Beneath Baroque
from a newly re-suppressed book of posy

Jan 20, 1989 at Beyond Baroque, Venice California
as part of "Against Nature: A Show by Homosexual Men"

"Admit the secret ache that called you here tonight.
What is it that you want?
The brush of a devil's thigh, the tar pit of cheap opiates,
an ass to split, a lover's pubic hair under tongue,
the moisture between two bellies or the flaming remnants
of a body falling from the sky into tomorrow's headlines?
I am your guide and your barrier.
And this path of shadows is paved with silver nitrate
and hot, whispery discourse."

-- -- -- -- --

     What happened during the next thirty minutes or so, soon after the Joneses (not their real names) drove their teenage son home, is a mystery; and perhaps that's why, from the honors banquet, they came up over the rise onto this parking lot, rather than the actual Orchard Road and suddenly saw ambulances in their imaginations. Whatever hap-mare scene, by 10:30 that evening their dream's a murder site with people and lights and people everywhere.

     When they reached their home the lights came up on Jonny (not his real name). He was out, swearing, and was just absolutely and belligerently wasted in the neighbor's driveway. He got up, couldn't walk, couldn't even talk right. Jonny staggered towards the porch.

     Suddenly, from later, Mr. Jones between his car and the hedge like a real man strode, ordered, "Get out of the house!" The parents towards the boy. At first they thought fist-fight, didn't know what was wrong, suspected a bad crowd; they broke out in a horrible fear-rash that he was on drugs and took him to the flash and heard the boy scream. He fell, got hospital.

     Later, Jonny's parents apologized to everyone in front of the camera crew. Jonny was so nervous he threw-up all over the press.

     And much later Jonny's brother remembered that a few weeks after Halloween, Jonny was acting weird and got a call from Michael Jackson (not his real name). Jackson was hysterical in the limo that night in the church parking lot.

     "I can't hold it in any more," he cried, "stuffed it right away and it turned me into someone else, gotta tell someone!"

     "So come over," Jonny urged, being the sensitive type.

     Five times, as it was later discovered, right in the heart. He collapsed in his Dad's arms, spurting revelations about boys like Matt Dillon. Blood like an artery had been hit, and soon after that, Jonny was in love with this guy whom he could never tell.

     Mr. Jones prayed for him, but told himself while pressing his hands against the wounds that he had a feeling about all this.

     "I think he's going to ask you out, Son."

     Two weeks later he did.

     Dad was always sharp at sensing that sort of thing.

     One reason that people suspect Michael is that Jonny had written in Jackson's yearbook, "You're going to be a big name in your life, not because you're 'weird' or anything, but because you're __ __ __ and proud to say it." But he didn't write it in, he just made three spaces; otherwise it would be putting a jinx on it.

     Jackson now claims, in a note released by his attorneys, that he just wanted a "really close pal and someone to go dancing with, bad."

-- -- -- -- --

     The tall androgyne calmly channels The Force and sets fire to a mall filled with holiday shoppers. The invented insurrection thus extinguished must be cooled with water for days before the planting of evidence can begin. He/she gestures like a surgeon across this latest preventative success; a tar-black forest of charred products and melted mannequins.

     I notice the riot effect of the glass and plastic which replicates him back as her own fiancé. He/she weeps into the tissue of mummies as if on display in those very clothes. I see this sentimental gesture repeated everywhere by the guards and the doctors. Proof enough of the "hundredth monkey" theory.

-- -- -- -- --

     The surgical theater dims revealing an enormous digital stopwatch. It's to be a competition, that's obvious. The trainees appear: young, tanned hybrids with similar notebooks and arrangements of credentials. I've mustered little enthusiasm for the review I'm to write for the digest.

     The patients are weeping, only slightly doped. Cross sections of their induced sarcomas are in constant update on the screens. There are capsules of cyanide, like colorful jujubes, on hand in cut crystal dishes on little, silver rolling trays. Aside from decorative exposition, I can't think of anything clever to say. My mind is constantly wandering back to shopping. That is to say, I draw a blank.

