I just found this prose poem I wrote in 1991 stuck in the pages of my favorite Langston Hughes poetry collection. Funny trying to remember what I was talking about. "My associates" were my high school friends. We've been dropping like flies since we were kids. "The old man with birth control glasses" was our teacher, John Staples. I can pinpoint a few of the men I had relationships with--the paratrooper, the opera singer. And I did love going to gospel shows.
What a funny memoir of how angsty and dramatic my head was at the time.
Full circle has come since the glacial steppes of my adolescence, where my associates wore funny furry hats and wrapped themselves in red cloaks emblazoned with the arcane symbol of our sect. The old man with birth control glasses is gone now, having met his end in Colorado, and many of us have driven headfirst into brick walls or otherwise stuck shotguns into our mouths or overdosed on steroids in log cabins in the mountains, and pretty wawimbo complete with lyrical hollow-bodied guitar accompaniment are all we have to soothe our tired brains.
Somehow it’s not quite enough. Even if you intercalate a couple of days into the year, and even if the climbing uta comes out at night to do his pushups on the still-warm surface of a geodesic rock, full circle comes around to the season of dead parents and rotting palm trees. I still attend the raucous gospel meetings in the church where they hand out free celery soup, and when I slide a backward glissando on my skate (light as a feather!) over the meaningless ice, I find a modicum of comfort. It’s the season of discontent.
I come to the edge of a dune, like Lawrence shimmying his way to clutch and gape at the sight of an ocean liner’s stack in the grandiloquent canal. I’ve reached the bell’s toll of all possible vistas. Somewhere in the palimpsest of my life, glorious, and to be written upon sheets of gold, there’s a passage that tells of the inviolate house I built as a memory of him. As in the dreams I have of the endless mansions with secret passageways, cupolas where tall dark and handsome men lurk, perhaps with Uzis and perhaps with roses, the house isn’t fit for living. There are no rats or millipedes with vestigial tails, and the lowering faces of the gargoyles are strictly art. A nuclear-orange fluffy lemur might cling to the bannister of a staircase, in fact.
I was a gift once. Personality razed, only to be resurrected, and tested in the most incomprehensible ways. Easily I can be a gift again, and offer myself up to the most horrific and suave pandering of a paratrooper who once landed on an anthill in the Copper Belt…His eyes were my entire night sky, and we would have lived in polarized villas where rubber crabs climb the painted palm trunks to slice off hunks of coconuts in their claws. I would cinch myself in webs of leather, silk, and cotton, all for his amusement. Reclining against an enlarged map of southern Namibia, and wearing hats of all varieties, furry or not, to offer myself up as a toy you need not fear or challenge.
My mind resists. It really does! I have all the talents. All I ever wanted was a white dress to hang like crepe de chine and waft in the tropical air that’s blown from the mouth of some comical god, there, on the edge of the water where ships fall off the side and into never-never land. I can walk safely away from the breast of this curly-haired Igor, my white skirt will lick my ass, and I’ll wear pretty patent leather pumps. My sozaco hat is to die for.
The ones of us who still stand gather together underneath the corpse of a palm tree. The bones of our parents are the detritus of our barbecues. We laugh at blood and guts, the way it’s portrayed in the movies. To have come this far from the freezing steppes and red cloaks of our childhood, to drop blood onto the paper, to lay my face languidly in the warm air against the forearm of an opera singer while the white Lafitte curtains move imperceptibly in the open vircolle window.
I know now that Ptolemy was wrong when he pitted the dramatic characters in the bowl of the Prussian blue night sky against each other. There is no gladiator up there. All can be seen in the mechanics of the collared lizard of the Rio Grande who takes its own kind into its mouth and shakes it apart till its heart is stabbed from both ends. The army-green scales that fall on the floury sand mean nothing to anyone. Uncles from South Africa don’t send letters of congratulations.