No woman can want freedom and have it dignified. The clothes made [Joan’s] life of high adventure and martial brilliance possible; she needed them, a sword, a horse, a banner, a king, a cause, all of which she got with an intransigence that is the mark of genius. The male clothing – the signifier and the enabler, signifying rebellion, enabling action – became the emblem of her distinct integrity for those who hated her. [Joan’s male clothing] characterized her virginity as militant: hostile to men who would want her for sex and hostile to female status altogether. The Inquisition did not honor Joan’s virginity: it was barely mentioned at her trial, except by her. The Inquisition did not accept Joan’s virginity as evidence of her love of God as it would indisputably accept virginity in feminine dress.
The women wear amulets with six stones, white sapphire, dark citrine, moonstone, ruby, blue sapphire and black diamond. The women wear it on chains faceted to a bail shaped as a mobius loop, unbreakable. A loose spiral always dancing. These amulets were made in the ancient way by a generation of carvers almost extinct. These amulets carved into wax molds, then transferred into plaster molds before the metal is poured, do not contain copper but are made of pure silver with several grams of gold. They are heavy, substantial, and smack the collarbone when leaning forward. The house shakes a little when these amulets dangle. The women wear these amulets in their own rooms, in courtyards, below dresses. They wear them to certain occasions, when amongst each other, or in need of a certain kind of protection. The amulets are ancient, have I mentioned it already? They are not adornment. They are futuristic. They are a little embarrassing too. How does a women who wanders not the desert but an every day slog, an office cubicle or a meridian airline route, how does a woman proclaim herself part of a vow to a hidden story?
Else Lasker Schüler wore turbans, lots of rubies and rings, satin gowns, fake snake amulets. She wore leather boots and silk stockings until they ripped. She made a lot of noise walking down the street, clanging and rattling, grinding her teeth. She wore a little make up, no wigs. She had a bag of accessories, flutes and triangles, poems and castanets.
Jewelry lends a kind of charm, a power. It lifts the skin and the eyelids covered in paint from some old chapped ruin close to the Mediterranean. Women walk in symbols and in stead. Their eyes are peeled and pearly. Beauty’s armory and tresses. Like language on a bench in an Edward Munch painting. The church bells and some English Rose opening in late summer sunlight. Schüler was out of place with her medieval wear, her Middle Eastern orientation, dark eyes chasing opium horses. Like historically confused Trieste. How to even begin to describe the city, which has been characterized by Hermann Bahr and others as a city of nowhere. Jan Morris wrote of the city’s geography as suggestive, always in the fold of the map. Where was I? My absent mindedness, my tired eyes are worn openly. I do not use make up or shields. I am a woman who has clothes that are badly folded and made from cheap materials. I am not aristocratic but I own a blue sapphire ring that is too heavy for my hands and rests in a box. Though I wore it once to the opera on New Year’s Eve in West Berlin. I can’t remember it very well. I was alone. The ring kept me company and at the end of the last act, when the bourgeois audience in their frocks and blouses began to applaud with their white and heavily armed hands, I made a mistake and rose, as a kind of attempt towards exuberance. I gave a standing ovation. The ring compelled me to do so. Then, out of nowhere, I suddenly felt two hands push me down, quite forcefully, back onto my seat. I turned around and an old woman, at least 80 years old, if not more, angrily continued to hit my back with her rings. I flashed the blue sapphire and yelled some obscenity. We almost ended in a fistfight but the seats began to empty, the show was over. I grabbed my handbag, then paused. We stared at each other for a long eternity and then silently exited the rows. I haven’t worn the ring since.
I did not mean to evoke Trieste as metaphor but my mind is crossing Europe again, as it does when depressed. I am contemplating whether to reveal something about myself, but more and more I am not sure that writing is about revelation. And yet, here it is all revealed, all hidden anew.
The amulet women live all over the world. They have never met. They all own the same amulets, except that each one was molded and poured uniquely. Some are lawyers, some are teachers, some mothers, some are booksellers, some caregivers, some live in the Welsh countryside, some in high-rises in Tel Aviv, some in a shrine, some in family homes in Maine. Some are druids, some are astrologers, some nomadic, some with gowns as long as the Adria, hair even longer. Some have daughters, some sons in the army, some lived through wars, some are living through storms, hurricanes, some buried their husbands, some buried their parents, some have art by San Starling on their walls, some collect clay pots, some knit, some bake bread, some light candles, some open their bodies at midnight for a special séance, some practice root cuttings, some lay the cards, some swear by cults, some visit churches, some draw in ancient geometric shapes. Some make daily collages, some sing, sit with the trees before sunrise. Some are with wombs, some without.
the planet was inevitably damaged - Dara Cerv
I imagine an amulet communicates across time and place and Trieste is Berlin and Berlin is the Black Sea and the Red Sea. Amulets are sacred not because of the metals only, the stones ripened for thousands of years, but also because they were stolen items, buried items, they were objects of great admiration, they belonged to women through time. Amulets vanished, the sword’s tip snatched them from necks.
Schüler, who traveled in her mind, in her writing, with her body, also a time traveler in search for a recasting, a reversal of some history she was born into, an undecipherable text written upon her skin and into her name. Her clothing a refusal of modernity, an embrace of its terrible wounds upon which she placed the emerald icon, stitched a cloth linen, some sacrosanct saint. The books women can’t touch are kept in amulets. To look at amulets is to look at a forbidden text kept inside the metals.
The women do not think about death, but they know that they will be buried with their amulets. It will be placed on their sternum, the wilting skin. Their bodies will be covered in silver, gold, turning earth. And the earth itself waxing into an amulet. Beset with tiny stones, an image at the center, which is the deepest ground, turns and the bail flowing and moving on its chain, unbreakable, around the neck of the night.
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