Divine Love: On Lesbian Power Ballads & The Wild Heart by Carina Finn


I am five years old, alone in the car while my mother returns too-big denim overalls at Kids ‘R’ Us. It is summer, and the radio and A/C are blasting. My hands are clasped, my eyes are closed, and I am begging God to put on my favorite song — the one with the woods full of princes. I do not know what it’s called. Then the synth-y sounds of Heart’s These Dreams come billowing through the speakers like a wind and I am certain for the first time of heaven. Visions of Mia Sara circa Ridley Scott’s Legend dance through my head. I am all of the princes in the wood on a herd of white horses and she is standing in a white dress, in the mist, and the romantic aesthetic of my adult life, in this imaginary moment, is defined.

Then I’m twenty-four, staring down at Midtown Manhattan’s neo-gothic architecture through the enormous windows of my 39th floor Park Avenue corner office, and as the new Tegan and Sara album, released just that morning, comes to an end, my eyes fill with tears. I sit down at my desk and pull out cream-colored Crane & Co. stationary emblazoned with little gold hummingbirds. It has been three days since I’ve spoken to the girl I love and this will be the fourth letter I’ve written. I seal the letter and add it to the pile stashed in my filing cabinet.

“Did you send that press release yet?” the office manager chirps from across the hall.

“Hours ago,” I lie, and turn up Rumours as loud as my headphones will allow. Later I go to my best friend’s apartment and learn to play “Silver Springs” on the ukulele in her bathroom while drinking glass after glass of neat vodka until dawn. That weekend, I wander the city smoking yellow and blue Nat Shermans up and down Avenues A, B, and C, wearing exclusively old riding breeches and Ralph Lauren oxford shirts underneath my black fur-trimmed cape. When I’m not outside smoking, I learn to play every song on Rumours.

A year later, my heart is sore and I’m riding a taxi across the Williamsburg bridge. The night is unseasonably warm and I feel the city across the water like a pilot light inside of me. I put on an Indigo Girls song and my companion immediately turns it off.

“This song makes me menstruate,” she says, and stares out the window strangely.

“But it’s the Indigo Girls,” I argue.

“Right,” she says. We listen to The Spice Girls instead.

Finally I am twenty-five, penning this essay in the pastry kitchen of a West Village restaurant on a slow Sunday night, piping my playlist du jour (Emoji Wave) through the basement, sweeping up cornmeal to “A Little Respect” by Erasure.

It has been four days since I’ve had more than two hours of sleep, four months almost to the day since I’ve had a drink. This afternoon I slow-danced to Journey for the first time since my senior prom, though this time in workboots and jeans rather than a confectionary dress.

As I held this woman close, pivoting on some axis defined entirely by depth of emotion rather than a spatial relationship to anything on the planet, my very real physical weariness dissipated entirely. For what is exhaustion in the glow of a power ballad, a worldess chorus that breaks your heart, the most beautiful being plastic animal or mineral the eyes can barely conceive, the first hot day of a sad spring, and feeling what died winter after winter blink its soft gray eyes? Loneliness is how we feel closer to God, having been created to calm that beast in the divine. To feel it in the arms of one beloved makes the heart go wild.

The best version of the song Stevie Nicks wrote about this is just the repeated refrain, sung backstage while one girl does her makeup and another pops in and out of the frame, singing harmonies. In the fleshed-out album version, the song begins with a recitative about the brazen solitude of heartbreak. In the song, it is the Other who is the leave-taker, but it is Stevie’s wild heart accepting the blame. If she is to be lonely, it is not because of any fault other than her own divinity. In order to love she must create the world; in order to love her the beloved must live in it. This is not an easy predicament:

“Where is the reason? Don’t blame it on me; blame it on my wild heart.” The problem, such that it is, is a lack of reason. The cover of the album of the same title shows three cloaked Stevies, a witchy trinity. An impossibility and the only possibility, the divine creating itself in the image of itself such that loneliness becomes the sur-real. There’s this episode, really a string of episodes, of The Sarah Silverman show in which Sara has a love affair with God. His love is so pure and sweet that she finds him intolerable as a partner; don’t blame it on her, blame it on his wild heart. Of course the other Stevie Nicks ballad dealing with these same concepts is the best lesbian karaoke song of all time, “Sara,” with its optimistic sadness and twenty-four bar instrumental break smack in the middle of a six-minute song, during which the only viable option is a performative make-out session that leaves you with the metallic tang of indescribable solitude.



When Washington said
stay out of foreign affairs —
this is the first history lesson
I really remember —
he meant it.
So I fall in love
with an isolationist nation,
survivors of genocide
with a vanity complex so
overwhelming it gets
in their hair
so everyone’s hair looks
the same.
Because everyone is so
spiritually rich
talking to ghosts on the
phone all the time.
Charging collect calls to
outer-realms she (my
love) is spatial, and the
night shift immediately
starts again.

Before I’ve even had one
lavender-infused cocktail
kombucha or cup
of fair-trade coffee we
have to talk about
oppression on the wire

She only recognizes
signals of acute distress &
can only respond in
the language of the over-

Still in my dreams when
the grey horse
lies down beside her I am
so happy to see them,
the raw & the cooked (in
this the horse is cooked
by the sun).

Submissive to
extragalactic beauty I am
just a boy & I love & I
love like 70s funk and no
one does that anymore.
Here in my heart
in its limeviolet dark
I sit eating candy
necklaces, tossing roses
at the bed
with a petulance.

Then toss my little body
on the burning barricade.

But she’s the symbol
of her nation now,
she’s Hope,
that melancholy bird.
And she looks at me with
inhuman eyes I have
known all long
to love something
semi-optic is
And it doesn’t get any
better than this:
creamed on the floor
of the underground,
red-eyed, cute-drunk, so
wonderfully unwanted
I just want to feel

It doesn’t get much
better than this.
Shaken by ecstatic self
control. Moved
by the secret in the crust
of the earth. Bombing
the enemy with petals.
Going out the window.
I mean casually
turning red. Turning
the river red.
Eating psychedelic
seeds. The yellow plus
sign of the sun.

carina_sizedCarina Finn is the author of I Heart Marlon Brando (Wheelchair Party Press, 2010), My Life is a Movie (Birds of Lace, 2012), Lemonworld & Other Poems (Co.Im.Press, 2013), The Grey Bird: Thirteen Emoji Poems in Translation (with Stephanie Berger, Coconut Books, 2014), and Invisible Reveille (Coconut Books, forthcoming 2014). Her plays have been performed at The University of Notre Dame and The Bowery Poetry Club, and she is the founder and curator of The Bratty Poets Series. Carina is a pastry chef who enjoys Fleetwood Mac, too much coffee, and running through fields of wildflowers.

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**Wild Heart Tote via fieldguided.