GOLD // Words by Christen Clifford
***SOME IMAGES BELOW ARE NOT SAFE FOR WORK (NSFW)***
Photographed by Meg Wachter
GOLD is a chemical element with the symbol Au. From the Latin Aurum. Its atomic number is 79. It occurs naturally, and is soft and malleable. It’s dense. Not dense motherfucker, dense. As I get older I want more gold jewelry. Silver was for my 20’s and 30’s. I’m in my 40’s, I want some fucking gold. Like 90’s hip hop chains. Not this delicate stuff I see in all the magazines. I want to take what meager savings I have and buy gold jewelry. I think it’s prudent in this fucked up time. I can shove it up my cunt when they come after me. Or up my ass. Or swallow it. Oh I guess those delicate chains with initials would come in handy then.
What does gold mean? The symbolism wiki tells me that GOLD contains the word “old.” We say, “They are in their golden years after their golden anniversary.” Wisdom comes with age.
I am the gold standard. I’m a noble metal.
I shine. I glow. I gleam.
Gold bar. Gold bullion. Gold coins.
I went to the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas in 1990.
You can alloy gold with silver or platinum. Or for rose gold you alloy with copper. Or cobalt oxide for black gold.vark is a pure metal foil.
I vark myself.
I imagine Bannon is filled with pus. Yellow, liquid, built up. An injury. He is infected. He is trying to infect us. DT is full of urine. The face, plump. I bet his skin is soft. Urine is a liquid by–product. It’s made of water and salt and urea and uric acid. Your kidneys make it. Pus is also yellow. But it is yellowish or greenish. It’s usually opaque. It’s made from dead white blood cells and tissue debris and serum. But not like Estee Lauder Night Serum.
There is a Latin saying, “Ubi pus, ibi evacua.” It means, “Where there is pus, evacuate it.”
Trump and Bannon and Putin all sucking each other’s flaccid dicks with their softness’ exposed. A circle jerk with the constitution in the center. Putin’s the daddy in the leather harness, Trump is wearing the ball gag, Bannon’s getting spanked.
We have something in common. Resentment born of entitlement is something of a lower middle class disease.
I’m sick of you. I’m tired of you. Get out. You don’t belong here. I hate you. How did you even get in here? Die motherfucker die. How can I kill you without hurting those near by? I’m talking about my cancer. Duh.
One of the worst things about getting raped was that it made me hate him so much. I hated carrying around that hate.
Psychics and healers often told me I was carrying around something that wasn’t mine. I believed them.
Can Patriarchy cause ovarian cancer? Can rape and PTSD cause uterine cancer?
Urine. Urine problem. Drinking urine. Urine trouble.
I had a boyfriend who liked me to pee in his mouth. It was difficult, I was afraid it would overflow onto the pillow and I know from the beach that stinky feathers are bad. Later I would pee into a pint glass on top of him and “make” him drink it. It was less messy.
I told my partner last night my shit video was showing at a gallery. They laughed. “I guess I never showed it to you,” I said. When I made it I was scared to show it to anyone but seriously after cancer who gives a fuck.
Urine can be awesome. Urea is in most expensive face creams. I remember a novel where the neighbors thought a widow kept her beauty because every morning she splashed her face with her night water. I pee on my feet every morning in the shower. I heard Madonna did it. It's supposed to deter fungus.
Female Polish prisoners in Ravensbruek camp in 1943 and 1944 used urine to send secret messages to their families written in between the lines of the regular letters. They wrote in urine of the secret medical tests being done on them–such as being injected with gangrene. Thanks to their letters, the public knew about the experiments by 1945.
Last year, friends messaged me: “CD, aren’t these panties where you can menstruate on Donald Trump’s face awesome?” And I’m like, “No, he doesn’t deserve my blood.” My blood was thick. My blood was red and black and brown. My blood was delicious. My blood was chunky. My blood my blood my blood. I miss my blood. Now I chew on my thumbskin to taste it. My blood is strong and smells like metal, like gold.
My mother took me to Trump Tower on my first visit to NYC in 7th grade. We went into this luxury boutique called “Martha.” Up, up, up. My mother let me try on a dress that we couldn't afford. It was silk with a geometric print. It looked great on me. The saleswoman was rude to my mother, obese in stretch light blue polyester and a mauve cloth coat.
