Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left open for surprises]

the mighty bouche

Bodies, damn it, are so loud and weird. Mine is popping off like fireworks all the time these days, and this raggedy self-portrait is trying to show you what's going on in and around my mouth and throat. You see the mouth sewn shut up there. This is a sensation I'm getting, say, half of every waking hour. Like my mouth is vacuumed, suctioned shut. (It's fucking annoying, in case you're wondering.)  (I went with stitches in this drawing because I couldn't figure out how to visually represent the glued-shut, suction feeling.) Apparently there are some things that a part of me would prefer I didn't say. That's my best guess about this phenomenon. Anyway, mouth, suction, THING, you have my attention. Now please find a way to explicitly get across what your problem is. 

Meanwhile, mouth. Mine, yours, ours, the. That's where we'll go today. 


Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.

So sayeth Mike Tyson.


It's the night of February 13th, 1984, and I've just let myself into the dark house. My parents are asleep. I leave the lights off and go straight to the dining room mirror. I have been kissing a boy, and now I must look at my mouth. Is it fuller? Does it look kissed? I'm forgetting that I've kissed at least four girls on the mouth at length as an experimental child, and that was only for starters. None of that counted, it would appear. The boy kiss is the first one, in my heart. There's nothing to see but I could stand here all night anyway. I say "bee-stung" in my mind repeatedly. I don't even take my coat off. 

Billy Drago as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables. His is the first and possibly the only on-screen mouth I was ever stirred by. Cruel, sensual mouth. He looks like he's always just bitten or is just about to bite someone. I think it would be satisfying to be bitten by Billy Drago, like having a knot massaged out that can't be got at any other way. Like he could bite right through some old unfinished business, chew it, swallow it, relieve me of it. 

Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell, for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul, my friend. 

-My main man, Jalaluddin Rumi

A friend of mine went on a ten-day silent meditation retreat. Nobody talked, everybody just smiled and nodded and worked around each other. Then, one morning towards the end of the retreat, my friend went to pick up a couple of pieces of toast that were sitting next to the toaster. A guy came up behind him and broke the silence. "That's my toast."

When I was twelve, I got braces. Five years I had the fucking things. They stretched a metal bridge across my palate to stretch my jaw; we had to stick a tiny key in there every few days and crank it three times all the way around, which felt about as good as you might think it would. For my first year with braces, I unconsciously covered my mouth every time I laughed. My friends pointed it out to me, and I was amazed every time. I had no idea I was doing it.

MOUTH n. trap, chops, kisser, bazoo, mush, yap, 

beak, box, gob, clam, clam shells, clam trap, fish trap, fly 

trap, potato trap, kissing trap, talk trap, satchel mouth, 

funnel, dipper, gab, gap, jap, gash, gills, hatch, head, 

mug, box of dominoes

From the Random House Thesaurus of Twentieth Century Slang, 1988

I'm looking at mouth after mouth on the web. Mouths made of clay and stone and porcelain, mouths in paintings, photographs of mouths. Bare mouths, elaborately painted ones. Lord, what the mouth does. Lord, the responsibilities. Speech, nourishment. Eyes and ears and noses and hands, they're almost precious compared to the hot, corporeal gash of the mouth. Biting, chewing, sucking, yelling: you're in a body now, motherfucker. No way around it. I haven't forgotten the soft work of the mouth, by the way, all that sweet stuff: murmuring, singing, kissing, etc. But I'm more interested in the mouth at maximum today. 

There's a medieval painting of the mouth of hell. I mean, there you go. It's not a door, or an ear. The guy on the left is showing us an alternate route, right where his shorts aren't. 

In tenth grade, my friend Jennifer (this is a solid, identity-hiding code name for the 1980s) told me about a date she'd gone on with a senior. He convinced her to give him head in his car at the end of the date, and this was her first time. I was impressed with her bravery. A senior, in my eyes, was a grown man, and to orally grapple with the beast in a grown man's pants was inviting all hell to break loose—not morally, mind you, but physically, practically. Who knew what the fuck mayhem was going to land in your lap if you pulled that lever? 

That's still, for me, the ultimate exchange. Nothing is more up close—and potentially fraught—than that. Miraculous at best, degrading at worst. I'd love to go back in time and swoop the younger Tina out of a few situations, rescind that gift. That's an honor I'd like to retroactively set aside for the most truly deserving. Some of those fuckers got too lucky. I didn't know yet that my mouth is a temple. 

Even as I type this, there's a ruckus in my mouth, the thing I described up top. Pulling, thrumming, suction, tension. It's the epicenter of something, but what? Can't I get a printout explaining it all? Right out of my mouth, that'd be the ticket. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. Paper unfurling down my chin. Dear Tina. This is what I'm trying to tell you.

Whatever it is, I want to get it over with. Drop the knowledge on me, mouth. Or if you're trying to turn me inside out, which is how it feel sometimes, just fucking do it already. Enough with the suspense. Open sesame. 

P.S. I know I swore a lot in this post. Too bad. I have a mouth on me, and that's that.