coda: the duke of edinburgh

Another conference. And I am saying, no, it’s not a thesis,

it’s a proposition. The term “thesis” blurs an important distinction

between theme and claim, deriving as it does from music,

specifically from the toccata, and the recursion pattern.

Like in “Carol of the Bells,” there is a thesis, and it is prosecuted

(slide into carceral metaphor-family already preempted, no doubt)

and the effect of the carol depends upon the proof.

If you don’t like it, you’re probably not persuaded.

And we say that too—“I’m not convinced by that”—

or, conversely, that we are convinced, and that the conviction (n.b.)

has been adequately conveyed. But clearly this isn’t the same

as an argument, which needs something more than narrative,

something more than satisfaction and fit, even if,

as is probably the case more often than we like to admit,

the forms of necessity that govern reasoning are still subject

to the same essentially preferential responses as narrative.

When we’re watching Eastenders, my husband says

“they won’t do this, they won’t make it happen again,”

and of course they would and might even. And my mother,

who is here for Christmas, just hides and clenches

and says that she needs to smoke a cigarette.

Only my response is correct and for that reason

I am not going to repeat it here.

So anyway, I was telling you all this in a dressing room,

where we were hanging out with your other advisor,

the one you like more than you like me (he’s my friend tho)

and you got it at once and the other guy knew things I didn’t

and it all got very “classical gas” if you know what I mean.

Sometimes I feel like a homosexual and like all this

could have been avoided. I can’t remember what you

had written about but it was green and small

and there were many of them of irregular but uniform shape.

It was space age: dressing room, topic, perhaps even conveyance.

And then a short time later I’m seeing a play,

and it’s that older woman, bad mama, the one who scares me,

the one whose life must not be in my future. My friend said

“the clique will kill you” and god knows i know but otoh

what else is there but the socialization of language!

And she’s doing an old Attention Scum routine in an art gallery,

maybe switching into and out of Alan Parker, Urban Warrior,

and I feel expropriated, which is gutless and stupid of me,

and anyway she’s a colonial just like me. I’m a wanker,

but we’ve heard it before, or I have (don’t know about them)

and it sounds more like Martin Luther’s pecker than it used to.

I’m in a wheelchair because why not.

Okay and it’s now “the problem with London is it’s TOO BIG”

and of course I realize that the point is that my mother,

who grew up in London, or sort of did, is here in New York,

and all her great fault is a refusal to cede the center of the stage.

Whenever we mention a place in New York, she replies,

treading on our toes, “yes I’ve heard of that,”

ticking off the checklist of cosmopolitan technique

like a fetishist. And it’s hard to listen but also hard to bear a grudge.

And my girlfriend seems to be pulling away.

I mean clearly the reason I am so obsessed with dreams

is because from a certain perspective life depends

upon one’s willingness to treat material reality as a symptom

of a more fundamental truth available only to psychic introspection.

I don’t know why she needs to do Attention Scum in a gallery,

but she does look a bit like Simon Munnery, who was nice

to me when I met him in Edinburgh to ask his advice

about how to be an artist and writer. I forget

what he said. She bolts and leaves me in charge,

so now I’m doing Attention Scum in a gallery and god knows

I’m lazier than she is, than almost anyone I know really,

and would be even more so if I still took a lot of drugs.

Which I think about from time to time. Were they so bad?

Another sober transsexual tells me she is scared

of being a drunk woman and I know what she means.

I waste everyone’s time with a wheelchair pratfall.

I’m walking away and there’s now an unctuous older gent,

and it’s NOT Edward Fox, because he’s here all the time,

I may as well call him THE INESCAPABLE EDWARD FOX

and Lawrence Fox blocked me on Twitter and I never

even said anything about him and isn’t that hilarious?

(That last part is one hundred percent true.)

Anyway it wasn’t Edward Fox but some guy who made a career

doing one role, and that role was Philip Mountbatten,

the longest serving “royal consort” in history

although one can’t quite imagine him eating her out.

Maybe that’s naive, but my grandmother’s friend

knew him in the Services, during the War, and such a lout

you never knew. Pouring beer into the piano and scaring the girls.

Which may well have meant raping them but far be it from me.

