Metaphor is the return of the repressed 3

'FABRICADABRA': The magic of collaboration


Now for a moderate digression into the heart of the text/textile nexus; this also provides me an opportunity to showcase a collaboration with performance poet and feminist Kabbalah scholar Adeena Karasick.

After I reviewed and wrote about Karasick’s work, we collaborated on a conference presentation in 2006. But it was in 2010, after the publication of Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture, a book in which we both had essays, that our text/textile work together began. Adeena had noticed a pun in Eric Selinger’s essay in the volume, in which shmatte (“rag” in Yiddish), homonymous with shma’ata (“the text at hand” in Hebrew), materialized the connection I had been working on independently in my crafty and scholarly inquiries. We wrote a piece together called ““Intertextile, Text in Exile: Shmata Mash-up: a Jewette for Two Voices,” which we’ve performed at a number of conferences and readings, and also published in differing forms in the Canadian journal Open Letter and Extravagances: Habits of Being Vol. IV (University of Minnesota Press 2015), the last and final in a series that “charts the social, cultural, and political expression of clothing.” The shmatte/shma’ata nexus brings out the word-fever in both of us, the desire to be engulfed in colored, textured, sensory-saturated language, in complete textilic jouissance, to spin the fibers of utterance out of our mouths and writing hands rather than out of flax, silk cocoon, cotton bolls or lambswool. 

We’re now working on a second go-roundelay of shuttle-spewage, etymological mayhem  and thrumming utterance, this one titled, thanks to Adeena’s peculiar genius, “FABRICADABRA.”

While I puzzle over the foibles of “insight” and the origins of metaphor for future postings, here’s a substantial hank of language that plunges into the thicket of it.  Please revel in its unraveled plenitude…

It ends on a note of rage and roguery; I may shortly inquire into my association of textile processes with strong rhythmic music. Punk is perfect, the more testosterone-driven and wilder the better. Why? Stay distuned.


Writing through the tattered scraps, scavenging matter

of raided traits, tirades, tatters


tides of matted weeds and wode, gritty powdered dyestuffs and twisted grids of ripped linen, warped scarves, scary laced-up letters traced across a wavy, unstable page…

a surfeit of surface, an abyss of depth


stitched through rewoven threads, semes, samples

all pick-pocket-y and pen-

pecked; repacking like a stacked hacker

of bracketed fractures, stacked rations

or ratcheted passions, philological axioms, the shmata


teaseled within an inch of itself, tufty fluffs of static staple

wrought to a fine-knapped patina of tendrils

electrified, each filament shivering in a textilic X static

stream, primpy threadlets

soul-spun solar disks
on dreidliche spindles of mono-stereo spinning wheels,

glory-clad psalm spasms, laidwork in splitstitch,

stabbing needle-lines of glass splinters, prick

the finicky fingers of your writing hand, making and unmaking

its itchy unfinishable text.[i]


& through an infinite folding and enfolding through all that  is veiled and unveiling visible voluminous, ominous, valued in a seeing and a saying the shmata

moist with clenched discordances

files folds flows into out from itself 

brushes up against a rip

a rag cloth waving itself into readability


Raga (n.)

1788, from Skt. raga-s "harmony, melody, mode in music," lit. "color, mood," related to rajyati "it is dyed." 


and dyed into that bright-hewn melody, text-meddling with itself

in metastatic expansion, textile morphosed into legible text, the negligée

becomes legend, dying for desire, dying into meaning


rages through the coincident concomitance of all that reveals conceals 

through folded lines lineages illuminates 

through the carved edges secrets as it secretes through

the peripatetic eidetics, all that looms


rag (n.) 

early 14c., probably from O.N. rogg "shaggy tuft," earlier raggw-,

or possibly from O.Dan. rag (see rug),

or a back-formation from ragged (c.1300),

which is from O.N. raggaðr "shaggy," via O.E. raggig "rag-like."

Or an unrecorded O.E. cognate of O.N. rogg.

slang for "tampon, sanitary napkin" is attested from 1930s.


Testy. As in Testing Rags --

As per the laws of Niddot, Orthodox Laws of female cleanliness, it is an offense to have marital relations when she is bleeding. And because a woman cannot know with certainty when she has started bleeding, she must insert rags into her ervah[ii] before intercourse to test for menstrual fluids.


As the Mishnah states, it is the custom of the daughters of Israel when having marital intercourse to use two testing-rags, one for the man and one for the woman, and if a vestige of blood is found on his rag immediately after intercourse they are both unclean and under obligation to bring a sacrifice”.[iii]


rag (v.) 

"scold," 1739, of unknown origin; perhaps related to Dan. dialectal rag "grudge." Related: Ragged; ragging.  Enraged and raging against.

rage (n.) c.1300, from O.Fr. raige (11c.), from M.L. rabia, from L. rabies "madness, rage, fury," related to rabere "be mad! Rave!"

As the shmata revels, rebels in all that is florid lurid furious n furry;

in a flurry of all that is coueur-ageous and ragged, rough and shaggy savage and raging slashed     

spun, tattered roguing

in rag time.

[i]   The dried flower of the teasel (dipsacus) is used to scratch up the surface of woven material to create a soft knap.  “Dipsacus is a genus of flowering plant in the family Dipsacaceae. The members of this genus are known as teasel or teazel or teazle. ... The genus name is derived from the word for thirst …”

[ii] Roughly translated (from the Aramaic) as a woman’s vulva, vajayjay, vagine. As stated in the Talmud, in Sota (48a), in Masechet Berachot (24a) and Masechet Kiddushin (70a), “kol b’isha ervah,”: basically, the voice of a woman is a pudendum, and is the basis for the prohibition against hearing a woman sing, and falls under the umbrella of laws relating to tzniuit (modesty). Sanctioned by Maimonides (Hilchot Issurei Biah 21:2) as issurei beiah, a binding halakhic principle, and entrenched in the Shulchan Aruch, the 16th C. primary source of Sephardic Law, the isur (prohibition) is not tied to the singing itself but the potential byproduct of sexual arousal – the prohibited, erotically illicit thoughts of her genitalia, that a woman’s voice may spur.

 iii]  “It is the custom of the daughters of Israel when having marital intercourse to use two testing-rags, one for the man and the other for herself, and virtuous women prepare also a third rag whereby to make themselves fit for marital duty. If a vestige of blood is found on his rag they are both unclean and are also under the obligation of bringing a sacrifice. If any blood is found on her rag immediately after their intercourse they are both unclean and are also under the obligation of bringing a sacrifice”, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Niddah 14a

Soncino 1961 Edition, page 92.