-- -- -- -- --

     Icy sea a man volcanic rising rapidly and with great intention. His fuming and spewing forms new land. He holds onto the property until the values max. He leases to major retailers. He enters the mall. He stands at the edge of the atrium balcony whose bannister encircles a gaping void. Rising past his face is a moist breeze faintly scented with early morning sex. He knows that each consumer will smell something different and that all will be enticed. He picks up the new catalog whose copy extols cancer's "in-ness." He pages through the spring selection of ravaged cells. He sees the effect of each new strain on a variety of models. He notes that newlyweds can register their genetic corruption. He considers giving the gift to his twin. Before he can select, he is distracted by an arrangement of obituary objects. It is his very own name spelled out in the spectacle of disease.

-- -- -- -- --

     I am in a movie theater that is showing all its films simultaneously. The room is a darkroom and everyone in it is developing the same thing. I stand in the aisle during the bright scenes until I spot a potential. I make sure that I have to squeeze by him so that he can feel the heat of my body. I sit down and watch him watch the movies. I can't unwed the rough, impolite rotting of that stony gaze and, failing to supply any sense of my own, telescope and enter an adjacent cubicle.

     Here, the idyllic hasn't begun yet and everyone is doing ghoulish until the movie begins. I move my leg against his. His Romeo thigh is icy, no colony. He is, of course, sitting, but also rubbing sometimes. I also discover that if I rub myself and moan loud enough, people will stare at me instead of the screen. I enigmatic this unwed. The picture ends.

     I am about to enter another room when I am stopped by an angry ma'am.

     "May I see your dick, please," he says in a loud, annoyed way and so I fondle him with equal nausea.

     "I've already some once," I explain, "but I didn't understand the film."

     I smile because I know that he hasn't moved his thigh away.

     "I'll come asunder and get a thicker tissue layer, O.K.?"

     The man looks shocker and I look shocker back.

-- -- -- -- --

     These die SEXY. They ingest varieties of drugs suited to this form of termination and then are lined up in groups according to their estimated potency.

     Academic sorting aside, they are all similarly displayed. The men have been given baby blue gowns soaked in a litmus-like solution. As they spit and ejaculate, broad orange expressionistic streaks stain their robes. Grids are superimposed by projection to aid in arousal.

     The women have been attached to video screens displaying, in much the same way as a 1960s hippy color organ, the terminal intensity of their emotions, edged towards explosion by over-administration of hormones.

     My top pick is a man who has been injected with a concentration of his favorite cologne. I massage my scrotum, the vibrator cooled in liquid helium.

     My prick is up, searching for some hint of originality, some condensation of creativity, to make this expensive show worth it.

     I feel so Roman, though I still don't think I could comfortably vomit up my dinner (the chief activity of sex-death by food).

-- -- -- -- --

     When I come to, I see again the sad face of my mother. Her features float beside me, neat as if cut from the family album. She has no body, no limbs to wring or fret with, no finger to point, just the sad expression of a mother who's seen her son go rotten inside and out.

     There are other mothers here, keeping vigil above sons and daughters. They hover thin and hopeless, our only company on the slow journey down. Even though I'm puking, I am fascinated by this perverse technical achievement. They are a perfectly effective punishment. I am consumed by guilt.

     Our dark capsule is filled with pleas for forgiveness, childish denials and soft, wet sobs. Petty crimes are evident: soiled beds, dirty magazines under the mattress, sheets yellow with urine or stiff with semen or blotched with blood, dim flashlights, forbidden cigarettes, and secret diaries.

     Someone stumbles up, fist whistling through his mother's shocked visage, tripping over her empty purse.

     This could be any forgotten sci-fi film -- I am one of the hundred chosen to survive, crowding around the window of our spaceship for one last look at our doomed world -- only the film is running wrong and we are falling back to a planet blossoming in agony. The motherworld laboring in reverse.

     "I'm so sorry, Momma."

