By now I should have been crucified,
because on that day, suka, or vinegar, satisfies
a condemned man’s thirst for sour wine,
a millennia-old centurion’s prank. But I think
the day of my mother’s confession, the sons of
St. Theresa’s Cathedral.
2 blocks from Lanakila Park.
Bloody Mary lives in the Boys’
Restroom behind the backstop.
3 blocks from Apong Pio.
Barbed wire fence bittermelon.
4 blocks from the pampas grass.
Resident mongoose do not eat rats.
What compelled my mother to take me
to the Priest’s office after mass?
Shouldn’t I have been in Catechism
with Sister HammerofGod and Sister Brimstone?
What luck thought I! To be absolved of class.
These many years and the only lesson echoes, is
the moral of the Revenant. Widows do not pray
your husbands rise from the dead,
at least not before Judgment.
But, Satan will make it possible.
For a price as consumptive as spit.
When Satan says to return to him an undissolved
consecrated wafer, don’t you think the tongue
balancing communion, a dry river bed?
The knock on the door, the husband charmed,
but Satan didn’t say he would restore flesh to bone.
It is a test of vanity. His or yours?
Would you love him, bloated, wormed, soiled, dissolved?
The devil is in the details, espoused in fine print.
Your signature proves the contract.
The Priest turned on the TV:
news coverage of the annual Good
Friday Pampanga crucifixions.
I see Longinus with his spear, aviator sunglasses
reflect a gathered anticipation.
The many Mary’s metered with the many crosses.
The people of Jerusalem barefoot, some atop carabaos or
the roofs of Jeepneys, smile at the camera.
Elevated, they are closer to Heaven.
It’s a good day for an execution.
It’s a good day for roadside barbecue chicken skewers.
It’s a good day for candy-filled plastic eggs.
It’s a good day to woo the Holy Spirit for time served aloft.
The nails, so feared in the Bible, galvanized toothpicks,
deceptively short, soak in alcohol. Several crowns of thorns
bleed several Christs, their backs convincingly wounded earlier.
The chorus economizes litanies.
The vulcanizer praises his business,
the pot holes and flat tires God will provide.
The whips now conduct flies.
The proxies assemble themselves.
Never do this on an empty stomach, even when multiplying
loaves, the creditor is unimpressed.
My mother talks. Maybe she cries. Or maybe she laughs.
I suppose the distraction is for my benefit and yet between
learning that she’s divorcing my father and the hammer blows,
there would be no deal with the devil, turning the knob returns
the same channel, penitents want more than 5 minutes of fame.
It is her confession, and I have no voice in it. Like the hands
and feet nailed on TV are not mine. Strange, the comfortable
chair, wraps me in an indifferent narrative plot, the sky above
Calvary is the same above Kalihi, I feel no agony.
Divorced of self, I had lost faith
in church and parenthood,
I tell myself, this is where doubt began,
in the myth, in resurrection.
Apology for contract broken is
a station, the Cyrenaean forgot.
I wanted to star in my own re-enactment.
More, I wanted something
impenetrable than being slung to a beam.
I wanted her confession,
and that foreknowing, stripped from me.
Had I been better off to the nunnery?
When my father returns from the Persian Gulf,
will my mother’s absence on the pier at Pearl Harbor
tell of his future? Will he know that I knew beforehand,
that in the Priest’s office while my mother retracted,
I calculated my short time with him because
Christs did not die on crosses.
Christs are nailed
between the webbing of their fingers and not in their wrists.
Christs are nailed
between the webbing of their toes and not through their ankles.
Christs did not suffer nor suffocate
while the Priest ordained my mother’s gambit.
Christs are repairable.
In the opposite direction, Hotel Street’s strip clubs.
my father’s legacy, I find shuttered tracing
his steps when I turned 18, and old enough
to understand consolation.
Had he known the Internet, would salvation cost less than a lap dance?
Unsurprising is war porn. BDSM and the Military.
Venus infers as much.
At the Green Arcade, the corner of Market and Gough, Juliana Spahr performed before 24 people, a collaborative piece (minus David Buuck) about dissolving and leaking faces. Norma Cole, Susan Gevirtz, Stephen Dickison, Brian Teare, and Eleni Stecopoulas were there. My evening was a twofer. I followed poetry with NSA FWB. The Love Triangle at the Blue Macaw, the corner of Mission and 22nd.
Venus infers as much.
