's on top of you and you got to survive him being there until he goes; Malcolm X tried to stop saying a certain lie, and maybe I should change from Andrea because it's a lie. It's just that it's a precious thing from my mother that she tried to give me; she didn't want it to be such an awful lie, I don't think. So I have to be the writer she tried to be -- Andrea; not-cunt -- only I have to do it so it ain't a lie. I ain't fabricating stories. I'm making a different kind of story. I'm writing as truthful as the man with his fingers, if only I can remember and say; but I ain't on his side. I'm on some different side. I'm telling the truth but from a different angle. I'm the one he done it to. The bait's talking, honey, if she can find the words and stay even barely alive, or even just keep the blood running; it can't dry up, it can't rot. The bait's spilling the beans. The bait's going to transcend the material conditions of her situation, fuck you very much, Mr. Marx. The bait's going way past Marx. The bait's taking her eviscerated, bleeding self and she ain't putting it back together, darling, because, frankly, she don't know how; the bait's a realist, babe, the bait's no fool, she's just going to bleed all over you and you are going to have to find the words to describe the stain, a stain as big as her real life, boy; a big, nasty stain; a stain all over you, all the blood you ever spilled; that's the esthetic dimension, through art she replicates the others you done it to, gets the stain to incorporate them too. It's coming right back on you, sink or swim; fucking drown your head in it; give in, darling; go down. That's the plan, in formal terms. The bait's got a theory; the bait's finding a practice, working it out; the bait's going to write it down and she don't have to use words, she'll make signs, in blood, she's good at bleeding, boys, the vein's open, boys, the bait's got plenty, each month more and more without dying for a certain long period of her life, she can lose it or use it, she works in broad strokes, she makes big gestures, big signs; oh and honey there's so much bait around that there's going to be a bloodbath in the old town tonight, when the new art gets its start. You are going to be sitting in it; the new novel; participation, it's called; I'm smearing it all over you. It ain't going to be made up; it ain't going to be a lie; and you are going to pay attention, directly, even though it's by a girl, because this time it's on you. If I find a word, I'll use it; but I ain't waiting, darling, I already waited too long. If you was raised a boy you don't know how to get blood off, you're shocked, surprised, in Vietnam when you see it for the first time and I been bleeding since I was nine, I'm used to putting my hands in it and I live. You don't give us no words for what's true so now there's signs, a new civilization just starting now: her name's not-cunt and she's just got to express herself, say some this and that, use what's there, take what's hers: her blood's hers; your blood's hers. Here's the difference between us, sweet ass: I'm using blood you already spilled; mine; hers; cunt's. I ain't so dirty as to take yours. I don't confuse this new manifesto with being Artaud; he was on the other side. There are sides. If he spills my blood, it's art. If I put mine on him, it's deeply not nice or good or, as they say, interesting; it's not interesting. There's a certain -- shall we understate? -- distaste. It's bad manners but not rude in an artistically valid sense. It's just not being the right kind of girl. It's deranged but not in the Rimbaud sense. It's just not being Marjorie Morningstar, which is the height to which you may aspire, failed artist but eventually fine homemaker. It's loony, yes, it's got some hate in it somewhere, but it ain't revolutionary like Sade who spilled blood with style; perhaps they think a girl can't have style but since a girl can't really have anything else I think I can pull it off; me and the other bait; there's many styles of allure around. Huey Newton's my friend and I send ten percent of any money I have to the Black Panthers instead of paying taxes because they're still bombing the fucking Vietnamese, if you can believe it. He sends me poems and letters of encouragement. I write him letters of encouragement. I'm afraid to show him any of my pages I wrote because perhaps he's not entirely cognizant of the problems, esthetic and political, I face. I look for signs in the press for if he's decent to women but there's not too much to see; except you have to feel some distrust. He's leading the revolution right now and I think the bait's got to have a place in it. I am saying to him that women too got to be whole; and old people cared for; and children educated and fed; and women not raped; I say, not raped; I say it to him, not raped. He's saying the same thing back to me in his letters, except for the women part. He is very Mao in his poem style, because it helps him to say what he knows and gives him authority, I can see that, it makes his simple language look strong and purposeful, not as if he's not too educated. It's brilliant for that whereas I am more lost; I can't cover up that I don't have words. I can't tell if raped is a word he knows or not; if he thinks I am stupid to use it or not; if he thinks it exists or not; because we are polite and formal and encouraging to each other and he doesn't say. I am working my part out. He is taking care of the big, overall picture, the big needs, the great thrust forward. I am in a fine fit of rebellion and melancholy and I think there's a lot that's possible so I am in a passion of revolutionary fire with a new esthetic boiling in me, except for my terrible times. The new esthetic started out in ignorance and ignominy, in sadness, in forgetting; it pushed past sadness into an overt rebellion -- tear this down, tear this apart -- and it went on to create: it said, we'll learn to write without words and if it happened we will find a way to say so and if it happened to us it happened. For instance, if it happened to me it happened; but I don't have enough confidence for that, really, because maybe I'm wrong, or maybe it's not true, or how do you say it, but