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August 31, 2016 Nonfiction

Autocorrecting The Lyric I

Elizabeth Powell

Autocorrecting The Lyric I photo

I keep autocorrecting myself. I don’t want to autocorrect myself. I autocorrect when I don’t want to autocorrect. It disturbs the fusion of my interior monologue. I cannot keep up with how fast things are changing. If I use autocorrect I am more suitable for you to see. I am dressed. I am not as naked as my fast typing might insist on.

Autocorrection is a kind of conspiracy theory of reality based on the probability of words and un-nimble fingers. Thought is more easily rendered when you autocorrect, so it is said. But I know I am made from a God that makes homemade bread in the desert, even if He doesn’t have yeast. I am not made of touchscreen typing, though it is didactic consideration. My fusion is a kind of Cupertino, inserted into the narrative even though it was never meant to be there. Yet, autocorrection is supposed reduce the probability I am wrong to you in the way Cary Grant never seems wrong to anyone.

When I autocorrect myself it is better than back when I merely erased myself. There are many ways of erasure: Deletion, drunk and disorderly, disintegration. Acting is my favored mode, and that’s why I like theater, drama, monologue. I’ve had practice passing as a Jew and passing as a WASP because my math teacher explained that I am what used to be called in New York a Mic-Moc, though I am definitely not Irish. I have become kind of good at doing this passing thing though it is stupid in the twenty-first century, and even though the one is always trying to autocorrect the other. Can you guess which parent of mine is a Jew? A gentile? Does it matter to you?

Let’s say I am fusion of cold borscht and finger sandwiches on white. I am matzo ball Jew Bagel and thrifty Campbell’s soup with dried parsley don’t worry about me luncheon. I am noodle kugel and I am turkey divan casserole I am Bubbeleh and I am Dearie. I am Ma and I am Mummy I am the Episcojew, and I am strong and not strong! I have a family tartan and a silence in the Vilnius ghetto. I cannot be buried in the holy land but I cannot be cremated. I am passing and have passed, heard the murmurs    of lovely    & also…         Dirty Jews, Fucking Gentiles. I have paid close attention to speech and learned how to autocorrect instantly. As quickly as fire, which used to follow me around like a strange cat. Fire on the Amtrak from DC to NYC, fire in the living room burning the shag rug, Fire on the Mountain at the Dead Shows.

Now I just keep turning my words into something else beside fire like someone with a personality disorder trying to make everything look good! It is humbling and uncool, but I keep trying to fill in the blank of myself with words that keep changing. It is better, the Boston Brahmins say, to have a history not a past, so when I speak in the “I’ it must be my Jewish side and when I say that I am a vaudeville act in a quiet New England house. I am the Daughter of the American Revolution in third class steerage.

I am the debutante dead in the Pogrom. I am a morpher like autocorrect. I have tried to make myself acceptable to both sides. Literally.


I am an Elizabeth…I  autocorrect into an   electric    elsewhere


I am also Ann                 And   Another


Powell to     Power    to Pose  


In Hebrew my name would be Bathsheba Bat Label


Bathsheba    becomes      Banshee, Battery


Also, I am delighted: Cary Grant was Jewish & Cary Grant was Church of England. He was perhaps the most successful autocorrector of all time. As a child he imagined himself (circumnsion and all) as an English Gentleman, and so that is what he became.

I pass, and I self hate, and I take over the world with my great-grandfather’s privilege and my great-grandmother’s disappearance into the furnace of Eastern Europe with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In the fall of 1970 the orange moth infested leaves made me scared of the sun. Under the “modern” swings with new plastic seats, the RC boys kicked me for “killing Christ”, kicked me in my tartan kilt and patent leathers, right in the belly where my button should be. Dragged me down by my strawberry blonde to find the horns underneath.

I was stupid. I did not know my phone number yet. I was looking for my umbilical cord, but I had no umbilical cord and my mother knew not why, When technology comes to help you it usually has a darkness underneath: Think of Monopoly replacing gin rummy or Pampers causing all this asthma.

