04 September 2018

Conversations with my niece



I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus our Saviour did come for to die,
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and shepherds and farmers and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing,
He surely could have had it, 'cause he was the King.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus our Saviour did come for to die,
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.





I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus our saviour did come for to die,
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all,
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's angels in heaven to sing,
He surely could have had it, 'cause he was the King.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus our saviour did come for to die,
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.





Blow the wind southerly,
Southerly, southerly,
Blow the wind south o'er
The bonnie blue sea.
Blow the wind southerly,
Southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze
My lover to me.

They told me last night
There were ships in the offing,
And I hurried down
To the deep rolling sea;
But my eye could not see it,
Wherever might be it,
The bark that is bearing
My lover to me.

Blow the wind southerly,
Southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze o'er
The bonnie blue sea.
Blow the wind southerly,
Southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze
And bring him to me.

Is it not sweet
To hear the breeze singing
As lively it comes
O'er the deep rolling sea?
But sweeter and dearer
By far 'tis when bringing
The bark of my true love
In safety to me.





Ombra mai fu
Di vegetabile,
Cara ed amabile,
Soave più. [x2]
Cara ed amabile
Ombra mai fu
Di vegetabile
Cara ed amabile
Soave più, soave piú

Oooooo
De vegetabile
Cara ed amabile
Soave più, soave più.





Hay and a clean stall
and ivy on a garden wall
and a sign saying sold
and no coat for the bad cold.

I believe in you.
Do you believe in me?
What do you want to do?
Are we leaving the city?

On the black road,
through the gold fields
while the fields are plowed
towards what we are allowed.

The bridle bends in idle hands
and slows your canter to a trot.
We mean to stop in increments,
but can’t commit. We post and sit in impotence.

The harder the hit, the deeper the dent.
We seek our name, we seek our fame
in our credentials, paved in glass,
trying to master incidentals.

Bleach a collar, leech a dollar
from our cents.
The longer you live, the higher the rent
beneath a pale sky,
beside the red barn,
below the white cloud
is all we are allowed.

Here, the light will seep,
and the scythe will reap,
and spirit will bend
in counting to the end.

In December of that year,
the word came down that she was here.
The days were shorter,
I was sure if she came round,
I’d hold my ground.

I can do what they alluded to,
a change that came to pass. And
Spring did range, weeping grass
and sleepless broke
itself upon my winter glass.

And I could barely breathe for seeing
all the splintered light that leaked.
A fish is fleeing, launched in flight
but starched in light,
bright and bleeding, bleach the night
with dawn deleting in that high sun,
after our good run,
when the spirit bends
beneath knowing it must end.

And that is all I want here,
to draw my gaunt spirit to bow
beneath what I am allowed,
beneath what I am allowed.

20 August 2018

On Johann Sebastian Bach's Six Suites for Unaccompanied Violoncello

Title page of Anna Magdalena Bach's manuscript of the Six Suites for Violoncello Solo without Bass. Dated before 1750, the author (Anna Magdalena Bach) is dead more than 70 years ago. So it is in the public domain.

tl:dr

Approximately thirty-three years ago I took my first--and, as it turns out, last--college-level music appreciation class with, my friend, Kristen. The class was taught, unusually, by a professor-musician in the music department, a cellist, who presented the course in a rather free-wheeling, very personal manner, which was casual, almost facetious on the subject of coursework, homework, and testing student knowledge, but had an easy intimacy, a pleasant spontaneity, and an honest but usually frustrated curiosity about the opinions, feedback, and real-time reactions of the class to statements and comparisons he made or to the work of composers or performers he played for us on recording. I loved it. And Kristen and I found a way to not only be attentive to much of the material but crack each other up constantly. It was probably the other way around, in all honesty, and being equally honest, it was hardly the most respectful mode one could apply to a pedagogic setting, and our guide through the course material would shoot us an amused or unamused look of exasperation from time to time. What we liked about the course--the absence of any substantive demands--is what allowed us to play off each other, sometimes to the point of obnoxiousness, but it was also the dimension that allowed the course to, at its best, truly be about the appreciation of music, through knowledge of its history and evolution, theory and application, changing roster of instruments and styles, generic and musical categories, performance traditions, cultural impacts and influences, gossip and legends, and the work of its various contributors, which we were frequently invited to listen to, consider, and appreciate. Rather than take notes or study for an exam, he really wanted us to listen, not just hear; not just think but experience.

