The Language Of The Body

Kathy Acker

I got married when I was very young. I did not know my husband...

The day after our wedding, I had a dream about the world:

At the entrance to the world, I was about to have an abortion.

I had had abortions before this.

I had to decide whether or not I wanted an anaesthetic. I guess that the doctor had asked me, but I don't remember that anyone was there. Thinking, I asked how much the abortion was going to hurt me. The doctor replied, "Oh, there'll be pain..." in a voice that was trying to dismiss such pain. Since I knew that that type of voice meant that there would be a lot of pain, I chickened out. The blanket that was lying on top of me was yellow. I hate pain. I decided on anaesthetic.

All through the abortion, I was kind of conscious. While I was in this consciousness, a pillow, which was around my ass, inflated and I floated three feet up above the cot.

After the abortion, my body was OK, so I left the hospital.

This was the scene of my marriage.

Then, I entered the real world (as opposed to that of the hospital). In a car. The car reached the end of the dirt road that lay beneath it: the main road began. At this spot, the man who was in the car with me informed me that I could drive.

But I had never driven a car. I began driving the black Bentley. To begin, I had to turn the car, but I had no idea how. Turning must have something to do with steering.

I was half-way into the turn and I couldn't see what was behind me.

"Don't worry about seeing:" my new husband said, "I'll do the looking."

I guess that he did because we, or I, successfully negotiated the huge Bentley onto a dirt road that led to our home.

Home was an army barracks.

There, in woods which, here and there, had been cleared, stood a number of cabin-like, but larger, buildings. My husband and I had to clear out of the one which had been relegated to us. this my husband?...I don't think that I know my husband well...likes to keep his guinea pigs outside the cabin, in the forest's damp.

My guinea pigs are always safe and warm.

After we had abandoned that part of the army that had once been our home, I entered a cabin named School. An older man in a uniform, who was sitting behind a desk which was the only furniture in that large, wooden room, turned around toward me and spoke German. An unknown language.

My husband answered him in German that the files were Japanese.

From this exchange, I learned, primarily, that we had to evacuate because the Germans were coming.

I knew that there weren't any Jap files in the school, therefore, that my husband was trying to fool the German. I wondered whether he had succeeded.

After that dream, my husband drove by the hotel in which we would spend our honeymoon. We hadn't known it at that time. Everything just happened by chance.

For we had been planning to go to England by train, then by boat, but the train had derailed. We had had to spend the night in Ostend.

We had had to wait through the night.

In Ostend, wherever that was, or at the end of the world, we found a hotel. It was rising out of the decay. The name of the hotel was "Etoile Rouge".

"It's rather dead this time of year," my husband said.

The insides were luxurious: in a lobby, a wide red- carpeted staircase, which resembled a slide, descended into Persian rug upon Persian rug. A fat clerk seemed to be the only person. He handed us the keys to the royal suite as if we mattered. Perhaps we did, for we were the only people here, in this area which the sun no longer visited.

The first time my husband had fucked me, I had grabbed for the beam which was above my head.

Afterwards I asked him whether he loved me.

He was falling into sleep. "No."

For the first time, he turned to me. "Do you love me?"

I didn't know what to answer because of how he had answered. "Of course I do."

He replied that everything is good: "I don't love you, you don't love me, therefore we were made for each other."

That night I dreamed, as if this hole was in a dream, that there was a magnificent family house open on every side to lawns which were rising upward.

I was given the room in which, from now on, I would be safe. For I was part of the family.

Nevertheless the evil people penetrated the house. In order to evade them, I climbed out a window.

Instead of reaching the outside where I would be safe, I found myself in a section of the grounds which had been closed-off into a parking lot.

I had to escape this parking lot so that the evil ones wouldn't get me.

The lot around which I was still wandering was either made out of dirt or sand. Either case, off-white. Lying some distance from the house, it retained its oval shape.

No grass grew within this space.

While I neither slowly nor quickly was climbing over the lot's fence, the evil ones grabbed me.

Now, inside this enclosure, people, the ones who had been living in the house, and the evil ones played baseball. Played baseball because they had religion. I joined their game, though I couldn't play well, and while I was in the outfield, I looked for a way, a hole through which I could escape.