Celebrating polyamory and nonmonogamy was more gimmick than matchmaking. I left before midnight, the music souring into 1980’s North Beach Palladium New Wave-postPunk. I have never left a club early, though on a good note. Three men made a point to tell me I was a great dancer. Perhaps had I removed my shirt, the numbers would have been higher. Still, I was looking to meet women. Note to self: do not deviate from Death Guild or Bondage-A-Go-Go. Had this been really the “Get-laid-ium,” I would have gone next door to the Lusty Lady.
The times are different.
After The Trocadero closed, I have been to Wednesday’s Bondage-A-Go-Go once, when it relocated to the Cat Club. It has since returned to its former venue, renamed the Glas Kat, minus sushi bar.
Death Guild, Monday nights, on the other hand, traveled from The Trocadero, The Manhattan Club, Big Heart City, and to the DNA Lounge, with a minor month-long recurrence at the Glas Kat.
Blame it on the Dot.Com era for complicating the leases of many themed clubs that catered to the goth/industrial/fetish community. There was one hosted for each night of the week. Blame it on the rush to loft the light industrial sector. But also blame the House Armed Services Committee for abandoning more than 10 key Bay Area military installations. The clubs were home for the off-duty.
The next Thursday, after working the Groove Armada show at the Fillmore, I duck in to MEAT, a once-a-month theme hosted by the DNA Lounge. Pure Industrial and barbecue. I needed to work out energy, and the frustration of lost weekends with. A shot of Jägermeister; two hours later I left the floor.
Wednesday[s], while my son sleeps at my mother’s, I would like to indulge nostalgia. That’s what I want to do. But maybe I will wait until my Army orders come through.
I want to reinhabit the space that will not fault me for what I am, a product of Easter. Do the math.
I was conceived the year Easter fell on my father’s birthday.
[It is a space that allows me to reclaim faith in lesser ideals than poetry.] The space? Or the resurrection? Or the betweenness, separating heaven and earth.
That space has been reliably SOMA’s dark clubs. However, before the Park Rangers cracked down, a box canyon, a sand dune or an isolated beach sufficed.
Seriously, perhaps, the authentic relationships I yearn for are reproduced by those who embrace the gaze or are not encumbered by it, are fetish fluent, do not find pathology in exhibition and voyeurism, are in fact inspired and sculpted, inebriated by these operations.
Has bootcamp defined or ironized intimacy?
I may be the only one dancing stripped down to camouflage cargo shorts or Dickies slacks, and I know I become a vehicle for the voyeurs who have difficulty staging what (the body) matters to them.
I am a meat puppet occupied by music.
I am a piece of meat waiting for a pixilated uniform. Eternal returns?
Such is the echo of my first pin-up, dressed only in black parachute assault pants. Bandoliers cross her chest. Yes, nipples at attention. She shoulders an assault rifle.
Camouflage paint slight below her eyes. She’s knee deep in mangrove swamp. She’s just been inserted. Brunette, shoulder length hair, wind-blown. Suggestion of Southeast Asian clandestine operation.
Recurrence has it way back to me.
Is it possible, the peep show dancer courts my heart because she’s behind glass? Or it is the promise my father did not fulfill?
Returning to that space where strobes crown the ceiling, atomizing, cutting time, I take my shirt off to dance and no one will stop me.
Did marine guard strip searches make it so easy?
Take the ragdoll, and the punctum of the ripped stocking or the exposed arm’s chance encounter with barbed wire. The random rupture, a self-mortification if you will, mimes the crucified body, at once an art installation that is both sacred and profane, but unlike it stilled by nails and grounded by a posthole, the re-animated ragdoll dances a life-affirming dirge expedited by bedlam’s inevitability and recurrence.
I catapult my arms, delineating a perimeter, very few would enter. I don’t need glass. The violence dancing, carving territory, a kind of area denial, a kind of reconnoiter.
I do not come to these conclusions lightly. I risk the record being pathologize by the amateur psychoanalyst, or the few women I have been with.
Perhaps, I would welcome the critique more, than the burbling stoned raver with the Orajel-ed lips, slumped by the bonfire at Gazos Creek Beach north of Davenport, the Full-moon rave.
“He’s so tribal,” she said.
I was absorbing its glow, then found myself standing in the middle of it, a four-foot drift wood mound, igniting salts.
“He’s so tribal,” she repeated.
Yes, such was the female gaze.
I walked off to somewhere more anonymous, among spinning Cyalume dancers.
