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.

Dear Herculine,

A Letter Against the Abstraction of Sex


{ A Letter Concerning Aristophones’s Speech from Plato’s Symposium }


                Aristophanes makes a comic myth out of heterosexual desire. He makes all bodies masculine and feminine. Distinct entities, wounded, in need. Two holes that need to be filled by each other’s polychromatic gut clay. Two abysses that need to eat and vomit primordial soup out of each other’s blood wombs. Two bodies falsely masculine and feminine, abstractly, the way x is a different variable than y, in a world where there is no overlap.


                Before bodies are cut in Aristophanes’s myth, gender is even more emphasized in its false binary. All of mankind starts off as a spherical whole, self-sufficient, powerful within the world. This spherical whole, the sphericity of these sexed creatures, reaches out into two heads, four arms, four legs, and two genitalia. They roll vigorously around the world sphere. Sphere around sphere. These “natural” bodies come in three types: male, female, and androgynous. Male-Male, Female-Female, or Male-Female. And even the androgynous mass has two perfect sets of genitals. Four round gonads. They are “perfect,” round bodies that replicate the “divine.”

                When the human spheres anger the god spheres they are severed into two selves, male and female. They crave each other in order to complete themselves, to reach at the perfection they once had. They crave the intermingling of their clay, polychromatic clay into polychromatic clay. And they hold each other, wound into wound. And those bodies re-affixed crave each other so hard they die of thirst and hunger. The clay completes their spherical abstraction, but it does not sustain their living frames.
                The gods pity their deaths because they need humans to give them offerings, so they give the bodies intercourse. Round genitals shoved into round genitals. They give them the need to fulfill their abstract monogamy physically, perfect genitals inserted into perfect genitals. These bodies that lie as they lie.


                What if we throw out this abstraction? What if we eject the perfection? What if everything deflates into corpse? What if death is the regular state of things? What if divinity is stripped from the equation? What if all of the spheres, all of the blebs inside of blebs, are equaled in their power? What if death foams? Material.

                Already dead, we reproduce in the soil like cicadas, black fluid out our asses, viperously biological. We are cicadas that are always already dying during intercourse, becoming fertilizer for the trees that house them. The weird energy that feeds the weird energy of the ecology. A black black blooded creature cult of organic velvet in a primordial cave collapsing the very shape of the cave itself. A liquid asexuality caught in a grind. A slug inquisition. A corpse pastiche of unruly, humid animal intimacy.


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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