I couldn't find any whole.

Next, in the enclosure which was a hole, the original inhabitants of the mansion, none of whom were Christian, were being tortured in ways that reminded me visually of the last scene in Salo.

I have been captured as if were a beast.

I wanted to run away from my husband.

The next morning turned blue, then red.

Afterwards, I descended into the hotel's lobby.

There was still no one there except for the clerk, Wrinkles had almost closed his eyes. I wandered over to one of the corners by the huge windows, away from the Persian carpets.

The emptiness of this lobby reminded me of animals. Though I adore them, I don't own any because I wouldn't remember to feed them.

Two women who seemed non-human walked into the hotel. The older was stunning, her hair absolutely white, dressed in black; after her, a boy who was actually a girl.

Whispering to the clerk who was shaking visibly, I asked who they were.

They are together.

Later that night, before I was able to meet them, I heard them talking to each other through the walls of their room.

"Let me go. Please. Let me go away." I knew that this was the younger voice.

"I'll never let you go, Kata."

The name was Kata.

"I'm going to leave you anyway."

"Not again." She was bored. The beautiful one.

"I'm going now."

"Kata, you don't have the ability to leave me."

"But you don't want me any more. You want that American girl who's in this hotel."

"And you need me."

I hadn't yet heard this conversation. To me, the white- haired woman in her black seemed to a jaguar, a jaguar inside a snake whose skin is three types of black.

It was as if she had once wrapped her scarf-belt around his monstrous head and in response, the cat, closing his eyes and placing the monstrous head in one of her hands, turned tame.

I felt as if the older woman was kissing me on the lips and I was very frightened.

I went upstairs, back to my husband, who had planned to visit Bruges where a number of murders had just taken place.

As usual he wore his sunglasses. We travelled through Bruges' labyrinths of canals until a dog started barking and sirens passed us by. We followed these sirens, away from the canal, to a mass of townspeople gathered around a white car.

A stretcher was leaving the vehicle.

A policeman muttered to my husband. "Oh monsieur, it is horrible...terrible...the fourth this week...young girls, all of them. Beautiful, too. This one has been lying here four days. Mutilated, like the rest...not a drop of blood."

My husband's blind eyes stared at no one.

For he was vulnerable. "I don't understand." To this policeman.

"None of us understands," the policeman said.

The stretcher was returning, on it a body which was invisible, a red blanket over the body.

It must be a girl like me.

They took it away in the white car.

As we travelled away from the city, in a wide bus, I confided in my husband that I was scared.

I informed him that I was scared of him. "Oh yes, Steven, you were pleased. You felt pleasure seeing the dead girl's body."

"You're pleased saying this. We're getting to know each other."

I let my head rest on his shoulder while one of my hands slowly undid his belt.

He didn't want me to touch him there.

On that bus, I fell into sleep and dreamed that I escaped Steven:

I had always known the city I was in, this city of murders, because it was my childhood. Narrow, filthy, dark streets, whose buildings are the same. Doors have decayed into walls.

It was the city in which I owned an apartment. Either I used to live here or I had never. The apartment, its insides, were decomposing like everything else. Three rooms, each the size of a piece of furniture. One-third of the bathroom was a shower stall, half rubble, without a bottom.

This tiny city part was bottomless.

I was now renting the apartment either to a punk or to a punk couple. If a punk and if I had lived in the apartment prior to my renting it, I lived with him. He had abandoned me. I feared that the filthy punk or punks were in the process of demolishing this architectural hole which was my cunt.

When I looked directly into my fear, I found it groundless. I fixed my apartment up and rented it to someone else for a hundred dollars a month above the mortgage payment.

I left the city in order to go into the country.

The first thing that I saw was a naked woman tossing a naked baby joyfully into the air. This, I thought, is how the people in Paradise live.

This country into which I had come, whose name was Marin, was like a country-club. A mosquito stung me. The swelling quickly metamorphosed into a tremendous wart. Since I didn't belong in paradise, I ran to a group of students who right then were climbing over a mountain and into view.

Though I recognized one of them, Dale, I couldn't stay with him because his cock was soft.