I tweeted my period at him after his “blood coming out of her whatever” comment.
And then twitter kept thinking we were friends.
I used a composting toilet at the Museum of Motherhood Residency in Florida. They will use the compost in their garden. I want to turn my shit into gold.
Remember that golden showers story, later he said he was “ a germaphobe” so it couldn’t be true? The report was that he had sex workers pee on each other on a bed that Barack and Michelle had slept on. That sounds like something he would get off on.
I wrote this on November 9th:
I am scared to pick up my daughter, Vera. Oh all of us waiting to pick up our kids–what do we tell them? Do I try and hold her tight, grateful for her safety in this moment? Do I put on a brave face and say we will be sad today, but tomorrow we will fight. Because that's what we do: we work to make to the world a better place for everyone. Do I smile and not bring it up and spare her? I watched HRCs speech twice already; I'll watch it again with her. The mood is somber outside of pickup. I cried all morning with my students. They are so scared, and already have stories of trans friends not leaving the house, an African American school district cancelling school, women already harassed. I still feel sick to my stomach. How do I explain this to her?
On November 10th:
So grateful that our Jackson Heights and Flushing City Councilman Danny Dromm voiced his resistance and his commitment to holding our legislature and government accountable. The Queens rally for unity and Diversity Plaza. Those, "Let's wait and see what he does" opinions? Um, NO. He told us who he is. I have been thinking about the "some took him literally but not seriously, others took him seriously but not literally" argument in relation to the capitulation – of places like HuffPo and People magazine – taking off the warning about DT and the lavish photo spread of Ivanka's family, respectively. This is not normal. I refuse to normalize this. I have been thinking about the connections between rape and war, about the very real PTSD and retraumatization happening for many people. I have been rereading Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. I was numbing out with Ativan for a few days. I understood why after picking up Trauma & Recovery. "CONSTRICTION––a state of surrender...system of self–defense shuts down entirely." Thinking about how Tuesday night was such a shock it was like an ambush. I didn't see it coming. The surprise attack makes me remember "Oh, it's Veteran's Day" and my dad fought in WWII and he was at The Battle of the Bulge, which was famous surprise attack. Sortie. Invasion. Thinking how grabbing a woman by the pussy or groping someone on the subway is the new lying in the long grasses with a rifle all nite long. Invasions of personal space, even the forced laugh and endurance of a hand that lingered a little too long, though no one else might notice it. And rape, forced intimacy, as a weapon of war. I felt crazy on Tuesday night. I was taking the silver lining of exposing rape culture and was completely ready to have our culture take sexual assault survivors seriously –– to listen and believe women, I was ready for a woman to be in charge so I wouldn't feel like it was all in my head. We need more women in office. And then the rapist is elected. As if he's my rapist. "Trauma isolates, the group recreates." My students fear for their safety. This is not normal.
On November 11th:
Thinking about international feminisms, intersectionality, how I can use my curatorial power to amplify voices, my power as an educator to pass on bell hooks and Chimamanda Adiche and Lindy West. I am thinking about where racism lingers in me. That if it was such a surprise I haven't been paying attention. I stood with my neighbors, with people from Asian, South Asia, Southeast Asia, all over South and Central Americas. Lots of Queers. We live peacefully in Jackson Heights. It is the most diverse place in the world. Not so much socializing but true acceptance. S spoke about Queens values and how DT does not share our values even though he is from Queens. I see: "We've lived through this before, we didn't think we'd have to live it again, here, but we'll make it." I think of DT supporters needing Daddy to take care of them and tell them he'll send the bad guys away and I think of how it felt to have my City Councilman say he was on my side, how good it felt that Hillary mentioned fighting for a woman’s right to choose in that debate, how seen I felt. It's how good it feels. No amount of policy can create that feeling of being against someone. It feels so good, a common enemy. I gave $ to Girls Write Now (New York’s first and only writing and mentoring organizations for girls) today – I volunteered and mentored with them before I got the cancers. I want to invest in the stories of young women of color living through this. I do not accept his hate. I do not accept his values. He is NOT MY PRESIDENT. We can fight to change the Electoral College, run for office; maybe this will accelerate the revolution.
