by Terry Stokes
I have been on the edge of my seat only once. I don’t like to drag in personal experiences. It doesn’t seem fair, along with everything else. I went on a retreat. I saw what happens in the priesthood, and meditation, and fasting, and thinking about pure spirit, and the lights.
You don’t go crazy. You start looking around for after-shave lotion; anything with alcohol. Usually, your companion in the quest for the funny lights is a hysterical snake-freak from Tennessee who cooks in some boys camps most of his life, and later on when he’s not so crazy, oh, say, a couple of years, he kills himself by stuffing his nose, and his mouth into a deep-dish apple pie. Meanwhile, his assistant, sits on his neck. This is killing yourself.
He liked special occasions. He really knew what a special occasion looked like in the raw. On special occasions you smeared a lot of after-shave on your body, and screamed. And now, I’m dreaming, he has a religion by the tail, and it is about to bite him on the penis. Nobody says anything. They smile, and he has apple crusts dangling like earrings, and his assistant is about to get a good job for a change.
I will be fourteen next month, and I have eight cavities.
This is the section which tells you what Claudia has going for her. Claudia, Jesus Christ. She does not die. She goes to confession, and says I put one of my fingers inside her body, and she shakes a lot when I do this. She says she comes. The priest tells her she shouldn’t. So, we don’t until the day after confession. And then, we do. I get what Billy calls stinkfinger, I think that is one word, and I smell it for three days like an angel.
I feel I am Florence Nightingale. I have just read that book for the book report. In the morning, I’ve got to get this thing in; get up before the class, and make an ass out of myself, having picked the shortest Landmark book ever written.
I just found out about the obscenity laws in the United States, over the radio. You can’t write a book report without the radio. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to turn this in. Tonight, Claudia is having spasms for some reason, and I’m not in on it. She told me, I’m flexible, and that’s important. She knows, oh, boy, I guess, she knows.
I get confused. How old I am. That I don’t know very often. Or I get confused. And then I go blind with these glasses, slick, greasy, on my nose. I notice a pimple waking up in my eyebrow hairs. It is drawing energy from me. That is the thing about pimples, and people who get pimples all their lives. From the time they’re thirteen until they’re stiff, and made-up, pimples are draining them.
I hang onto this theory, and I have told no one but you, Claudia, because you have skin people want to ice-skate across in the moonlight.
You have a theory, too, but you don’t include me in it, or confuse me with it. That is well and good. I do not know how unhappy I am in this room where my shoulders push up the paper-board ceiling, and a father of slippery marbles falls asleep with the rats. I get a hardon in my summer pajamas, and drag it to bed with me, Claudia. That’s what I do.
There was a lamb, kissed his mother, every single time he saw her. I was thinking to myself, and that’s unfair to you.
Nice of you to write. About the bells in the church, and fourth of July. It gets dark in the tower. You know how many dead people have walked in and out of that cool white building? So candles, and the bells save for someone else. How about your father? I’ve sometimes seen him smile during the prayer, as if he were in the tower, ringing the bells, and scaring the shit out of everyone in the center of town. Your father will probably chuckle, and say, ‘The time at the tone,’ or ‘Bong, bong, bong, went the trolley.’ He’s not funny, as you know.
Claudia wants to become a priest or a cook, so she says. She says, toil is a virtue. I hang on every word she utters.
Do you enjoy raw fish?
We learned everything there is to know about the uterus today. Big deal.
From Kahlil, ‘The wine of the forest is a tangential picnic.’
Why don’t you run away from the Marines?
So, this is the drive-in movie. THE SCAB MEETS THE SKYSCRAPER. Claudia looks like a priest in green culottes. Her semaphore blouse. And my king-six of a friendly, local beer. And no clothes on at all. Nah, I’ve got on my black wool pants that cover cum stains, or so my friend, Jake Resting, told me one day over a chicken a la king lunch in the caf.
See, for Jake covering cum stains is pretty important. His priest, Father Biloxi, told him the next time he came to confession with a jack-off story—he was exed out. For all the rest of his days; no more church. He couldn’t go to confession, and if he ever died, his body would float forever under a thousand tons of hot bricks.
I’ve got on my Kingsmen after-shave. Very important, according to Billy, one sniff, and they rip the clothes off your body, leap into the backseat of the Nash Rambler, and scream for heaven or earth to fall upon them. I put on just enough to create a small fissure in the San Andreas Fault—mea culpa.
George Scam says, it’s a good idea to beat-off in the men’s room before you get hot. He says, sometimes you get crazy, and you come quick. He says, that’s no good. I spent the whole afternoon preparing, but I will go get some popcorn now.
“Would you like buttered, or plain?”
Claudia, I do still find an occasional pimple behind my ear, and I do believe it is cancer. Claudia, what if everyone you ever fucked, bore you a child on your birthday? Claudia, would you name them after yourself? Give them Christ’s Cake, and coffee ice cream? Would you open up your house, your body, your temple, and ask them to wander back in?
Claudia, I’m overworked, underpaid, and heading for a great depression. Claudia, I’ve been laid off by the church, the state, and there isn’t any action in this life worth taking.
Terry Stokes’s second book of poetry, Boning the Dreamer, is out from Knopf. (Spring 1975)