she has always been able to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
we were watching a documentary with her last night, watching this performance, and A said “she was wasted on those germans.” A likes to have a poke at germans, which i graciously rebut on their behalf. but i could see his point. the journalists made my teeth grind, with their clipped analyses of her music—as if soul were a thing, like a particular cut of suit. later in this performance she called up some of the audience onto the stage and their hesitancy was painful. they bobbed around her like corks, not quite dancing, not quite sure what to do.
this is what you do: when she summons you, you dance yourself into a frenzy, and then you fall down onto your knees and you worship that voice.
the funny thing was: last night, i could see it quite clearly. her voice. a white mass at the base of her diaphragm, radiating outwards, encompassing the base of her spine and her uterus and her belly, spilling out into her pelvic bowl and then shooting up her throat to pour and pour out of her mouth. the universe inside her jaws. i was sober, i was tired, yet i could see her voice.
i haven’t seen like that, felt such a clarity of vision, since i was in my early twenties, which was a long time ago.
these past 18 months have felt like a door slowly creaking open in my head, from where it had been rusted with disuse. there are moths and cobwebs inside, it smells of mildew and is long overdue for an airing out. but it is open, and i am so so thankful for this.
thinking now this morning of one of the things janis said: how singers like billie holiday can wring whole emotions out of a small, small range, she could only go from A to B and yet she could make you weep in that tiny space. i’ve got strength, she said, but i hope if i keep singing i can do something like that.
or words to that effect. even for the janis joplins of the world, there is always further to go.
it reminded me, then and now, that strength is only a beginning. it’s only a base to build on. all this talk about strong characters, kickass characters, the blooming trope of the strong female protagonist—that is where you begin. that is not the end, not the result. it’s only the beginning; it is what gives you the courage and the tenacity to try and find that point between A and B where you can make another person vibrate at your frequency—whether it be to heal them or destroy them.
when elisabeth comes through that ball, then, at the end of book 1: strength, being funneled into art. closing and opening doors. and that thing in your belly, in the bowl of your pelvis which is the bowl of the earth and the sky and the universe, that fist-sized core starting to glow.