The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Dear Herculine by Aaron Apps

This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Dear Herculine by Aaron Apps, released by Ahsahta Press. This book is a hybrid epistolary memoir addressed to Herculine Barbin, the 19th-century French intersexual whose memoirs were discovered and republished by Michel Foucault.

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            The first thing I notice while reading your memoirs, Herculine, is that the moment they expose your gender to the world is the moment you become an outcast, incapable of securing work, incapable of being with your lover. And that leads to melancholy. And that leads to death. And this book is written from death. And what if we are already biological? What if we are already compost? What shame is there in standing naked in front of an animal in a room? What shame is there in standing naked in front of a mirror? What shame is there in sitting down to piss out of a stunted phallus? What shame is there in shame?

            Certain things are necessary because they are almost nauseating, and this seems to be the case in moments when shame is so sharp it makes you shiver a dark thought out your animal eyes. Such moments bulge with vulgarity and demand to be unfolded like complicatedly pleated and re-pleated fabric taken out of a box like an explosive accordion until it fills the entire room. In this letter I am a grotesque puppet unfolding the entire universe. I dance perversely and my limbs flit like a raucous sac of sex, and as I dance my tongue snakes out, twitches epileptic. The folds in the fabric hold melancholy. Melancholy (n.) a long lasting sadness. Melancholy (n.) a black bile. The box from which I unfold the fabric is my guts, my greasy flesh that unfolds in an inhuman mode.

Aaron Apps is the author of INTERSEX (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2015) and DEAR HERCULINE, winner of the 2014 Sawtooth Poetry Prize from Ahsahta Press. He is currently a doctoral student in English Literature at Brown University where he studies poetry and poetics, sexual somatechnics, animacy, hybrid forms, and the history of intersex literature. His writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Pleiades, LIT, Washington Square Review, Puerto del Sol, Columbia Poetry Review, and Blackbird.


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