In the Sea of Nun

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The next disability blog carnival is on the topic “Story”. Which is convenient because I had meant to post this poem soon. Like most of my poems, it wrote itself and I had to work out the possible meanings afterwards. Some parts were obvious — the first part alludes to specific conversations with professionals in my life. Other parts I only had a feel for and struggled to put it into words.

I noticed two really important aspects of this story. It’s about the difference between my life as experienced by me and my life as defined by everyone from professionals to random others around me. It’s also about the intense lifelong passivity that (despite the best efforts of the professionals who pathologized it) I have only recently begun to break out of. Someone online once aptly described it as “leaf in the wind”.

About the unfamiliar words used: Ghin and foom are nonsense words intended to serve as placeholders for certain ideas in the story. The sea of Nun is an actual part of ancient Egyptian folklore, although this story I am telling is not a part of that folklore and isn’t intended to correspond to anything other than certain aspects of the water itself.

In the Sea of Nun

You told me I didn’t know what water was
I told you, “There is more to the sea of Nun than you could ever guess”
But you told me words were the only way to wisdom
Do you know what life is like floating without fins or flippers to move yourself from here to there?
Do you know what it is like before those words you hold so dear?
Have you been blown around in the currents?
Have you had to make your life wherever the water took you?
I may have seemed like a sleepwalker to you
Without the parts you use to guide and steer
But part of me has always been wide awake

I sit alone, and time is gone
You come in, and turn into a blur of movement and sound
I am like a statue watching living people fly past
But when I’m alone, time stands still for me again

In between your words is silence
In that silence is the world
Beneath all your ideas things come together on their own

I am awake when you call me asleep
I have a voice when you call me silent
I can navigate where you see only chaos
(In the waters of Nun)

The lines are twisting underwater
I feel them spread and branch away
They twist around the corner
They wrap around me sideways
They double, triple, even more
They slide around and up and down
And still it all makes sense to me
Or maybe it makes me to sense
Either way this is my home
And there is life in the sea of Nun

One day I woke up
There was more than the sea
There was a strange place
I found myself there
I didn’t go there
Make no mistake
I just was here then there

How can I describe it?
You have always had a ghin
What is a ghin?
It’s what you’ve always had
I don’t have a ghin
Something else was built
But how can I describe the building?

You have a ghin
You can never know the steps it took
I didn’t build it
It built up like collecting dust
So the dust settled on me
More dust
More dust
More dust
More dust
Eventually the dust hurt
And more dust
(Ow)

And then a mound of dust
A mound shaped a little like a ghin
But it was not a ghin
I will call it a foom
My foom tried to be a ghin
It had not the parts of a ghin
And the foom hurt
And the foom hurt
And the foom hurt
And you said “She is alive, she has a ghin”

And they all danced around
They looked at the foom
They touched the foom
They said “She is alive, she has a ghin”

“Where did she come from?”
(He pointed to the sea of Nun)
“Oh surely not there”
“Nothing from there is alive”
“Nothing from there has shape”
“Nothing from there is real”
“Nothing from there has a ghin”

They set me in the shallow water until I floated
They poked me with long sticks
They watched me bob around
They laughed

I felt the currents underneath me
They could not feel those currents
To them there is only chaos in the sea of Nun
They saw the part of me that was above the water
I lived in the part of me below

And they pushed, and they pulled
And I floated side to side
And they clapped, and they laughed
And the sea of Nun became my tears

I stopped moving
They threw a rope and pulled
I washed up on the shore
They formed a circle around me
Then they drilled me full of holes

They filled each hole with a different machine
And they whirred and they clacked
And I buzzed and I bounced
But the machines all fell out
So they pushed me back in the sea of Nun

And there I stayed and there I dreamed
And there the currents pushed me round
And there I drifted, there I slept
Until I grew flippers

