Pat King

The Meat Suite (Apocalypse Rising)

System Shock.
Come out and play.
Dream play. Does this count for nothing? Anything?
It’s time for me to play. I’ve come to play and play the word. And now, finally, Morning.
Did you remember to love? She curses you by kissing you on the ear.
“I wrote a short story.”
“I read it. I thought it was terrible.”
“But there were lifelike images, realistic descriptions, dancing clowns.”
“All good. But you left the reader with a hardon and didn’t finish it off.”
“What?”
“Every story should end in orgasm.”
“You mean?”
“It’s true. After I put the story down I was able to forget about it, to move on with my life.”
“Horror.”
No matter how often I throw myself at her feet, Philadelphia won’t open her legs for me. She is a frigid city.
It’s Sunday afternoon and Philip is driving Pete and I around West Philly in his dying Dodge Neon. We’re looking for a copy shop. All copy shops closed for Easter. But does anyone in Philly really care about Easter?
That’s when we notice the line of men and women (white) dressed in black on the other side of the street. A few of the men are carrying cardboard crosses on their backs, hunched over because of the imaginary weight of the thing. They really want to ham it up, exaggerate the suffering until it becomes a sort of Marx Brother’s routine. Looking back, I recall them chanting something, softly, in a stage whisper, though that might just be my imagination, my memory amplifying the beauty of the absurdity of it all.
Philip, redfaced, stuck his head out the window and bellowed, “He’s dead!” Philip, a former actor and a poet who often performs his work in coffee shops and bars where there isn’t a microphone, knows how to project his voice. Everyone in line on the other side of the street heard him. About half turned to see who had said it, just in time to see Philip speeding upwards of sixty miles an hour down the street as the light turned green.
This is the Philadelphia that I’ll always remember.
Philadelphia, where art thou?
Philadelphia, if you let me in, I could make you come.
But to come is to reach the peak. You’ve made me come. Now it’s time to push you away. Afternoon.
Visiting uninvited at the Mouse Queen’s hideaway. I staple a zipper to my mouth (a hand on the zipper, twitching).
To my sweet Mouse Queen,
I’d write you a love letter but I’m too afraid to give my hands to you, palms pointed toward the sky, shaking.
Ain’t many seen the Mouse Queen. She keeps secrets. I want to give her mine.
Cool Rhythms on a drunk Friday night. It’s the first Hydrojonian Jungle show of the summer. I’m in a sad mood. I drink anyway.
Everyone’s at the show. The Mouse Queen is here. Smiling Dave’s here (sits next to me, genuinely wants to listen).
Even Sci-Fi Clay is here (though a little late. The band’s already playing). Sci-Fi Clay is sitting next to a girl. He’s content. He’s listening to her and letting the music drive his pulse (a beating rhythm). The girl is an angel but not the Mouse Queen.
I see Sci-Fi Clay sitting next to his girl and I stumble over to him. I put my hands on his head and kiss him rough on the cheek. One of my hands holds a lighter. Without knowing what I’m doing, I press the lighter into his other cheek.
“Ahhhh!” he says. Night.
I used to see Walt Whitman all the time. His bronze head sits on top of a pedestal in front of the K-Mart on Oregon Avenue. The entire statue is around eleven feet high. When I used to walk home from work I would usually pause for a few seconds to look at it. Whitman’s head. In front of the K-Mart.
I take the bus now and only occasionally see Whitman’s head as it passes by my window.
I started taking the bus because it was something different. It’s become routine.
This trip never ends, eh? I’ll start over, then, at the beginning of the line.
Somebody coughs. I turn around and see the man from my nightmares. He has a plastic, mannequin-like face. He points his finger at me.
“The problem with you,” he says, “is that you only pretend to be suffering. In secret, you enjoy the theater of it all.”
He vapors away.
Tonight is Friday. I’m too excited to notice my new routine. Tomorrow, a party. The Hydrogen Jukebox has a gig tomorrow.
Will the Mouse Queen be there? Will she trick me into pulling my chest open, showing her my organs, the blood pumping through my heart? Will Walt Whitman show up? Will he stare at the twenty-something boys? Will he moan about the horror of having to live near a K-Mart in South Philadelphia?
Once, the Mouse Queen was the first thing I saw after I woke up. She leaned her face toward mine, close enough to kiss.
“Why do you sleep on the floor?” she asked.
“I only want to live on what’s essential.”
“Beer is essential?”
“Sometimes. Would you like to dance with me?”
She put her cold hand on my shoulder. I closed my eyes. All I want to do is dream.

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