The actor who played him always retained a distance,

and the physical resemblance was not entirely his fault,

though clearly he had done little to change it,

lucrative as the position had become. And we were old friends,

somehow, and he said there was only one question

that interested people, and that was how he felt when

Philip Mountbatten died. His answer suffered from being

over-theoretic; it was hard to deduce, as though composed

in a meta-language that only he could understand.

I sometimes think this about the feelings of aristocrats,

though this man may not have been one, though he was one

by virtue of being a famous actor, albeit an actor

famous only for playing a single role. There was a story

that was doing the rounds about a guy who was into toy crocodiles

which, I don’t know if he means simulacra of crocodiles

or if it’s a class of crocodile much like “toy dog” could be said to be.

Dude was aware of the story, that’s all he was saying,

and then he said he was at the agential draw

(agents pick clients in a draw: actors line up and each agent picks one

at a time, until all the actors are gone, just like sports)

and you have to have strategies reflecting not just absolute value,

but value of a given commodity relative to their

position in the draw.

Nobody outside of the corporate world understands game theory

which is how they all get along so well. Except my one friend.

The actor told me he wanted me to have been at the draw

and he said as much but then I had to remind him

that I’ve got nothing to offer and can’t even play

Attention Scum very well.

The crocodile guy. Everyone loves him. Now he is

a silver ball, traveling on its own steam down the spacey corridor

and he says “My name is Michel Utrecht, and I am

a graduate student at the University of Utrecht,

where I am writing a dissertation on Marxism-Leninism

and contemporary European fiction.” And I guess that checks out

maybe. And a stylish guy leans over to me and says

“I don’t think this will work out well for anyone except Substack,”

and I realize it’s weird that I’m part of this stupid story also,

and the silver ball travels through the air towards a laptop,

and he pauses before the laptop, to tell us that he

believes that Marxism-Leninist doxology continues to shape

the narrative form of the contemporary novel,

and he recites a little bit for us. It’s clear he has a fondness

for Marx but also feels detached and maybe a bit bored

at what the other people think of Marx. Everyone

has a Marx and they’re all fucking awful, except mine.

(Preach.) I’ve read this crocodile enthusiast’s Marx

and he makes the same mistakes everyone does:

he thinks Marx is an anti-capitalist; he thinks Marx is a socialist

etc etc. Not even the interesting wrong Marx, which is

the one with the competing theories of political


although (politics voice) of course politics didn’t interest Marx

very much. Then the silver ball merges with the screen

of the laptop and slowly begins to include itself, and now

it is merging into the screen. And I say to the actor

“this is what they call telepresence robotry,” and he winces,

because surely that can’t be right, and now

the voice of Michel Utrecht is coming out of the laptop

and it says “you’ll pardon my display of telepresence robotics,

but in my view remote delivery will transform the way

we share ideas and organize both our scholarly and political collectivities.”

Oh god oh god oh god oh god,

and really I’m just wondering whether there is a relationship

between computers and Leninism. I think Lenin

might very well have enjoyed the internet, although

I am far from sure that this should change anyone’s view of either.

Maybe I should have been at the draft pick.

I stand on the table and wonder why I did that.

how i came to buy a new coat

“If romanticism’s so bad, why are you always howling?,”

I asked the well-dressed assistant director at the mic.

She looked back agog, then changed into a silver fox.

Typical. I didn’t even know how I got on this ship,

or why Princeton University was now seaborne,

or why I had brought my mother along. My mother,

incidentally, had heard me give one talk before,

on the history of the haiku, at an almost diplomatic

scholarly event. Scholars as dignitaries, and my mum

wanted to be introduced, as one would a VIP.

But I was barely a P, let alone VI. Anyway,

she complained, obviously, and told me

——that she was ashamed of me

——that I was a foolish little boy

——that I wasn’t fooling anyone

——that I was a maelstrom of snot and fidget

(she was right about that, let’s face it)

——that nobody could even understand what I was saying.

Here I am, some years later and a grown transsexual,

and complaining about my mum being mean to me.

We didn’t speak for several years after that. I nearly died

of alcoholism. Anyway it’s Christmas and she’s flying here.

So I’m on a boat and it’s Princeton and my mother is here,

as is that oikish boy who I went to school with,

my erstwhile chum, who—wait, what did he do

with himself? I never thought he’d come to much,

and if I recall correctly it was a tech start-up or a minor quango.

But here, shit, I have to hand it to him: the boy learned to sing.