No technology could help me autocorrect the fact I had absorbed my lost twin in utereo. He had died at some point. He died before anyone but me knew he even existed. Four months, maybe? And, it is said, the remaining fetus absorbs the bones and blood and memory of the other lost child. This happens all the time, like the way the word Oligarchy autocorrects into Democracy and no one really thinks about it because they are typing their lives so fast they can hardly keep up with the minute hand that is the man’s but also the brain’s. Another level of fusion. This is his fused monologue, too. I contain what might have been his speech, a kind of echolalia.

This is also why I always thought I had done something terribly, horribly wrong. So when the R.C. boys told me I killed Jesus Christ I kind of believed them, not only metaphorically because we all have Pontius Pilot in us, but I also have my parent’s first son inside me somehow, and I miss him and know he contains some answer I need that has been autocorrected out me to become a more pleasant word. Hence another autocorrection, though I keep writing “umbilical cord “and it keeps saying “umbilicus” or “umbrella” or sometimes “umpire”, who always said    “you’re out!” So then I decided I would write it out of the story, so I could become my doppelganger.

Somehow, though, the doppelganger must be female. When I speak of him and for him it is a female voice because that is my gender. Wherever his Y went I do not know, only God does and that part is fine by me now, although for a long time it scared me like at any minute I might autocorrect into something else and not know why or how and be stuck. Each day I was alive my mother became more masculine and I became more feminine, whatever that means beyond another autocorrecting of what we were and are supposed to be. A kind of automatic writing a la francaise, our dream consciousness was responsible for making us, too. It was a matter of who was in control of the autocorrect any given day, ourselves, our God(s), the global consciousness of the sixties seeping up all around my childhood.  I had a terrible fear that even if I never drank booze again I would suddenly be struck drunk from magic autocorrection and black out and not know what I was doing. It was also a kind of OCD that survivors of dead twins in utereo have. I read all about it on the Internet, so it must be true. I feared I might myself autocorrect the whole world like a Pacman figure bent on some propulsion much like an autocorrection that eats the world dot by pixelated dot.

Hence, I am suppressing myself and repressing myself. Ballet is the method I wanted most for this expression but my Jewish grandmother danced with Martha Graham and Joseph Campbell’s wife. I was not allowed to be a ballerina (too much controlling!) Autocorrection. I am a Modern dancer morphing into GYMNAST! When I started bleeding at 14 I left it all for the large padded humiliation in my leotard and a bowl of hashish. I spent three hours with a box of Tampax and it was torture. These juxtapositions are creative memory, which is yet another way to say autocorrection.

Around then, I read my father’s 1960s compass copy of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and began to understand why his sister called him Willy Loman. He had eaten the dream and it has made him sick. I could hear my mother yelling, “no more 42nd Street Hookers, no more secretaries!” The dishes would fly, and she’d be announcing “I am on my way to mother’s!” That’s when I noticed my doppelganger under the bed, snoring and talking and laughing in her sleep. “How could you laugh?” I said. “How could you not?” she said.

Some could argue it was a disjointed or multiple personalities. It was around Passover and Easter when I, I mean we, were raped by the drunken neighbor Bill Gottlieb, who had tried to shoot his entire family because his wife modernized to using a potato peeler. I was so stupid I still did not know my phone number.

It was more about intermarriage and the space between Passover and Easter when my doppelganger rose from the dead like Lady Lazarus and I didn’t know if I should wear my cross or my Star of David. I didn’t know like Cary Grant did that you could wear all the symbols on one gold chain if you wanted to.

My intermarried parents were divorcing; everything in society was splitting like a John Cheever story where the WASPS hung out drinking gin and tonics on the lawn. But my father’s sister, a Freudian Analyst from Scarsdale never stopped with the Willy Loman talk, and so we seemed to be acting that play as our family drama enactment. I read it again and again, until the doppelganger moved from under the bed to the top bunk.