One day, he brought along his cello, and proceeded to speak about and to play for us, right there, on his instrument sections from J. S. Bach's Six Suites for Unaccompanied Violoncello.

First, it must be said, the experience of being in the same room with a cello as it is being played was an immediately exciting, even physical, experience, as you could actually feel the vibrations from the strings passing through your chest and torso, through your head, through your heart, through your body, as though it were a medium--because, it is--and you could feel the vibrations of these strings in your hair and on the surface of your skin and in the hairs on the surface of your skin.

When our instructor first described what we were to hear--six suites, which are Baroque dances, for solo cello, played on a cello and just that one cello with nothing else--my heart sank, having cut my teeth and ears on the enormous, layered sound and drama of the Mozart Requiem and Beethoven's second symphony. This was also the first time we'd heard music that wasn't on a recording. This was *live*. It was alive, and you could not escape the fact that a person was playing this for you, in the room with you, nearby. A breathing, real person, with a pumping heart, and a body, who, before he drew his bow across the silent, waiting, taut, straining strings of his cello with an incredible delicacy, yet with a precision, a placement, and the infinitesimal specificity of muscle, of power, he took a deep breath, as though he were about to speak, or sing. Because, as I learned years later from my friend, Chase, a dancer, who would always do the same thing before she danced a phrase, that is exactly, of course, what one is doing. Of course.

Everything about his playing was physical and real, breathing, and moving, and sweating, and there. And you were there.The slightest tap of the bow sent ridges or jitters or colors of sound through the room and the people in it. And one had the impression that the strings, before they were played, were already vibrating, already straining to release something out of them, into the air, into the world, through you and out into the world, because the slightest touch of the bow or finger was immediate, experiential, and thrilling. This there-ness of it all, you, and he, the cello, the sound, the feeling of the sound, the dark, varnished, warm, sonorousness of wood, both enclosing you as a reflection, as a comfort, and holding you at a certain arms length, as art can do, was indistinguishable from deep intimacy, and connection. It was like being in love and profoundly alone at the same time.

Bach wrote six suites for the solo cello, each with six movements, each in the Italian style of the Baroque dance suite, except for the two movements, in the gorgeous and melancholy fifth suite, composed in the French style. Our teacher played the prelude to the first suite. It is likely you have heard that prelude in different commercials or as the underscoring in various films, and so it is likely the best known of the thirty-six movements Bach composed. I can't help feeling it to be the signature of the work, because it was my entry point to it, and because its omnipresence functions as the sign for the whole. Ask anyone if they know Bach's cello suites for solo cello and she or he will sing you the familiar, DAH-bah-dah-bah-dah-bah-dah-dee-dah, of its opening, not any of the equally or surpassingly beautiful passages from any of the rest of it. And that is okay. By rights, the sixth should count as the signature, of the composer, and the end of the sixth, especially, since the suites become more expressive, more complex, nuanced, and demanding on several of several levels, for the cellist, as they go. For the listener, it is a different story. Unencumbered by the enormous interpretive, performative, and technical demands of playing them, we are allowed the opportunity--if we choose to take it, and you must choose to take it, for, while some passages of some of the movements of some of the suites will grab you and demand your attention, others, most of them, will only reveal themselves to you if you give yourself to them--of floating and plunging or soaring through a series of sounds that are a line of sound coming from two people through one specific instrument at one specific time. There are three people actually involved, however. The first is always Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer, the second is the cellist, always, and the third, the third always is you.

Let us hear Pablo Casals, the sine qua non of our current understanding of the suites, play the prelude to the first suite:




The prelude to the first suite ends at 2:26. You may of course listen to the entire suite, as you prefer.