Robust baritone, and it’s popping out of his precisely calibrated

weskit, and he holds his hand like a singer does.

What’s he singing? I can’t hear, is it “Some Enchanted Evening”?

He’s got a following, the pot-bellied mediocrity made good,

and there’s a whole frog chorus croaking it out with him,

but I can’t hear what it is, it’s just a swirl-a-whirl.

Leaning on the boat, and the group are swaying like an iceberg,

like koalas left on the tundra, drunk on climate,

and the tops of their heads merge with their eyes,

next it’s eye-heads, now bulging out of necks. Swaying,

and it’s big eyes, pupil-balloons, mouth-lids on the bottom.

Silver fox takes the stage: “let’s have a big hand,

for our special guest P——— J———, who’s come

all the way from Birmingham, England, to be with us tonight,

and who has taught us all a thing or two about using

lawn ornaments and furniture in the most eco-friendly ways.”

GARDEN CHAIRS, fuck: do I remember smoking weed in a hammock,

with him, or maybe his weird effeminate friend I disliked?

Or one of his many cousins, who fancied themselves cooler than us?

It’s pathetic, really, trying to make oneself the origin of a prince of frogs,

we haven’t spoken in decades, and there’s no way

he would possibly have any sense I was speaking today.

My mother always hated him. Well, but she’s a creature of hate.

He had come to see me in San Francisco when I lived there.

He was impressed at how much I drank and my cocaine hook-up.

I think we even talked about lawn furniture, even. Burritos,

al pastor, the kind with pineapple, at one of the shonkier

Mission cafeterias. Who that was born to Albion abhors a palm tree?

They had one at the Kingfisher Centre in Redditch

and everyone said it was very good. Italian mosaic,

google “Italian mosaic muralist” and of course you get Veronese.

Paolo something. Anyway the burritos were good,

and I kept it together, didn’t piss myself or owt.

Silver fox continues: “our next guest is a professor of English,”

audible consternation, “who is here to talk about the genius

of Stephen Sondheim.” I wasn’t. And even if I had been,

I wouldn’t have phrased it like that. Still she went on,

“Who died earlier this year.” That, he had. I was in an art gallery,

with my lover Lily, when I heard. It was hard for me

because the art was fun and contemporary, and the

staff seemed cool. And I was like, lord save me,

from being one of those lugubrious faggots

who seem more able to whine about the death of a songwriter,

than celebrate the force and color of a thousand mosaic pieces,

and anyway his best work was a half-century past.

Except, no, I don’t believe that. I know I’m supposed to think

Gypsy the high watermark, and Company the end of it all,

but the truth is, I like the trash. Well, within reason,

not Sweeney, I mean it’s fine, but Night Music is my favorite,

and if I had wanted a name, when it came time to get one,

I should probably have selected “Desirée.” But that’s too camp,

and I have been flirting with this other transsexual recently,

and I asked her if she preferred Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton,

and she said “both too camp for my taste,” and I thought,

well, I daresay David would approve, but how can I

respond to that, in my silver jodhpurs and Liberace wig?

I sometimes think people don’t even notice I’m there,

which even sounds like a line from A Little Night Music,

and honestly it wouldn’t be any worse even if it were.

The Liberace thing is odd. Early on in my recovery,

when I was going to meetings every hour of day and night,

there was a homeless Black man named James we all knew,

he hadn’t been sober since leaving Vietnam, but he always

said he would take us all to Las Vegas if he ever made it.

He died in a fire, a block or two from the Ghost Ship,

after falling asleep with a lit cigarette in his mouth.

One night, we caught each other’s eyes on the tarmac,

and I was made up and twinkled, you know, like a

whatever-the-word-is, you know, nancy, and he asked,

“you know who you remind me of?” and i said no,

and he said “Liberace,” and I said, “oh?” but he didn’t hear,

went on, “and that motherfucker was—” theatrical pause—

“the greatest motherfucking pianist in the universe.”

And I knew he was right. AND that’s how I know Michael Douglas

is a homosexual. That and an incredible story I heard,

third hand, from a professional LA cocksucker,

who told my friend he fucked Michael Douglas,

drove away, but then was recalled to the hotel,

only to be confronted and then, subsequently, fucked

by Spartacus himself, Daddy Douglas, while Michael peeked.

God knows if it’s true but my friend said the hustler was trustworthy,

and isn’t there something in it that just feels true? Is to me.