Lenora Champagne and I walked to see the super of our building who is in the hospital. He had a stroke. The nurse said his left side needed massage to get the blood flowing so I massaged his legs. I never thought I'd be that intimate with him but I know the healing power of touch and I grew up massaging my mom's legs and feet so it felt normal to me. It was the first time I've been in a hospital for someone other than myself and I walked out thinking that I am doing really well right now and FUCK CANCER just fuck it and I just have to be in the present and –– enjoy my anger and take care of my anxiety. I have repeated to myself "Two steps forward, one step back." But I know that doesn't help the brown boys I know. Later we went on the roof and I tried to bathe in the magical power of the moon being so close Tom Murrin’s Luna Macaroona in my mind I am naked swimming in a lake bathing in the moon's reflection drinking in some form of pureness that would protect those brown boys and girls. I talked to my kids about being an upstander then obsessed over The New York Times weird letter to readers – are they capitulating or doubling down? Feel deep in my heart I can't normalize this fascist elect but small good deeds helped. Walking, cooking, neighboring. Still thinking about feelings – how good it felt to think that HRC saw my issues and how good it feels to "other" someone else. Like middle school. Most of us grow out of it, right? We are all together under this big fucking moon, whether we like it or not.
It's almost a year since I wrote those posts.
Joseph Beuys explained art to a dead rabbit. I can explain rape culture to a stuffed koala. I have no money, power, or favors.
Medea’s husband wouldn’t have gotten the golden fleece without her help. I played Medea in High School. A silver band around my head, a black flowing dress. Kindof how I dress now. My drama teacher Mrs. Kieffer let me be art. Medea gave him the ointment to protect him from the oxen’s flames. She gave him a potion to spray the dragon with so the dragon would fall asleep. So they got the gold and ran away! Then later you know she killed her kids to make him mad. I get it. I wish I didn’t, but I totally do.
The Aztecs called Gold “teocuitlatl,” which means “God shit.”
In the US, the streets are paved with gold.
I want to be an alchemist. I want to turn lead and feces into gold. The alchemists laid a base for chemistry. The alchemist's symbol for gold was a circle with a dot in the center, which is also a Chinese character for “sun.”
I have a heart of gold. I’m having a golden moment. You’re golden! He’s a golden boy. Stay gold, Ponyboy.
Trophies are always fucking gold. The Golden Globes, the Oscars, my mom’s bowling trophies with the ball broken off, my dad’s hockey trophies in front of the 70’s World Book Encyclopedia in the living room.
“We’re still married!”
(“I should get a trophy.”)
Chrysodema is a permanent gold staining of the skin. People used to get it from ingesting gold as a way to treat rheumatoid arthritis or TB. But the skin turns blue. Not gold.
Tumbaga is pre–Columbian gold and copper that can be made to look like gold by pouring citric acid on it to dissolve the copper from the top layer. This is called DEPLETION GILDING. Usually gilding is additive. Don’t wear makeup; you’d be gilding the lily.
When Karl Marx wrote about “Commodity Fetishism” he did not mean Golden Showers. Hegel thought fetishism was the crudest form of religion. Marx said that fetishism is “the religion of sensuous appetites.” Gold has intrinsic value. The product of labor, the production of commodities, the commodities trader, gold is at a record high.
To be an alchemist is to purify, mature, and perfect. The Vedas, written in Vedic Sanskrit, are texts that describe alchemy and eternal life and gold. The goal of alchemy is immortality.
Depletion gilding looks like you are turning one metal into another.
I’m pretty fucking depleted.
I’ve always wanted to eat glycerine capsules filled with gold glitter so I could shit gold. I could shit on a piece of cardboard and let it dry and spray paint it and put it on the street.
That tower like a big gold dick. That gold toilet at Guggenheim.
I had a dream where I was supposed to fuck DT. We were in bed, and he was naked under the sheet. I didn’t want to. I hadn’t said yes and I hadn’t said no. He leaned in for a kiss and I dodged my head to the left and our right cheeks touched. I cuddled him, and hugged him and stroked the back of his neck and his shoulder and upper back with my left hand. “Your skin is soft,” I whispered. I was trying to use a sexy voice. “Your skin is so soft.”