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About Mel Baggs

I am a highly sensing person. I am a child of earth and water, I was born into a redwood forest and I left the forest but it never left me. I'm 34 as I wrote this. If I had an alignment like in role-playing games and MUDs, I'd be chaotic good all the way: I don't think it's possible to fill ethics into a moral code, the world is far too complex for that. I let the world be complex and chaotic and try to respond situation by situation from a small number of principles of right and wrong. My responses may seem to contradict each other, but that will be because either the situation has changed, or I have changed. I am a poet who is trying to practice more every day, hence the poetry blog. I am a cat lover and live with a wonderful elderly cat. I am a painter when I have the time, energy, and resources. I have multiple cognitive, physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities, and my health is not usually stable. Put all together, I'd be considered severely disabled. I get a lot of assistance throughout the day. I am a real living cyborg, part human part machine: I have a GJ feeding tube to feed me through one tube and drain my stomach through the other,, an InterStim implant for urinary retention, and a port (a permanent central IV line). I love life. I think Love (not the sentimental emotion, but the property of the world) is the most important thing that human beings can offer each other. Being near death enough times has taught me that, and has also taught me that I have no time for bullies or pettiness. I'm involved in disabilty rights and other causes that people these days would call 'social justice', but I don't consider myself part of the 'SJ community' or the 'anti-SJ community' because of that thing I said about pettiness -- they're more about one-upmanship than fixing the world. I wish they had not taken over the words 'social justice', which used to mean something else. I love talking to just ordinary people about fixing the world, they have far more realistic ideas and more likelihood of putting them into practice. I'm a Hufflepuff to the core, with some Gryffindor tendencies and even a little bit of Ravenclaw. I admire some Slytherins but I don't have much ambition or cunning at all. I still think the Slytherin common room is second best, with Hufflepuff coming first. My favorite color is brown, especially when combined with a bit of yellow or blue. My favorite music is country, and my favorite country artists are Kathy Mattea, Lacy J. Dalton, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn. I don't like most new country but i occasionally hear something on the radio I like. At an early age, my family listened to country almost exclusively to the point where I thought all the different types of country were all the different types of music! I couldn't put Lacy J. Dalton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson in the same category. Although now that I've grown up I can hear that they are all country, but as a kid my ear was trained more for minute differences in country styles, than for recognizing country from other types of music. Country isn't all I like. Some other bands and artists I like: The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Rasputina, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Rich Mullins (I'm not Christian but some Christian music is amazing), ), The Raventones/T.R. Kelley, Planet P Project/Tony Carey, Sinead Lohan, Donna Williams, Suzanne Vega, Phideaux, and Jethro Tull, to name a few. I love the Cocteau Twins in particular because they are everything being sensing is about: Words are chosen for their sound, not their meaning, the voice becomes yet another instrument rather than a conveyor of words, raw emotion pours out of them, there are layers upon layers, and they were around for long enough there's lots of their music in a variety of different styles -- including their later stuff where the words have more meaning than just sounds. Each period in their music has its benefits and drawbacks but I love them all, or nearly so. Their music comes as close as any music can come to conveying how I experience the world, as what Donna Williams calls 'pattern, form, and feel'. And Elizabeth Fraser has a beautiful voice, I once had a teenage crush on her. As I type this, I have a cat sitting on my shoulder, cheek to cheek with me, peering around and occasionally rubbing me. My relationship to her goes back 15 years to when she was six months old, and we've rarely been parted since. It's been an honor to watch her grow into a wise but crotchety old lady cat. She knows she's technically older than me and tells me so sometimes, especially during arguments. She has trouble with the fact that there are parts of the human world I know better than she does. She sees me as her big, dumb kitten who needs protecting, and is beside herself with worry if I end up in the hospital (which seems to happen frequently these days). I don't experience myself as having a gender identity, I call it being genderless. You'll sometimes see the pronouns sie and hir in my work, they are gender-neutral pronouns pronounced 'see' and 'hear'. I was raised female, which gives me both disadvantages (outside the trans community) and advantages (inside the trans community). You don't have to remember my pronouns, lots of people have trouble with gender-neutral pronouns. I won't be upset with you. People make mistakes, and some people just can't get the hang of new words, and that's okay. I have vocabulary problems myself (mostly comprehension), I'm not going to penalize other people for having vocabulary problems of their own. Right now my father is dying of cancer that's metastatized so many places they can't figure out where it started, my mother has severe myasthenia gravis that can land her in the ICU (and she's my father's primary caretaker), my "second mother" (who took over when I grew up and my family didn't know how to prepare me for the world) has endometrial cancer, and my cat is getting old. All of this is bringing death to the forefront of my mind and my poetry. In fact I think I've been able to write more poetry because of all the feelings about so many people dying or with precarious health. It was easier to handle when it was me that was going to die (averted by diagnosis and treatment of severe adrenal insufficiency that'd been going on for years). It's harder when it's someone else, someone you love. My other hobby is crocheting, and a lot of the time if I'm not writing, it'll be hard to find me without a crochet hook or occasional knitting needles in my hands. I love to be able to make things. I have been making hats and scarves with spare yarn (which I have a lot of), and putting them in City Hall Park wrapped in plastic, with notes saying "If you're cold, take this." I know what it's like to be cold in the winter, and if anyone takes them and stays warm I'd be overjoyed. You may have noticed I'm long-winded. This is actually the result of a language disability that makes it difficult for me to leave out details, to see two almost-identical things as perhaps something that doesn't need repeating, and to summarize or condense down my writing. I know this is a flaw in my writing, and it even prevents me from reading it sometimes, but I've found no solutions. Sometimes on my longer posts I'll put a "TL;DR" ("too long; didn''t read") summary at the end in bold letters for people to skip down to.. But even those don't feel adequate, even when I can do theme, which is not always. I think I'm getting better though. Learning haiku and other short poetry forms helps me condense my words better. Anyway, I hope that gives you enough idea of who I am. At my most basic, I care about Love more than anything (whenever I come near enough to death, I feel like I get asked the question "Did you Love, and did you express that Love properly?"), but like everyone I get sidetracked into things that are much less important. I try to make my writing an expression of Love. Sometimes I succeed.

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