You Are Not Alone
The Johnstone Fund for New Music and the Women Composers Festival of Hartford in honor of its 19th annual festival
March 30, 2019 by The Nouveau Classical Project at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, CT.
May 22, 2019 by the Columbus Ohio Discovery Ensemble at the Short North Stage in Columbus, OH.
Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Violoncello, and Piano
The story behind the piece co-composed with Jennifer Jolley and I for The Big SCORE, or Why Scott Wasn't On Stage.
The deal was I’d write a poem and Jennifer would compose a piece to/for/around/alongside it, whatever we came up with. At our first meeting, we basically fumbled around graciously, trying to accommodate each other with statements like, “Whatever you’d like it to be” and “I really respect you so much, so whatever you want to do.” Finally I asked her if there was anything she was particularly invested in at the moment, and she said the #MeToo movement. And that was it. I was doing a #MeToo poem, end of discussion.
Months later, I sent her the poem and said if there is a word of it that you cannot stand behind 100%, let's change it. It didn't even have a proper title. My only stipulation was that if we could get around having me perform it, we should, because women should have as much agency as we could manage with the performance. The ensemble was 90% women musicians, performing a piece composed by a woman, in a concert in part conceived and produced by a woman (Zoe Borresen Johnstone), doing a piece about the #MeToo movement. No way was I standing on stage with all of that glorious moment to be shared mansplaining all night. Jennifer took the poem and came back months later with a recording that blew my mind away.
And the rest is her-story.
I was asked by both Jack and Zoe Johnstone and the Women Composers Festival of Hartford to write a new chamber piece for them. The Johnstones set me up with writer Scott Woods and the Women Composers Festival had me working with The Nouveau Classical Project.
Both Scott and I write about subjects that are political (which is probably why Jack and Zoe paired us together), so we brainstormed what kind of piece we would write together.
It was around this time that Christine Blasey Ford gave her statement on how Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. For my own well-being I couldn’t watch or listen to the hearings.
I told Scott that these hearings deflated and dehumanized me to my core. I couldn’t understand why women are not believed. Why do we women have to quantify our experiences and prove our human worth? And with this in mind, Scott wrote his poem.
You are not alone.
We want this to ring in the temple of one voice,
a choir of one throat,
But in the trenches of empire it only explodes,
only burns, an echo in robes,
the uniform of the quietest war ever fought,
the raiment of a religion of whispering no.
You are not alone and are utterly alone
at once, and twice, someone told you
you were beautiful and should smile more
and it was a sermon like a branding iron on your cheek.
You have proven you have
no idea what no means
so let us discuss yes.
Let us discuss space and who it belongs to
Let us discuss the yes of mornings spent in eyes.
Let us discuss the slick of yes, the craning neck
to see the yes born of you, the yes grown from you
like a knowing hibiscus filled with
the wines of yes in its roselle cups.
Let us discuss the phases of yes like a new moon
that does not know its orbit or name.
Then let us discuss it all like we do not know
anything about ourselves.
Explain it to us again. Yes, once more.
Let us discuss how the way we speak to this
is all between-channel static
and noise made white from scrubbing away its truth
until it gleamed with agenda and circumstance
and all the blindness of the hungry score.
Let us peel back that moment,
when you said what you said and did what you did,
take the onion skin down to rind,
down to tear and salt suck and
the umami of a braised ego.
Peel and peel again to the quick,
to the meat, to the heart, to the time
when you were where you want me to be
when you were what you want me to be
a divining rod that only knows the heat of no,
when you were me too
and you hid it, kept it like a ring of Hell on your finger,
married it, live with it, growing in hate with it,
seeing it as you see them all now.
There is no Virgil to guide you,
no Charon coin needed to cross.
When all the world bends to you
you need no guide, no tour, no path.
Everywhere you step is the way of man,
and man is in every step of the way.
Let us walk into the place where
every man is a missile and a landmine and a
river of species and kiss and clutching.
Let us walk into the armory of patriarchy
and pick petals from its bullet belts and treads
mottled with the open arms of all the women
it has conquered.
Let us walk there, now, tomorrow.
You can never be late.
Let us walk anywhere.
You can never be late to a place that is always open,
That is always working.
A minefield never sleeps.