The suites were more or less forgotten to time and hearing, when, in the early twentieth century the great Catalan cellist, Pablo Casals, as a thirteen-year-old boy, discovered them in a thrift shop, and studied them carefully for many years until he felt he was ready to record them between 1936 and 1939. Before this time, they had always been considered studies or etudes--lessons--unsuitable for public performance. There was the added "problem" that the suites do not exist in an autograph score (in the hand of the composer), but only in the hand of his second wife, Anna Magdalena Bach, who, after Bach's death faced financial hardship, little to no help from his children of his first marriage, or her own, except for her stepson, C.P.E. Bach, and who is understood to have died penniless, homeless, on the street, buried in an unmarked, pauper's grave at Leipzig's Johanniskirche. which was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. Without the hand of this discarded woman, we would know nothing of a work considered to be one of the sublime expressions of humanity. Think about that for a while. Not even her unmarked grave exists.

Casals recognized the quality of the Suites, and because of the quality of his name and reputation, other cellists recognized it as well, and recorded it as well. It is only in the twentieth century that these six pieces were finally given their due, six pieces for unaccompanied cello, which in 1980 the British music critic, Wilifrid Mellers, called, in a very memorable phrase, "Monophonic music wherein a man has created a dance of God." Cellists since the time of Casals have recorded them, some of them more than once, because their understanding of them has evolved over time. They are not notated in a way that gives very much direction to the performer, so fast or slow, Romantic or not, sensual, austere, dance-like or not, it is given to the interpreter to make these choices.

So. When I learned that Yo Yo Ma would be playing all six suites at Blossom--the outdoor, summer, amphitheater home of the Cleveland Orchestra--I suggested to my parents, who always get a collection of tickets to Blossom, that we should go, and more or less forgot about it. Flash forward to last Sunday, when my parents; my sister, her husband, and their family; and I all went to hear these remarkable pieces played by one of the great cellists of the day, outside, as the evening turned into night, and the light turned into dark.

I am not a fan of Ma's account of the suites. I do not find them perfunctory, but in the word of someone else, I do find them "bland." He has recorded them three times, and I only know his first recording, which he did when he was quite young. Mstislav Rostropovich, the great Russian cellist--understood by some to be THE cellist of the twentieth century--only waited until he was quite old to attempt them. And people don't like that recording, either, calling it "too reverential." With the suites, you cannot win.

I have been to Blossom many times to hear the Cleveland. I heard them play an account of Beethoven's fifth symphony, under Dohnányi, that blew my mind, because it was like hearing it for the first time, and because I wasn't looking forward to hearing *that* overplayed work again. Normally, at Blossom, there are people trying to find each other on the hill leading down to the covered amphitheater--where most people sit, where we usually sit--with children playing, dancing, and calling to each other. It is not what I would call a "riot of activity," but it is a very active space, a very social space. People are largely respectful of what is going on, but they're also not crazy about being respectful. Last Sunday, I have never, ever, been more impressed by an audience's silence and focus during a performance.

Ma played six solo cello suites, each with six movements--in his account, a ninety-minute evening--to my astonishment, and my everlasting respect, without intermission. And almost no one made a sound. In fact, it was so quiet on that hill, that when someone did make a sound, you knew exactly where it was coming from, and they never did it again, with the exception of the child, further up from where we were, who visited a small section or roughly half of the suites with an indeterminate wailing, that bothered me not at all. Was it the same child? At the end of the day, all wailing children suffering through a concert they don't understand are the same child. So, yes.

I sat, perched on that hill, perched, in almost utter silence, in a sea of people, and listened to these incredible pieces, played for ninety minutes, almost without interruption, and was rapt by all of it. Things accumulated a stillness in this space. A horsefly, or a very large dragonfly, hummed its way over my right shoulder and straight down the hill, several times, over the course of the evening, almost rhythmically, once during every other suite. The clouds were static after a day of rain, and every time I glanced up at them, they had formed only a slightly different position. The light crept away from us, softly, and without incident, and informed the music, as it played, in a single line, from one instrument, by two people, to one person, who was each of us. I. I sat. Perched on that hill of time. A hill that became more steep and less so over the course of ninety minutes. As a horsefly, or a very large dragonfly, kept its time to the music. And a child cried in the distance to a rhythm of Bach, copied out for us by the hand of a wife, buried in a destroyed, unmarked pauper's grave, whose children and step-children, except for one, thought better than to help her after their common father died.