I had nowhere to go and no one to be. Then, I remembered that I owned this apartment where everything's falling apart. That was safety.

After I had dreamed, I no longer wanted to leave my husband.

We returned to the hotel at the end of the world.

Before we had left, the woman who had white hair had invited my husband and I to have dinner with her and her young friend.

"Let us put unpleasant things out of our minds..."

A policeman had just left the room.

"...Let us resume the conversation we were having before we were interrupted," she said. "Steve; you don't mind me calling you Steven, do you?"

I noticed that my husband was staring at the girl who looked like a boy. I saw he wanted her.

"Steven, I was just explaining to your wife about the Bathorys. Three hundred years ago...

"Klara Bathory had married four husbands in succession. She had murdered the first two. Afterwards, she took a lover who was much younger than her..."

Steven returned.

"She smothered the boy in castles. Then, a pasha captured him; while the former was skewering and roasting him on a spit, the entire garrison raped Klara. They cut through the throat of the woman who was still living.

"It is a violent society.

"Klara's niece was Ezebeth Bathory, more well known as The Scarlet Witch."

"She murdered almost 610 young women," her secretary added.

"Yes, she kidnapped young girls in order to get their blood."


"She hung them up by their wrists, then whipped them until their tortured flesh was torn to shreds." My husband spoke for the first time.

He, the Countess, and her friend were sitting together on a small sofa. I was perching on an armchair.

"Oh yes, and she clipped their fingers off with shears," -- the Countess.

"Pierced their nipples with needles, yes, then tore out the tips with silver pincers," -- my husband.

"Because human blood is an elixir," -- the Countess.

"...she bit them everywhere and pushed red hot pokers right into their faces..." -- my husband.


"And with the curses of witches...," said the young girl,

"And with the curses of witches, especially the sorceress Darvulia Anna, cut off pieces of their flesh, grilled them, then made them eat parts of their own bodies,"

"Go on go on go on." -- the girl.

"Kissed their veins with rusty nails," -- the woman whom I had desired.

"Go on go on go on," -- her lover

"...and when the young girls parted their lips in order to screech, she plunged the flaming rod into the caverns of the throats..." my husband began taking over...


"Your wife is very much in love with you, isn't she?" the countess asked him.

"How does the story end?" my husband replied.

I ran into one of the room's corners. I shivered because I didn't want to hear any more, but I couldn't stop.

"The cops walled her up in her room. Day after day and night after night, her beautiful, pale hands were held against each other as if in prayer...

"It was her as a child: As was the custom of the country in those days, her husband-to-be's mother had taken her away, at age eleven, from her wealthy fashionable world, when she was still gay, still full of hope, and placed her in the room of Protestantism where she was locked up, locked in, forbidden to see to hear to touch anything or anybody. From now on, her mother-in-law announced, your life is only to be Christianity and your husband. As soon as she could, this once-wealthy child reacted violently.

"One day, a mysterious woman disguised as a boy visited Ezebeth. Together they began torturing women whom Ezebeth loved..."

"...the lost dream..." -- the girl.

"How does the story end?" -- Steven.

"I don't want sexuality:" I yelled before this end had come, "I don't want to become diseased."...

I have run away from everyone.

But I can't bear no sex, no human communication.

I've begun a journey to make sex live, to find the relation between language and the body rather than this sexuality that's presented by society as diseased.

My body seems to reject ordinary language.

If I can find the language of the body, I can find where sex is lying.

While I masturbate, I'll try to hear the language that's there.

Masturbation Journal.

DAY 1.

(This might not make any sense.)

the movement in my clit is like going, {this
a movement, {is still
in a wave >>> my expectation {description

I haven't gone anywhere, to the realm, yet.

"strap" >>> it begins

There is nothing: it is here that language enters:

1. To calm the irritation. Just calm the irritation. Where is the opening, the door that opens?

Irritation is happy to be touched, but if it turns too expectant or excited without relaxing, it will become rigid.

The arising is a single, growing clit;

2. lose myself (beginning to lose myself)

3. becoming music. The more I become it, the more I trust it, hold on, just hold on, follow, don't have to do anything else.

4. purely holding on. Now, the more, the better. I'm there, I'm there, (have made the transfer to another person which is music)

going over.

