The Angel’s Mouth by Gerri Ravyn Stanfield

Editor Carrie Ivy, Editor's Choice, June 20th, 2017

"I do not know why you shudder when two men kiss."

Gerri Ravyn Stanfield Essay Nailed Magazine


A personal essay by Gerri Ravyn Stanfield.

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Stand like a queen, she said. Don’t slouch, stick out your boobs. You must lift your soft palate, it happens at the end of a yawn. So, let yourself yawn right now, that’s right, bigger than that. This is a reflex that stretches. The soft palate tones the muscles of breathing, helps you swallow.

Your tongue must be out of the way when singing, touch it gently behind your bottom teeth.

Lift your zygomatic bones in your cheeks with every breath, make the look on your face like you care about what you are doing. Yes, that makes your face look smiling, softer. Let your sinus resonators open all the way.

This is how you learn to sing.

Last June, I was forced to see how many people believe the lie that some body parts that you penetrate are better than others. They say there are things you should not do with your mouth, fingers, genitals, tongue. There are many places you cannot enter and be welcome.

I do not know why you shudder when two men kiss. Do they remind you of women? Is that the worst threat you can imagine?

Do you think that God hates a man with a bended wrist, and a high clear voice like an angel?

I used to love angels, the dead guardians riding clouds, silver winged, a choir of mouths open, wide dark moons with sky song coming out. They sing all the time, for the birth of children who have no homes, for the death of someone great, for the joy of flying.

I used to sing loud in Catholic school, to the vaulted ceilings, to Jesus, arms outstretched, head bent. I was bold and breastless with pale hands that turned the pages of the hymnal. My music teacher told me that I sang so far off key that I should only mouth the words while everyone else sang them. I couldn’t be an angel anymore. I couldn’t let sound fly out and away. I didn’t want to be the largest thing in the universe, but I wouldn’t mind having wings, singing like that.

Their voices make you swell with that emotion that isn’t quite sad but it clumps in the throat. I get that lump when there is something that my body thinks must be said, but the voices in my head think is dangerous.

Then I am at war with myself. I must speak, I can’t speak. My mouth is too full of tongue.

Your vocal tract lies between your larynx and your lips, look at me when you sing like you are speaking to me, watch for tongue tension, warm up with your tongue hanging out like a dog, pant like a dog for one full minute, ready, go!  Now say AAAAHHHHH. And on your Os, let your mouth make a rounded O shape, drop your jaw, you can go straight to the center of the vowel. Let yourself become a siren squeaking from your low voice to your high voice.

Your genitals and your throat are made from the same tissue in utero, so in order to sing you must warm up that tissue, lubricate your throat, vibrate your vocal folds. Get it warm and ready to make sound. In the first month of pregnancy, your mouth and lower jaw form. You have a throat long before you have a gender.

Here is the truth:

There is nothing more sweet and wild than young gay men sweating on a dance floor lips pressed together and heads tossed back. Perhaps they sing along to the pulse, mouthing the words to each other, making club music into love songs inside their mouths.

The newspaper at the SFO airport the next day said the gunmen locked 8 of them in the bathroom and their phones said call the police mommy, he has us.

The word faggot was born because gay men were often burned first to get the fire hot enough to burn a witch.

I do not know what sound a spray of bullets makes.

I do not know if my love is stronger than my drive for revenge.

I do not know most of my ancestors, they have been scrubbed from me, I don’t have their names in my mouth. I don’t know if any of them were gay.

I don’t know how they sniff us out, too soft, too kind, too feminine, too butch, too angry, too sissy.

This is what we must feel before we feel free.

It’s too scary to sing too loud right now,

I am more afraid to love than I have ever been.

Breathe into the sides of your ribcage, a huge portion of your lungs are in your back. It matters what your lips and tongue and teeth do when you sing. Don’t collapse like a plastic bottle, expand your ribs and slowly let the breath go, like a glass bottle that holds its fullness. Let your breath become sound on the way out. Can you release on both the exhale and the inhale?

My mouth is too full of tongue, knives, queerness.

I tattoo them inside my soft palate lifted,

49 angels faggots, fallen, broken open

crumpled spines, mouths open, skin torn

now, you can soar upwards, your future unmade, your pulse undone

I know your names, I keep watch, I will not stop singing

for you. I take the holy risk to love as I must, I know

love is the only law that matters.

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Gerri Ravyn Stanfield Essay Nailed MagazineGerri Ravyn Stanfield is the author of Revolution of the Spirit: Awaken the Healer, a guide to liberate the healing super powers within us. She has been published in NAILED Magazine, Voice Catcher, Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal, Wake Up World, and Tattooed Buddha. She practices acupuncture in Portland, Oregon and works with Acupuncturists Without Borders to build world healing exchange programs. She designs trainings for emerging leaders and healers in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. Visit her official site here.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.