Thursday, November 21, 2013


In the tenth pairing of the Ten Buts thru Ten Comms Project reading A Red Stamp” through “Thou shalt not covet,” the Steiny Road Poet waded in to cross match first identifying some words to work with and then moving backwards through the text.


If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.


Here are some words that Steiny thought she could work with: need, not at all necessary, if they do this and it is not necessary, lily white.

Comments from Steiny:
“Thank G-d the word need appeared in this Button! It gave me courage that I could find something to talk about in this read through but once I traveled backwards through the poem, I saw other possibilities.

Need is a companion to desire.

“Covet means: 
1. To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's). See Synonyms at envy.
2. To wish for longingly. See Synonyms at desire.
Root meanings of covet include the word Cupidus (Cupid) 
[Middle English coveiten, from Old French coveitier, from covitie, desire, from Latin cupidits, from cupidus, desirous, from cupere, to desire.] 

“Since we Buttons decided that we saw "A Red Stamp." as a coded love poem that hinges on desire and physical sex, the fit for the Tenth Commandment works here.

not at all necessary goes hand-in-hand with being commanded not to covet. What one desires is not necessarily what one needs to live, though in love there is no reason like this. In the orthodoxy of religion, what Gertrude desires (i.e. Alice) is not  permissible. So Gtrude cannot put her love story out in the world straightforwardly so creates her catalogue, her register of marriage and troth through Tender Buttons.

if they do this and it is not necessary continues the discussion of a love relationship not permissible by Judaic or Christian standards. However, one should not dismiss the repetition exacted here. It really smacks in the thou shalt not if not the entire thou shalt not covet command.

lily whitemeans beyond reproach and this is how Gertrude sees Alice once she falls in love with her and so Gtrude gives Alice her red stamp of covetous attention in defiance of thou shalt not...”


This concludes the close reading of the first ten subpoems of Tender Buttons through the Ten Commandments. This journey was often as difficult as the first read-throughs but hopefully some new light was shed. Ellen Dillon, thinking of all things buttonical, offered this quote from Rachel Blau DuPlessis as commentary on how the members of the Tender Button MOOSG— interact with Stein’s difficult texts:

“a reverence for textuality so intense it moves into an antic quality within the seriousness, an exilic, nomadic sensibility, a certain kind of humor … a quarrel with the negative space some call God, a particular, actually somewhat skeptical, somewhat hopeful attitude to fulfillment and messianic hope.”

Dave Green provided this response to Ellen’s offering,

“Yes, we are antic buttonical exegetes here, not unlike the text-crazed Talmudic scholars of yore. We are nomadic because the words we study have had their denotational links cut and therefore we are continually sailing on a vast sea of possible meanings. Our messages themselves cross the globe every day and night. We strengthen our communal bonds and hold a light against the darkness via humor (we believe this works better than buying goddamn big cars). We question everything, as the truth is complex and elusive; sometimes feel lost amid the vast ocean; but always remain hopeful we will glean a measure of understanding and have fun in the process.”

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