Chloto   1978*

Michèle Causse

"Neither honey nor bee for me."


Once Violette Leduc iced her into a frame:

Chloto certainly has personality too much personality she is all bones and angles her eyes are the pale eyes of fakirs they see through you at the same time they laugh she is something of a visionary and of a babbling brook her straight nose is a guide and an enlightener Chloto has plenty of character she has chosen the world of books and besides? Her face is an ascetic one and a sensual one her mouth is wide and demanding the nostrils dilate at the thought of sex and texts chloto is very slender her shoulders are broad her hands are long and thin they cannot wait to cut the pages Chloto is a mixture of concrete and abstract she gets exalted when she controls herself she controls herself when she gets exalted she wears a boy's blond wig the cut is stylish the fringe slanting and well marked it is her own hair she vibrates when she expresses herself. **

Text has outlived sex.
Her whisking nerves anchored to dusty shelves Chloto whispers
                      MEMORY IS BUT THE TEST OF WISDOM
Unclaimed her body is the hollow echo-chamber of seven words her only grant to enliven and sicken a seven years confinement but a seven words compost may grow strange carrols on a barren she-land wailing sounds rising out of the foul breast exposed to one long lasting puzzle for
A dead Airedale by her side Chloto played with chance as her only baiting needle
                                                                                                woman would be the battle
lantern at the end of the trackless journey and
Unburdening when crossroads permit she wails:
"Too long a love kills love and if now my body is an abstraction getting rid of its flesh at the mere clapping of my hands it was for a spanless time
                                                (a thousand nights and a hundred days)
the very kernel of every performance and achievement
Flesh laid the ambush
Then one day I met the one woman who was to become my steady Icon my body stood as erect and hieratic as a worm-eaten statue and though beaming forth many hallelujahs I was turned into a stiff and stilted sheet hanging on a winter morning wire an inside flame was burning me to embers but that piece of fleshy meat did not register one shiver thus revealing that hitherto

                              OUR BODY IS NOT POLITICAL
but liable to play the worst tricks on us
A mongrel cur and a beggar it is the traitor we feed with our sweat and blood to see it
                                                                          (in a first class Roman whore-hotel)
twisting and wriggling and sighing under the weight of a woman we met half an hour before both a snob and a fascist but the very rascal we needed to be choked and checked by our entangling contradictions
Our body is not a sing-song but the rope we fling to our neck when the time is ripe
Then we from ourselves banished and banning the Beloved One
                                             (her Icon face a bronze lamento cast)
                                                                                                      we run away
with winged ass and twat to meet our underdog rejoicing and whining
One of these Amazons I fell for
                                                            (I was then browsing oblivion in Tuscany)
            after trulling and piercing my loop-hole gave me twenty dollars and made me cry with relief: was she not forever pawning my gratitude and my bottom with this wise trampling of clinging clichés and
should we not indeed expel and dispel them with the hauling and hissing help of any daring woman eager to suck our four lips while we entrust our dizzy and giddy love weep to her ears?
Vomiting the jelly capsules ready for Mobfuck we finally get an insight into our untaught anatomy and find out sex is not a stranded organ hidden down the navel
                        (a "much thumbed mystery and a maze")
                                                but an epidemic gale we harbour in our chest which can be quenched and quelled only by the whacking of two baited eyes for

open shut visible invisible clear dark code breakers blinding protruding evidence of an Amazon alphabet still to be told
Woe betide me if I did not lay a bet on women when crooning on their laps

Seven centuries later what was at stake when indifferent to my own repleted body
                                                                              (only wincing at the Icon’s seven words)
            dazed and dazzled I caught in women's eyes the known recognition glint and found myself as ferocious as the buccaneer’s lash? When voices a mock repetition of mine ordered make-love-to-me while love I knew had nothing to do with this untaming of the eddy winds
A hermit and a monk endowed
                                                                                                            with empathic guts I did unloosen the ebb and flow of many sighs and did sporadically play man’s farcical part

but I must confess I now enjoy my everyday talk with my skeleton and readily accept the fact that my body is a sore with seven openings
                                                                        (as the Bhagavad-gita did not say since nine is the orthodox number)
                                                            and if my Fatum is to add a wound every year until parting time I shall go on counting my blessings and wait for the Striking Hour."

*from Lesbiana, seven portraits. Perigueux: Le Nouveau Commerce, 1980.            
**A portrait of the author (under the name of "Hortense") from Violette Leduc's La Chasse à l'Amour. Translation Michèle Causse.

working notes

I was glad to write Lesbiana, seven portraits in English because it revealed a dimension of myself I could not express in French (father tongue). English for me is the language of "intimacy." Paradoxical, maybe.

I fear nothing has changed . . . I could write "Chloto" today. But this precise character could not live this story anymore because the political process of her mind would not even envision as desirable the person Chloto fell in "lust" with. "Chloto" portrays one facet, one of the possibilities, of love as we misunderstand it: romance, devastation, alienation. The relation it portrays is more a "homosexual" than a lesbian one. But rarely in life can one have love and lust, not dichotomized, but one and only one. In my work Parenthesis, one can see the holistic meaning of love and its revelatory content.

The epiphany of love is evidence that lesbians immediately recognize and honour. And this evidence supposes that senses and sense carry on indefinitely and open to a new language of emotions, a new vocabulary to stigmatize the viriocracy we live in, and, finally, to new proposals for a philogynic, ethical world (see my book Contre le sexage, 2006, Balland).

about the author

As predestined by her name, Michèle Causse was born on the causses of Lot in France. She lived in France, Tunisia, Italy, Martinique and the US before emigrating to Canada where she published four of her main works. Her books include L'Encontre, (   ), Voyages de la Grande Naine en Androssie, a collection of essays Les oubliées de l'oubli and most recently Contre le sexage, a theoretical work on language and lesbian creativity. She has translated some thirty novels out of English and Italian, among them those of Djuna Barnes, Jane Bowles, and Herman Melville. She has also translated works by Mary Daly, Gertrude Stein, Alice Munro, Pavese, and Natalia Ginzburg. She now lives in the southwest of France.

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archive issue

issue 3 • February 2006
Couples, watercolor and pastel by Suzanne Langlois

love & lust


Lise Weil
Conversation with Michèle Causse

Michèle Causse
Chloto   1978

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
The Woman with the Secret Name

Harriet Ellenberger
She is Still Burning

Eve Fox
In The Beginning

Riva Danzig

Carolyn Gage
When Sex Is Not the Metaphor for Intimacy

Susan Moul

Bonnie St. Andrews
Quotidian Love
Deirdre Neilen

Lise Weil

Betsy Warland
After Sappho's Fragments. Tips for Natural Disasters, Said Before

Lou Robinson
A Lesbian is a Memoir

Notes on Contributors

Couples, watercolor and pastel by Suzanne Langlois.


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