It was. It was soft like my grandmother’s skin. But also puffy. He had a fat back without hair. Smooth, like he used Nair. But soft and pink. His orange makeup was just there. I wasn’t disgusted.
I kept leaving the bed. I made up excuses.
“I have to pee.”
“I have to get a condom.”
“Now I have to get lube.”
We were in an art loft, like a share house on South 5th and Roebling in 1993. He said, “Get on with it!”
All those white women voted for him because he was their daddy. Daddy will take care of everything. Daddy will make the money and not share it with mommy. Daddy will wear a big suit. Daddy will turn red. Daddy wants purple silicone up the ass. Daddy doesn't want to let anyone know. Daddy wants your little white wet panties. Daddy waves his floppy flesh and gets mad. Daddy will buy you a gold chain with a floating heart on it at the mall. Daddy won't know you love him unless you kiss it. Daddy stares at the sun. Daddy isn’t racist. Daddy isn’t a white supremacist. Daddy just wants to keep you happy. Daddy just wants to keep you safe. Daddy is so strong. I love you Daddy.
I was in the same room with him in the 90’s, at Nobu. Once a year my partner and I played mini golf on the Hudson and then walked over to eat at Nobu. Whoever lost paid the bill. Loser. L on the forehead. Nobu Next Door had just opened. Daddy was with a blonde woman. Not sure which wife. If I had killed him that night I’d still be in jail but our country wouldn’t be in this mess. If only. What would I have done? Poured poisoned sake in his eyes? I always had to drink heavily after those dinners – I’m a girl from Buffalo and I still think it's weird to have all that raw fish inside you. I tried to kill it with whiskey.
I think there’s a scene in A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner where a character laments not having killed Hitler when they sat behind him in a movie theatre. I'm not sure and I'm too distressed to look it up. Roy Cohn is a character in Kushner’s Angels in America and was Trump’s lawyer and mentor IRL.
What if I HAD killed him that day? Would it have been worth it? Or would I have to wait until things get much worse for it to have been “worth” it? How much is democracy worth to me? In college I always got drunk and said, “We don’t live in a real democracy!”
Just a thought experiment. I’m not gonna.
My partner said, “Don’t say that out loud to anyone but me.”
“C’mon, I’m not alone, everyone in New York must be joking about this!” Right? So many people in New York have shared space with him.
“They’ll be tracking people who say this shit.”
I felt like I knew him intimately after I had the sex dream.
Sell your gold now. Gold price is one click away. Live gold spot price per troy ounce for today, September 15, 2017 is $1,322.64. The highest was $1,917.90 in 2011. Gold will boil at 2,700 Degrees Celsius.
Gold was formed from neutron stars colliding. Gold is from a supernova. Gold happens when the solar system happened. There's more in the core. Where's Midas? Rumplestiltskin? El Dorado?
Gold dust woman. Metallic Lycra. Gold leaf. Fool’s gold.
I was wearing gold polish the night I was raped. His skin was under my nails but I never told. That polish chipped really easily.
He can’t ruin shiny things for me. I won’t let him ruin shiny things.
Shaking aspen trees shimmer in the wind. The water ripples and shines like sequins.
I imagine a world where my daughter never worries about being feminine enough, and my son never worries about being masculine enough.
I imagine a world where THIS doesn’t happen. I close my eyes and imagine a world where everyone has bodily autonomy.
I see a line that connects the female nipple and the body of color and the statues toppled.
I imagine a planet where we all wear lame caftans in an intersectional feminist galaxy far far away.
BODILY AUTONOMY is my real dream.
I imagine a world where everyone feels safe when they walk out of their houses. I imagine a world where sexual pleasure is taught in middle school. Where the accident of biology – where humans with penises have an easier time figuring out how to masturbate than humans with clitorides and vulvas – is shifted by education. A world where gender is not a binary, where boys are taught that emotion and pleasure are what sex can be about, not aggression. A world where girls learn what feels good and how to communicate that to a lover. A world where we teach love.
A world where we are free.
Christen Clifford is a feminist performance artist, writer, professor, actor and mother. She lectures about performance art, rape culture and contemporary feminisms at The New School. Her work has been written about in Art in America, Artforum, Bookforum, The New York Times and The Huffington Post. She lives in Queens and online @cd_clifford. Her very safe for work website is ChristenClifford.info.