I say to the silver fox, “I actually don’t have anything

on Sondheim, right now, unless you’d like me to extemporize?,”

and he said that sounded good, he wasn’t listening,

and anyway the crowd was dispersing, nobody cared.

I can’t even remember what I did talk about, and my mother

wasn’t impressed, any more than she had been the first time,

but at least she held her tongue. When Sondheim died,

I wanted to buy a big black coat I had just found,

and it was luxe and expensive, and I thought it would

make me a real woman. And I still think that, tbh.

I wanted to go to Marie’s to mourn, but I couldn’t go

except in the coat, and goodness knows I couldn’t afford

the coat on my own, though the next day Lily put it on her card,

and I paid her back when I got the next chunk of advance.

Writing is irregularly rewarding but god knows I’m overcompensated.

I don’t know. I wrote this whole book, about love and death,

and fear, and I thought it was big and good, but then

I showed it to someone who has responsibility for me,

and she said “I love it!” like the producer guy does in “Opening Doors.”

And I guess I had to decide what to do about that,

but in the meantime I had to buy a new coat,

so I did, and now it’s Christmas, as I say,

and my mother is coming, and I hope that even

if she dislikes my work (she said my book was “redefining

what it means to be a book,” which was a compliment)

she likes my coat, and my puppies, and my husband,

and my lover, and my apartment. My cooking, candles,

scents, and everything that is pretty and nice,

my vinegars, pillows. Perhaps my friends.

She’ll go to her grave without grandchildren, in any case.


(support Scorpio)

I’m going to say some things that happened.

(We pretend that constative and performative

are coeval. They aren’t. Let’s stop overthinking.)

At some point, I loved a beautiful stately man,

who kept a small penis in his pants. With that,

he nudged me from time to time.

I showed a famous poet a poem I had written

about Hez Bollah, and kind of about the pope,

and he said “that’s not a poem. Manifesto.”

I sucked ur dick for as long as u gave it to me.

(We use the word “dick” to mean too much.

Downsize, please.) Now I have two voices.

One high-register, but total-throat. The other,

deep falsetto, kinda? Rufus Sewell fucked a guy

I liked. No poet is “famous,” if we’re honest.

When I sat up, found me saying, “I was raped,”

and just a little more of the detail. Not much.

Enough to show this wasn’t my first time

on the bottom. A student asked me, what

is difference between catalectic and caesura.

Do you know, I had to think about it.

If homosexuality were possible, we’d have found

it by now: like faster-than-light travel. Once ur

free of “them” u feel less fucking stupid.

I’ve a friend I see rarely. Tonight, I texted her

“I’m a bottom now,” and realized I’ve sent her

this message several times over the years.

What words would she have for a person

of such meager self-awareness? “Bottom”

is too kind a word. A girl I used to fuck agrees,

and adds that she now wishes to put curlers

in my hair. I said fine, I guess. Now we are

“in community” and never leaving, sorry.

I mean—sorry. I mean “in Brooklyn,” or else

“in time” or even like “in Lesbos” or something.

I never came out to my mother, and I hope

she never reads this. She knows (or thinks) I

was raped in a service station, like a “gas

station,” as they call them here in community.

When I changed sex, an angry woman told me

that she felt entitled to rape me, once,

one time only, in the interest of justice.

My friend—his cock has grown over the years—

I avoid “cock,” ugly, like a drip—“dick,” flexible,

but it’s played and we need a new word—

him, the friend: raped by a ghost in a helicopter,

and guess what, he was underage, and it was

his boss, and he loved it, and landed the copter.

I never sucked a dick of any kind in the town

where I was born. I gave an old timer a handjob

in Larry Gagosian’s house, for money, or drugs.

Okay. I am a lesbian. I am from somewhere.

I stopped caring and I stopped writing.

Years passed and something else happened.

I said to my other friend: it’s very important

to note exactly what her penis tasted like

when I stuffed it into my cheek-pouch.

And obviously like, there aren’t words—it tasted

the myth of homosexuality, and it’s not a word,

just a taste. I could squint and make it taste,

from my own body. A guy I knew was like, “well,

look, we have traditions of gay verse and how

i want to know, do they survive you?” I lolled.

Anyway, I said the thing I didn’t know—let’s

say “violet,” maybe—and then felt the shape

around it, and then I realized I can’t write.