DAY 2.

It starts with bodily irritation, but then one has to forget the body, leave the body, leave the body until the body quivers uncontrollably.

messages will reach me from the lost sailor.

Entering the room, the dust.

Room after room like levels of the body. Here is no dialectic.

In this room, everything hangs out: nipples scrape against air; buttocks thrust out so that the asshole is open, and all that was inside is now outside

now it starts. it: actual touching. This is the beginning of feeling.

DAY 3.

It happened very fast and I couldn't stop it (in order) to write. First, relaxing so that the ground, the body had become ground, was able to feel sensation. To do nothing else. Then, my clit was alive.

(Here's the problem with coming: One enters the territory whose threshold is coming and wants to stay there forever. While crossing the threshold, language is forbidden; having crossed, it's possible to have language.)

As soon as my body relaxed into only being receiver, I entered into music or began a journey that was rhythmic, wave-like, in time. For waves in time = music. Each time a wave falls, I'm able to feel more sensation. Why? Something to do with breathing. When a wave falls, I exhale. Then, at the bottom of exhalation, the physical sensation has to be (already allowable allowed) strong enough and wanting or desiring enough for the whole to turn into physical sensation; at this point, still desiring where there's no body left to become desire, at this point failure, the whole turns over into something else.

I have described the entrance into the other world where all is a kind of ease. This other world is also the world within dream.

Now I am going to go to the ball.

Here's a speech or dream about going to the ball:

In the beginning, I was sleeping with two women.

At first I didn't understand fucking with women. But the second time I fucked with one of them, I began to like the sex a lot.

One day, Rodney, a friend who's a drag-queen, invited me to a drag-queen ball. We were in a one-story beach house which was divided in three parts. I decided (though now I don't know why) to go to this ball as Patti Page. I said Patti Page, but I bet that meant Doris Day. (When I had been growing up, Doris Day in Pillow Talk was the most repulsive female there was.)

"Oh," said Rodney, "everyone's going to the ball."

To be Patti Page, I had to have the right wig.

My girlfriend returned to my bedroom which overlooked the ocean. When we made love, I sat on her and ground my cunt into hers. Afterwards, I travelled into the city because I had to go to the bank and to re-register. But I was too late in that location where the stars sit in darkness to accomplish any of these tasks on account of which I had decided to

And so I returned home...

Within the section of the tri-part building that was simultaneously walled and wall-less, the part next to the beach, my motorcycle was sinking into sands now more water than substance. The whole room was flooding as if from a cunt.

There the girl whom I despise most in this world, a skinny blonde, was putting clothes on. She told me she was going to the ball. But I still wanted to go. This ex-junky whose name was Kathy was attending the ball with her roommate.

Who was I going to go to the ball with? I remembered that I hated my loneliness.

If I'm going really to be Patti Page, I have to have a handbag just like my grandmother used to carry. Where am I going to find this kind of bag?

As I was looking for a bag, Rodney walked into the room. It was the large room that bordered both on the flooded room and on the beach. This room, unlike the other, possessed walls.

I hadn't known that Rodney was still in this house.

"Why don't you come with me?"

Suddenly, I had my period. This blood was brown and smelly. Actually it looked like shit. I was holding a tampax that was full of the stuff. Some had smeared itself over my left upper leg. I solved all these problems by plugging the hole up with a clean tampax.

Rodney told an old cleaning-lady who was now standing in the room that I was smelly. I was. Yuck. I wandered back, while I was beginning to wonder what dress I would wear, into the walled room and found deodorant Kotexes in a plastic garbage pail. They don't hurt the way that tampaxes do.

Now that I no longer smell, I can decide what I am going to wear. I have learned from Rodney to do what I want: I will dress in full formal.

And Rodney will be waiting for me, in the office located in the night at the end of the street, beyond a door marked by a black O.

Kathy Acker is a leading American writer. Among others, her books include Empire of the Senseless, Don Quixote, and Blood and Guts in High School. Her most recent book is entitled My Mother: Demonology.

The Language of the Body by Kathy Acker is reprinted by permission of the William Morris Agency, on behalf of the author. Copyright 1992 by Kathy Acker. All Rights Reserved.