What is the origin of my gaze? How would I define postcolonial eroticism? Militarism and nonnormative sexual encounters made possible? Warporn? Is it learned? Passed down? Earned? Inherited? Inherent?
Venus infers as much.
Sitting in Darkness
8 months in the Navy left a legacy pronounced in how I write, what I choose to write, how I perform that writing, how I look at women, what fetishes operate, how I look at myself and present myself vis-à-vis attracting the male gaze, and what urban spaces I find refuge.
Before my time, Mark Twain (in his writing) addressed the people of the Philippines, the little brown brothers and little brown sisters sitting in Darkness. His outrage for McKinley’s exporting America’s civilization, ethos, and export sense needs to be reconsidered. The Transamerica Pyramid overshadows Mark Twain Alley, and his memory threatened by a plaza full of restaurants and high-fashion clothing stores. Not too far away are the docks where the occupation army began its Pacific crossing. A century earlier, had Twain predicted San Francisco’s launching pad? For better or for worse, colonialism gave us world access. The labor markets obliged. We are dancing on the graves of empires. Rather, we are the caretakers of the graves of empires. Read my body within this imperial metropole, and perhaps understand the gaze.
A century and a decade later, we are quite mobile, the Darkness accentuating the contours the roots of our economic necessity and the lines of historic flux that delivered us to the various corners of the world. Time and space conflated, the militarized body, the postcolonial body, is in and out of contested desire. Oh meat puppets you and I. Let’s waltz.
I am male and therefore I have a gaze, a gendered privilege—I have been told. Women have gazes too, yet, not identified as menacing. Yet, I dare you enter an inter-racial relationship. I am also brown-skinned and therefore marginalized by both men and women of privilege. (I write the previous sentence awkwardly. Rather, I am awkward by this sentence.) I may speak English better than they do, or understand English better than they do, especially its political and cultural foot-in-mouth. In the end, to them, I am a talking monkey. Perhaps my gaze is akin to a caged beast’s. I desire the freedom of movement. The whiteness of a passport. The nonchalance of erasing history. To be the beauty’s trope or yardstick. Yet, my sensitivity to imperial grammar and tongue-tiedness to certain consonant clusters leaves me dirty. Yes, the Subaltern can speak, but what of its proxy?
sixteen years earlier
Perhaps this is what I was thinking at the bottom of the steps leading to the stage, smoking a cigarette, only to light another for the weightlessness of a quick nicotine high.
The first time I was here, the previous Wednesday, Rob “Orson” and I took to the stage. By midnight, the floor was packed and the arms-length personal space shrunk to a shoulder. Very little expressive movement was allowed. Raising an arm risked elbowing someone’s head. Spreading the fingers to resemble smoke risked entanglement in bouffant hair. Kicking out the legs to follow a staccato bass line risked tripping the stiletto-heeled. But there was the stage, spacious, occupied by 4 dancers, 2 men and 2 women, room enough for cartwheels and roundhouse kicks. I didn’t think the dancers were good. Their movements were choppy and clichéd. A corseted woman need only to spread her legs and arch reaching behind for an invisible apple, hold it like testicles, leer towards the mob below, guide the trophy around her body, a candle dance, nothing spills, until her palm is at her thigh, there bending a knee, offers her virgin-whore body to the scrutiny of the gaze only flocks are allowed. I am not here to be teased.
We lasted one song. Security pulled us off. I protested the dancers performance but to no avail. At closing, I searched for the club manager and was directed to Don.
I asked, “What does it take to dance on stage.”
He answered, “First you must know how to dance”
He sized me. “And you must dress appropriately.”
I was wearing black combat boots, olive green cargo shorts, and no shirt.
Days of Swine and Roses
five months before
Black combat boots, olive green cargo shorts, a printed T-shit, and Navy regulation haircut—what I wore entering The Chrystal, for the first time and each time for two months, at the end of Decatur Street in the French Quarter, directed on the good advice of a Hard Rock Café waiter.
Our first active duty weekend, Rat, Parsley, and I took a cab from Pascagoula’s Greyhound station to Bourbon Street. We had survived Bootcamp and Seaman Apprenticeship School together. As the last crew complement to be added to the pre-commission U.S.S. Port Royal (CG-73), the Navy’s first stealth cruiser, we raw squids, 6 in all, drawn from the same recruit company, were the least trained and had the most difficulty integrating. Unlike previous additions to the crew who had more time to know the ship, our learning curve was governed by the fact, that within three months we would put to sea.