I cannot tell you how profound it was for me to share this extraordinary experience with my family. Imagine what it might be like to know something profound--something so beautiful, that you have difficulty speaking about it. Something that, on a very specific level and in a very specific way is core, is central, to who you are and who you have become. Something that is such a sine qua non, you can no longer remember a time when it was not a part of you, because it has backwards formed itself into the time before you knew it. Something you have sat with, and thought about, and listened to, and derived sustenance from, and studied. For thirty-three years.

Now, I know. I know my family didn't have the same experience that I did, and how could they? In my mind, to play even one movement from one of the suites would be an accomplishment. To have them hear all of them at once, to have them be confronted by this monumental, marathon work, in one night, without intermission, without ever having heard them before? Unspeakable. And the amazing thing is, though I did not know I had expectations, they did not let me down. Which is really tough to do! I wasn't able to talk to my sister and brother-in-law, but they enjoyed it, and they said so, and I believe them--it's a hard, demanding thing to do, all six suites, without intermission. Even I registered fatigue at certain points.

It was my parents--with whom I had traveled to Blossom that night--who spoke volubly, with interest, and with specificity about what they had heard. Is there any better example of why one should be happy that one had the parents one had? Some people have the tools to understand the world without what was given to them. I am not that person. I can only understand the extraordinary world before us with the tools I was given by the people who made me. And while those tools take me places they don't understand, there is always a place that they do. So, I guess, thanks, Mom and Dad.

The Baroque suite was  considered an old-fashioned form in Bach's time, but the cello was an undiscovered country. Bach, whose patron at the time was a Calvinist who had little use for religious music--Bach's prime form, as a devout Lutheran (a Lutheran who composed Masses, mind you)--put Bach in the odd position of getting paid to do almost whatever he wanted, and so he composed secular music: the suites, the pieces for unaccompanied violin, and others. It is up to the listener to decide if she or he feels these works are truly secular. I hear nothing of the secular about them, and I say this as a proud atheist. Moreover, they partake of a simultaneously old-fashioned sound as well as a thrillingly austere modernism--even, if you like, a postmodernism, in their repetitions and juxtapositions--and yet that austerity gives way to passion and an expressive, deep emotionality. You will be hard-pressed to find a more paradoxical, elusive, moving, or exciting series of pieces called one work. If you are new to the suites, good luck on your new adventure, should you choose to embark on it. If you know the suites well, welcome home.

Now, for some examples:

I begin with Yo Yo Ma. What do we find in the prelude to the third suite? A minimal figure that turns at 1:42 into a wonderful floating line that plays until 2:08. It works through the figure, and the recurrent theme of, believe it or not, scales, and a series of false endings, before actually ending at 3:27. That is the third prelude.

I call the phrase that begins at 1:42 the money shot. And the suites are full of them. It is the place where I, or you, get grabbed, and a place from which backwards, and/or forwards, you start listening differently. It is the kernel around which the movement seems to be formed, and by which your curiosity draws you into the rest of that movement. It is the piece of sand that around which the pearl is formed. Find it, or them, in each movement, and you will spend the rest of your life listening to the Suites, as I have.


 

Now, we have Mischa Maisky playing the third prelude. Maisky is my Master when it comes to the Cello Suites. I bought his recording while still attending the class I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and he has never let me down.

His third prelude is a much more muscular and playful version, to be sure. At 2:04 the money shot begins, considerably later than Ma's version, and can your hear, between the big notes, a song that makes itself known? A descending figure in a song? Wonderful. And listen to how he turns those false endings into a dramatic series that resolve themselves into an ending. The Prelude ends at 4:16. You may, of course, listen to the rest of the entire suite, as you prefer.






Heinrich Schiff plays it at a remarkable clip.



And then there is the incredible and elegant, the indispensable, Pierre Fournier.