It is said in writing “Death of a Salesman” that Arthur Miller was moved by his intermarriage and it made him think even more about assimilation. I’m sure he felt shame then about his Down syndrome child he kept secret.

But it is always Biff Loman who has the most epiphanies on stage. Sometimes I think my brother if he lived might have been like Biff. Biff eats so much epiphany like birthday cake! He eats so much and leaves me only a sliver, an he’s eaten all the roses before I can even enter the stage on the elevator from my hell of guilt for killing Jesus Christ, absorbing my dead twin, not being Ivy League material, by being the dregs of a legacy cured in Bourbon old-fashioned on an island of the coast of Maine not far from Blue Hill, and having relatives who chew chopped liver with mouths open. Biff can’t hide who he is even if he uses failure to try and do it. The lost father makes a lost son, assimilated or not. I know all about it.

Like the rest of my immediate family, I am sure if Biff met me he would not like me. I imagine him as a kind of brother, though. For him my voice has always been and will always be a kind of shhhhhhhh. I’ve been stuttering this out a syllable a day—that’s my wage as an abandoned child. Suddenly it seemed everyone exited stage left and right like the cartoon characters on the show I watched. I stayed home. I didn’t want to ride over the Throgg’s Neck to dreaded Long Island, where the dichotomies amplified to extreme. I was afraid of bridges until I realized I marched the Pettus Bridge in utereo as my mother followed other marchers from behind in her in her knee socks and shorts and loafers, her secret gayness and secret WASP empathy.

Eventually, I “grew up”. For a long time I didn’t understand my narrative so I yearned for a baby. When in doubt about the world I liked to have babies and buy puppies.

My retinal flashes made no sense until I realized they were someone else’s story trying to live through me. That sweet doppelganger, brother- sister, evil other, good girl!  The story kept banging at my red front door, the one I painted for red for good luck, behind which I lollygagged and sofatized as I proceeded with the CNN Induced lobotomy dream of life. From CNN I learned autocorrect is a conspiracy theory because it keeps trying to change THE TRUTH! And I still didn’t know my home phone number. When I let my other HER SELF in the red door, she began dictating to me, until we just used the auto dictation on my MacBook Air


Sometimes I am an Elizabeth   
Sometimes she is a Bathsheba


I wanted to lie down in the back of my parents 1970 country squire station wagon back when they put the back seats down and the children slept without seat belts through the interstate night. But hey long since ridden down that highway, outta sight


Cary Grant once said:

I made the mistake of thinking that each of my wives was my mother, that there would never be a replacement once she left.


I understand this. This is what made me psychic. This is what makes images arrive on the doorstep with a bindle over the shoulder made of red bandana. Each man is the last man.

I search Wikipedia for an answer. Auto correction is a kind of data validation, which “ is the process of ensuring that a program operates on clean, correct and useful data. It uses routines, often called "validation rules" "validation constraints" or "check routines", that check for correctness, meaningfulness, and security of data that are input to the system. “

Maybe my autocorrection has been a way for me to hide, to morph into whoever I was supposed to be in any given situation.  The only thing I know is that Abraham is the only one who completely claims me in this story, I mean in addition to God. So my prayers became poems because it was too hard to commit whom to pray to.

The paradox of making a mockery of your self, to become not a mockery of your self. To devalue the capital of cool. To say: I am fucked up, is as old or older than Robert Lowell. I want you to “like” me because “J’ Suis Robert Lowell” or “Je Suis Sylvia Plath”…. Let me say though that no one should auto-correct by killing herself. I love God this much (see my hands out as far as I can reach) and further. Let this typing autocorrect me closer to him. He alone can turn a bad world into something useful. Let my autocorrect be the way you “batter my heart Three Personed God.” Please fill in my blanks in a way that pleaseth you my Lord, my one true only, God before any other Gods. I don’t want to say, “Can I get an autocorrection!” I want to say, “Can I get an Amen?”

image: Aaron Burch