if it happened to us, to us, you know, the ones of us that's the bait, then it happened. It happened. And if it happened, it happened. We will say so. We will find a way to say so. We will take the blood that was spilled and smear it in public ways so it's art and politics and science; the fisherman won't like the book so what's new; he'll say it ain't art or he'll say it's bullshit; but here's the startling part; the bait's got a secret system of communication, not because it's hidden but because the fisherman's fucking stupid; so arrogant; so sure of forever and a day; so sure he don't listen and he don't look and he says it ain't anything and he thinks that means it ain't anything whereas what it means is that we finally can invent a new alphabet first, big letters, proud, new letters from which will come new words for old things, real things, and the bait says what they are and what they mean, and then we get new novels in which the goal is to tell the truth deep truth. So make it all up, the whole new thing, to be able to say what's there; because they are keeping it hidden now. You're not supposed to write something down that happened; you're supposed to invent. We'll write down what happened and invent the personhood of who it happened to; we'll make a language for her so we can tell a story for her in which she will see what happened and know for sure it happened and it mattered; and the boys will have to confront a new esthetic that tells them to go suck eggs I am for this idea; energized by it. It's clear that if you need the fisherman to read the book -- his critical appreciation as it were -- this new art ain't for you. If he's got what he did to you written on him or close enough to him, rude enough near him, is he different, will he know? I say he'll have to know; it's the brilliance of the medium -- he's it, the vehicle of political and cultural transcendence as it were It's a new, forthright communication -- they took the words but they left your arm, your hand, so far at least; it could change, but for now; he's the living canvas; he can refuse to understand but he cannot avoid knowing; it's your blood, he spilled it, you've used it on him It's a simplicity Artaud failed, frankly, to achieve. We'll make it new; epater the fuckers. Then he can be human or not; he's got a choice, which is more than he ever gave; he can put on the uniform, honest, literal Nazi, or not. The clue is to see what you don't have as the starting place and you look at it straight and you say what does it give me, not what does it take; you say what do I have and what don't I have and am I making certain presumptions about what I need that are in fact their presumptions, so much garbage in my way, and if I got rid of the garbage what then would I see and could I use it and how; and when. I got hope. I got faith. I see it falling. I see it ending. I see it bent over and hitting the ground. And, what's even better is that because the fisherman ain't going to listen as if his life depended on it we got a system of secret communication so foolproof no scoundrel could imagine it, so perfect, so pure; the less we are, the more we have; the less we matter, the more chance we get; the less they care, the more freedom is ours; the less, the more, you see, is the basic principle, it's like psychological jujitsu except applied to politics through a shocking esthetic; you use their fucking ignorance against them; ignorance is a synonym in such a situation for arrogance and arrogance is tonnage and in jujitsu you use your opponent's weight against him and you do it if you're weak or poor too, because it's all you have; and if someone doesn't know you're human they're a Goddamn fool and they got a load of ignorance to tip them over with. You ain't got literature but you got a chance; a chance; you understand -- a chance; you got a chance because the bait's going to get it, and there's going to be a lot of wriggling things jumping off God's stick. I live in this real fine, sturdy tenement building made out of old stone. They used to have immigrants sleeping in the hallways for a few pennies a night so all the toilets are out there in the halls. They had them stacked at night; men sleeping on top of each other and women selling it or not having a choice; tenement prostitution they call it in books, how the men piled in the halls to sleep but the women had to keep putting out for money for food. They did it standing up. Now you walk through the hall hoping there's no motherfucker with a knife waiting for you, especially in the toilets, and if you have to pee, you are scared, and if you have to shit, it is fully frightening. I go with a knife in my hand always and I sleep with a knife under my pillow, always. I have not had a shit not carrying a knife since I came here. I got a bank account. I am doing typing for stupid people. I don't like to make margins but they want margins. I think it's better if each line's different, if it flows like a poem, if it's uneven and surprising and esthetically nice. But they want it like it's for soldiers or zombies, everything lined up, left and right, with hyphens breaking words open in just the right places, which I don't know where they are. I type, I steal but less now, really as little as possible though I will go to waitress hell for stealing tips, I know that, I will be a prisoner in a circle of hell and they will put the faces of all the waitresses around me and all their shabby, hard lives that I made worse, but stealing tips is easy and I am good at it as I have been since childhood and when I have any money in my pocket I do truly leave great chunks of it and when I am older and rich I will be profligate and if I ever go broke in my old days it will be from making it up to every waitress alive in the world then, but this generation's getting fucked unavoidably. Someday I will write a great book with the lines moving like waves in the sea, flowing as much as I want them. I'm Andrea is what I will find a deep way to express in honor of my mama who thought it up; a visionary, though the vision couldn't withstand what the man did to me early; or later, the man, in the political sense.



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