10 May 2018

she is locked up, beaten, and flung about the room

April 13, 2018 | A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair. The deal was arranged in the final months of 2017 by President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen. Under the terms of the deal, the Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, would pay the woman in installments over the course of two years, and she would agree to stay silent about their relationship, two people with knowledge of the arrangement told The New York Times. The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. From The New York Times.


I look at this man--everything that seems visible about him: the insistent PEPPERDINE photo-op backdrop; the poor physical and social health evident in the skin color, the mirthless pools of black that are his eyes, the grimace which at some point forgot to disguise itself as the signal of a pleasure in the world, which is to say, as an smile, rather than the wincing expression of a forbearance of, a steeling against, the world; I look at that "haircut"--I look at this man and I feel sorry for the "Playboy model," who, with those two words, is surgically caricatured into nothingness, into dismissal, as the barely described but overly present sine-qua-non--the that-without-which--pretext for the humiliation, the failure, the weakness, the desire of another, the barely described pretext for the humiliation of a man, who, as we well know, is the only another, the only other, that matters.

I look at this man, and I see the women not on his arm, in this frame or in any other frame: no surplus of disappointed wives or expensive mistresses or disappointed, expensive mothers will ever be enough to make him believe that he is a success, that he is a man, that he is alive, that he is real, that he is a real boy, alive, and not someone else's fantasy of a man, not some father's fantasy of a boy, not some father's fantasy of himself, made of painted wood and string, a fantasy whose lies are forever revealing, forever announcing, the degree to which they arouse him by his shameful erection, which is as clear as the nose on his face. 

It is, of course, the height to which he has risen; the richness of his investment and achievement; the scope and number of his responsibilities; the reputation and the dignity of--the admiration for--his family, both up (parental, ancestral) and down (spousal, childrel: inherital), which is to say, his very name, its currency and value, its reference and intelligibility; his ability, his dependability and responsibility, his ability to influence others, which is to say his word; his respect, his solidity, his fearsomeness, his strength, his resolution, his intensity, his fecundity, his power, which is to say, his maleness, his manhood, his sex, itself, all coming into question; it is the threatened or actual loss--even just the news of the threat of the loss--of these things that makes the story tragic, that gives it any value at all, that makes the story worth knowing or repeating, because the story's very iterability isn't affected at all by it's depressing and clichéed reiteration that it is news if/that/when a man falls from grace by partaking of his association with a [insert any two words here that describe a woman, but in this case:] Playboy Model. Every time, the loss, the tragic fall, the story occurs to, the story is about, an individual, a subject, a person of interest, or notoriety, of value, a person in whom I should be interested if only by dint of the fact that someone has decided to repeat the story of his loss of value to me. In the story, in his story, the (actual/potential) loss of his status--his value or usefulness in politics, industry, finance, faith, or law; his value as a leader or thinker or role-model; his value as a husband, father, son, and man--is presented as though it hadn't just happened to this other asshole yesterday, it is presented as though it were happening for the first time, when, depending on the timing it is only just happening for the first time today. And the lady--all the women, of course, for the most part--but the lady in question is just the stock character of Fallen Woman, just a two-word dismissal as a description, because it doesn't matter who she is, she doesn't have a story, she doesn't need a story, she is not important, except in one way and one way only: as the pretext for the (threatened, perhaps actual) loss of a man's status, family, fortune, word, name. Her presence in his story--because she doesn't have a story, she doesn't need a story, and no one cares about her story, except that there must be some suggestion, some hint, some suggestion to the suggestible, that she's just the least bit tawdry, or a shopgirl, or a divorcee, or an actress, or working class, or a coed, or a latina, or a european, or a prostitute, or a woman--signals his loss and is the cause of his loss. She exists--she serves--merely as a function in his story. She exists to serve. 