New Orleans was the farthest we could travel on a weekend and be back in time for Monday muster. New Orleans was the closest big city, and here, we would be anonymous.
Pascagoula bars, such as Thunder’s Tavern, were too close for comfort. The itinerant pre-com crews from every ship being built were there. An anxious few thousand. Pascagoula Naval Base was there, and the ships stationed. The Ingall’s shipyard workers contracted by the Navy were there. The small town bar junkies were there. The women who wanted a ticket out of the Gulf Coast were there. The Royal’s crewmembers were celebrities. The scheduled homeport was Hawai’i. Marry a sailor, or become his girlfriend and travel the world. Though, the locals’ persistence to acknowledge difference was quite exceptional.
I met a local. We had simultaneously ordered tequila shots. He noted the coincidence. The he commented on the color of my skin:
“It’s great that you and I can drink together at the bar. But I will give you advice, do not wander alone the neighborhoods behind Wal-Mart all the way to the woods, because you will never come back.”
We toasted, shot, ordered another round, and returned to our respected cliques. Yes, we needed bars so we can safely talk about race amongst ourselves or preferably not at all. Hence: New Orleans.
The Chrystal opened after 11pm. It was small and narrow, room for a couple hundred patrons. I watched a man, maybe my age, shoulder length curls, shirt off, brown cargo shorts, Doc Martens, could have been Eddie Vedder; his presence seized the center of the floor. He was good. The patrons in fetish wear were not as flexible or choreographed, rigid and angular in gear.
Two Heinekens later, the DJ spins TKK’s “Christians, Zombies, Vampires,” I take my shirt off and join him. Strangely tacit, we waltzed and lunged and parried. Spun in to and out of his space, and him likewise in to mine.
five months later
But I am waiting for Conan.
Stage Right Corner: Tin Man. Heavy on the white foundation. Short hair, gelled, pulled spiky. A cubist in black PVC pants.
Stage Left Corner: Don, the lead dancer, is the spitting image of Frank Frazetta’s Cimmerian, oiled and tanned:
side chest pose strobed
front lat spread strobed
rear lat spread strobed
front double biceps strobed
back double biceps strobed
side triceps strobed
most muscular strobed.
When Conan leaves the stage, I announce myself to him. Thought he’d be surprise, I returned, but he wasn’t. I guess anyone determined enough to get on stage will do what it takes. He points to his former spot. It is mine for the night.
I was dressed, my hair done, my face done. My sister spent 20-minutes blending an appropriate shade of lip gloss. I almost didn’t come.
It is often awful to go to a club alone, but I have anticipated and prepared for this night the past week. Even made a Check List:
√ Shave legs
√ Shave armpits
√ Hair Cut
√ Buy black and white Sketchers sneakers
√ Buy Jockeys/Boxers
√ Buy white knee-highs
√ Have sister do lipstick and eyeliner
Rendezvous with Chris “Fluffy” and Rob “Orson” at the Wartime Café.
Drive to the City.
√ Bondage-a-go-go @ The Trocadero
The list went according to plan until it was time to meet guys at the Wartime Café. After 45 minutes, I realized Chris and Fluffy forgot about our Wednesday night. This would have been our second time to Bondage. We had met each other playing chess. We were of the same age, buying coffee at the same time, and drawn to a game of chess played by two older men. Chris, fresh out of UCB and keyboardist for Harmoniconvergence. Rob, an ex-Marine. I was the only one without a car and recently discharged from the Navy.
I took the 51 to BART, then from Oakland’s City Center to the Powell Street Station.
K-Dog was my original goth club connection. After my discharge from the U.S. Navy, I met the pink-haired barista at the then 2-month old Wartime Café. Actually, while she was making my latté, her back turned to me. I met her tattooed right shoulder of Christian Death’s inverted crucifix logo.
Fourth Street and Mission was quieter, darker. This was before the Metreon and Yerba Buena Gardens. The concrete foundation had just been poured; drilled shafts ominously skeletal.
I have been smoking since I walked in. Had a beer too. To stay loose. I was hoping for an “entry song.” A very familiar song, something I have no trouble dancing to. It’s always about waiting for the first song, the first dance. Afterwards, the night’s a cakewalk.
Then the march catches my attention, then the arrhythmic bluesy-like bass of NIN’s “Closer”
You let me violate you
You let me desecrate you
You let me penetrate you
You let me complicate you
pushes me to the edge of the stage.
Venus infers as much ambiguity.