-- -- -- -- --

     Deport site at the toxin basin. New arrivals are processed. A sinister, robotic arm sweeps overhead dropping a steady rain of black grease and acid mist. Someone's spray painted "JUSTNESS" in sulphur yellow on its side. The god limb is connected by a rubber leash to a huge computer screen displaying a giant, laughing red ant. This insect icon pulls a cartoon lever which launches convicts towards their individual destinations, through florescent blue tubes angling away in all directions

     We are sorted and jettisoned according to our crimes. I, having no particular criminal record, am thrown randomly into a vehicle much like a roller coaster car. A heavy metal bar is forced against my chest and groin, my head is twisted sideways by a damp metal plate that smells like vomit.

     A skeletal red-haired paw gives the lever a squeeze.

-- -- -- -- --

     I join the rich people who have "a harder time than a camel getting through the eye of a needle" getting into heaven. When the golden gates swing wide, we move onto a little balcony overlooking Paradise. Heaven is all slimy inside so that you can slide down textures and smells into the various levels of the cavern. What's amazing is the vast expanse of the scandal -- the shattered patriot fist, the empty budget, the cheap brochure.

     I see thou atheist, Mr. Ugh, has returned. He li'l bored, too. The doodle rogue close and we begin to move.

     Suddenly, I know immediately that this is causing us to push our faces against the glass. People look at Heaven like starving kids at candy. Little match girl lights her last boohoo.

     Abruptly we drop against the gluts, forced to see the truth about eternity. This interweaving of wills and curses and ceremonies and timings near crisis is the truly excitingest thing I have ever experienced (yawn). The view below, of a scary eerie, of a frantic desperate, is more real than any movie or any product (snore).

     Then: calm, dawn, dew, the little birds, the slowly opening flowers, the sound of Dad's shaver and exquisitely -- thud -- I feel as if, within me, a volume of space so dead that no life had gone before had suddenly vomited my guts out witnessing indescribable pain forever in an enormous endless.

-- -- -- -- --

     At last the elevator arrives and the doors open and we move into the little capsule. It's all glass on the outside so that you can look down through all the levels of the mall. I am pressed up against the door and wish that I could see out the window, even though I don't like heights, because I don't like claustrophobia even more. The doors close and we begin to move.

     Suddenly we jerk to a halt after only going down a few feet and the lights go out. I know immediately that this is not correct, as we are tilting slightly causing us all to press against the glass and now I'm glad I wasn't near the windows because those people are getting squished. Some others are pushing all the buttons on the control panel. I help them and keep a smile on my face because I know that it will give everyone confidence (even though I need confidence too and no one else is smiling). I don't know why, but I start to laugh.

     Guess what then? All of a sudden we start dropping again, maybe down at least a floor, and we are all totally pushed against the glass and are forced to see the huge emptiness below us.

     I am still afraid to believe it because it seems like this kind of thing couldn't happen in a mall in this technical age. But it is also the first truly exciting thing I have experienced personally while shopping here. There are all sorts of people way down there running and crowding around. It seems more real than any movie, more amazing, only that it is happening to me.

     Then, instead of humming motors and the bing of doors opening and closing, there is a sound so totally realistic and hard even to describe -- like metal bending in a way it was never intended to -- that I feel a shockwave running through me. It's as if my nerves are amplifying this sound and emptying something like the hope of rescue or plans for the future from inside me. I feel totally hollow.

     I say, "Oh, dear God, Jesus, no," as I know that this is the thing to say.

     There are snaps and silver-blue flashes and we begin to fall again.

     Everyone starts to scream and so, I do too.

-- -- -- -- --

     As he loses consciousness, the earthquake heaves along Melrose Avenue in the longed-for wave, shattering the boxes of neon in a rain of colored glass. The air itself ignites as an electromagnetic pulse flashes through the bursting vapors and rockets out around the globe. No preparation, no future.

     These tremors had started in his heart and have spread to ours.

     In the time it has taken me to read these atrocities, one more life has ended and ten more have taken on the burden of his nightmare.

-- -- -- -- --

     Here's my advice. Go have some cheap sex. Forget about these biological cul de sacs in their lenses of formaldehyde. Forget the half-man, half-malady riding the flaming Harley of apocalypse. Forget about the lover who took you last night in your dreams. The one who looked like me.