The page numbering stops at 50 in Betsy Warland’s open is broken but the counting doesn’t. The table of contents gives the notes section to be at page 55 and if one counts there is indeed between poem and notes (including a leaf blank on both sides) the requisite number of pages. The counting also occurs in the numbered sections of the title poem. XVI is on page 50. And XVII and XVIII follow on unnumbered pages.
This textual condition is productive of meaning. I take as my key the two lines that open VI
bodies joined north and south
we are each other’s entrance
Those missing page numbers are entrances. They entrance. They make one give oneself over to the promise of an overcoming. It is not by accident that the page numbers disappear on a page where the poem invokes nirvana. A carnal nirvana.
The astute reader will observe that page numbers drop out earlier (take 25 and 26 for instance). A quirk of typography. So much for ascribing any special meaning. Or doing so in an easy fashion without a lot of hard work and rereading word by word. And lots of thinking about the process of progressing through a body of work and whether the infolding that happens on rereading can occur by other means.
The opening poem “induction” quotes from the last suite “open is broken” and the Roman numerals that seem at first to punctuate the text at random point to the passages that “induction” quotes from “open is broken”. I used the term point rather than mark for there is no word to announce the quotation’s source just a Roman numeral at the end of a stretch. Of course it could be the case that “open is broken” is quoting from “induction” — such textual reciprocity is to be expected in a lesbian feminist text. Watch as Warland works her wickedly witty magic on page 13
”kissing vulva lips
tongues torque way into vortext
leave syllables behind
sound we are sound
language: ‘lingua, tongue'”
Then set off on the next line justified with the end of the quotation is (VI) which is the passage in ‘open is broken” where it reappears but not as quotation.
One could read Warland’s project as losing the quotation marks or the scare quotes. There is a liberationist agenda at work. Something is to be abandoned.
The opening prose piece “untying the tongue” struggles with reclaiming as an unlearning:
the word is the act. when i abandon a word i relinquish the experience it calls up. yet, how can i use the word “intercourse” as a lesbian? and what do i say as a feminist, when in my deepest erotic moments words like “surrender” pulse in my head? a dictionary defines surrender as: “to relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion.” still, my body insisted, my instincts persisted/pulled me toward this word. it seemed full of life, and indeed, in IX, i find it is. the truth is in the roots.
And in IX one finds a diagramming of the etymology of the word “surrender” and the roots of roots to arrive at a meaning and image of deliverance and setting free. As well as a wry comment about code broken by fluency.
And so for day 1162