Certain kinds of psychoanalysis have a word for this state, which is often translated into English as a state of "abjection": she is abjected--in truth, before the story is told, she is already in an abjected state, always already--humbled and rejected, ejected outside of accepted, acceptable, informed, available, permissible or possible discourse. He is not. He has many more than two words to apply to his highest level of attainment, or any attainment, in the social spheres. He has many more than one sphere, he has many more than one title, many more than one role, and more than one name by which to call him, but his names, titles, roles, and spheres and his ability to move among them, capitalize upon them, and use them to his advantage and others' is damaged by his association with the storyless, abjected lady in question. Her story is unavailable and unimportant because she is abjected, and she is abjected because of some now-unimportant but singular detail of her now-unimportant and abjected story: she has no story, and it is as though his story, he, himself, takes on some contamination, partakes of some contaminating quanta of her abjection, and thus becomes, in some sense, abjected himself. So, gents, beware of Fallen Women.

But if we're really honest with ourselves, it is not difficult to see that the abjection of which Fallen Woman takes is not due to her fallen state, but due to her state as woman, as her hypothesized-but-the-hypothesis-is-enough fallenness is hypothesized on her hypothesized unreliable, unstable, untrustworthy, weak, flighty, fickle, faithless, unteachable, ignorant, dissembling, dangerous, dark, mysterious, unknowable womaness. The hint of falleness is the addition that is not an addition because it serves to call out what we all know women already to be, or be capable of, which is tacitly the same. The Fallen Woman is all women. She doesn't have the same value as a man, and her as-few-details-as-possible story only exists as a non-story to affect the story of a man. Woman is the property of someone else's story. She is property. That is why she is paid less on the dollar than a man for the same job; that is why she doesn't have her own name but has the name of her father or her husband; that is why she is defined most powerfully by her relationship to men, as daughter, wife, mother, mistress, widow; that is why when she is raped it is because of the way she was dressed or because she has had more than one sexual partner or any sexual partner, or because she is a lesbian, or a woman; that is why our vice president does not allow himself to be alone in a room with a woman who is not his wife; that is why when she is beaten by her husband it is because she must have done something to cause it; that is why we have difficulty encouraging or imagining women in physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, law, law enforcement, the military, sports, music composition or in leadership roles in these fields, or any field; that is why she cannot be elected president because she seems cold, seems untrustworthy, seems ambitious, and doesn't smile enough; that is why, in Virginia Woolf's memorable formulation in A Room of One's Own, she is locked up, beaten, and flung about the room. 

For her to be acceptable, she must be the paragon of fidelity, fealty, faith, compromise, kindness, supportiveness, selflessness, nonexistent opinions, disregarded thoughts, and uncomplaining labor: In the terms of King Lear, she must only be Cordelia, whose back is a bridge for men, for men and children, for male children, a bridge for men; otherwise she is those monstrous other sisters, Goneril or Regen, it seems, by default. It would be best for everyone if she died in childbirth. For there will always be another woman to marry--as they are interchangeable--who will teach the daughter her place, or beat her into it, because she can be counted on not to love her as her own. Because we must always force women into competition with other women, for everything, but especially for the attention of the Man, who is the hero of the story, the narrator, the author, the publisher, the bookseller, the critic, and the reader. And he has made the notion of Fallen Woman--precisely because there is no real distinction from Woman, precisely because Woman is, at every moment, in danger of submitting to her nature, like a scorpion--to distinguish interchangeable women from one another. If you believe that the purpose of sex is not pleasure, a dimension accorded only to men, but solely for the reproduction of men, sons to carry the name only they may keep and to safeguard the property only they may inherit, upon your body, which is the purpose of your body, by the man you were given to by a man, through the painful labor of your body, which is the only labor you are to be allowed; if you are Cordelia and make an incubator of your body, a bridge of your back, and suffer beautifully with your muted voice and your cramped agency, a jealously restricted purview that is mostly the execution, reinforcement, and extension, as their agent, of someone else's interests, desires, prejudices, and will; if you defer to, maintain, celebrate, supplement, and anticipate those interests without question, because they are, and must be, your own; if your every action and expression is toward keeping things the way they are, then you will be called "respectable"--a precarious high-wire act of a designation--and your origins, your class, your poverty, your ethnicity, your foreignness, your sins, your past, your woman-ness will not be held against you. You will not be fallen.