Because I had been doing it for too long.

Not poem. Manifesto. Twenty years since I was

first raped, and nothing. Nothing, nothing.

I just wanted to give the love I have in contour,

I didn’t BUT I did feel the edge of the words,

not make a thing about a thing, inside a thing.

There is no such thing as homosexuality.

There is no such thing as transsexuality.

I just want to eat the best food, at the best table.

of Pearl, Mother

for you, Władziu Valentino

You left me a nugget of Scandinavian glass

zipped into leather; I bound to my office door;

someone stole therefrom. The end, right?

I write you a coil of necks, pricking at the edge,

and I picture myself (the awful shame of it!)

on my knees, slurping ink (sour, unapologetic!).

You write me back (I’m necks, you’re backs):

the glass was a euphemism for crystal meth,

and have I considered my position adequately?

I left you off a roster I had written—on purpose,

but without purposiveness—which was partly

for safety, partly to make you very angry indeed!

You leaf through me, before my disenchantment

from intel into shrinking softness;

there’s a panic at the cyclone; I blame you.

I’m right to note that the two best pronouns,

“we” and “you,” disguise (respectively) the role

of addressee and the quantity of it/them.

Your right to a glass cylinder inside blue puff—

undisputed by me or the insurance company—

nonetheless tethers bull to factory: awkward.

Oil: each palmister’s method differs from others

in more matters than style; still, lez be real,

there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.

I’m mother, your pearl; brothers smothered,

and curl it in through the side-gob, hirsute.

You’re mother, pearl-mine: nut her fluff up,

and gouge it out of the throat, Liberace-style.

Ted’s Nut (Ted Cruz Tries to Keep Still While Getting Head)

Hi all. It’s been a while since I wrote. For the last four weeks or so, I’ve been in bed with Covid and its aftermath, and I’ve not really been able to do very much. Most days, I’ve had difficulty being out of bed for more than about ten minutes at a time, without getting dizzy. I’ve had memory loss as well as a complete loss of focus. So, I’ve not been writing, and I’m sorry about that.

Today, though, I felt able to write for the first time in a while. I was talking with my friend and editor Claire about that odd moment during the 2016 Republican primary when Ted Cruz attempted to distinguish himself from Donald Trump by saying that a man who didn’t begin each day on his knees wasn’t fit to be president. There was a lot of fun to be had at the time imagining Ted Cruz as a serial sucker of dick, which is funny because of course Ted is a vicious, sex-hating fascist bigot. But anyway, speaking with Claire, I got kind of snagged wondering how Ted Cruz actually feels when having sex, and then felt inspired to write some pornography about it. This thought was especially fun, since Claire is due to have a baby any minute now, and wouldn’t it be amazing if she were induced to give birth after reading some steamy prose about Ted Cruz?

So, this post is for my beloved friend Claire, wishing her a safe, invigorating, and beautiful labor, and the happy delivery of a baby that I know will be the luckiest one in all of New York City.

* * *

Ted’s Nut (Ted Cruz Tries to Keep Still While Getting Head)

Ted’s Nut (Ted Cruz Tries to Keep Still While Getting Head)

We thank You Lord for the gift of matrimony and the many gifts it has to offer that lead to the fruitful sharing of joy between man and woman. We thank You Lord for the gift of knees and hair-crowns, atop which we place the hand a-blessing. Lord we thank You for the stars and the heavenly baby Jesus who came from them, and not from the bowels of a manual laborer or agricultural worker. For Jesus this most grievous sin I confess, that when I was a child I was tempted by thoughts of carnality and I meditated thereupon with the blessed image of the Trinity and the mysteries thereof. For just as the sacred cross is made of three elements—vertical, horizontal, and central—so likewise the Godhead protrudes in three directions. First it points upwards, as the eyes rolling back in the head. Second as it wraps outwards, as the lips of the mouth which stretch between cheeks, opening space and exposing the openness within. Third as it circulates in diffusion across the spheres, and guideth all the sweet motions of the world as though upon an axis. Even so I now endure the sweet temptation into fleshly pleasures that accompanies the spiritual compensations of a prone helpmeet, in aspect as of prayer, a duty to which the charge of sodomy is not put. For with each sweet organ of her body it is woman’s part to soothe and comfort him whom she serves, just as the Church which is the bride upon Earth of thy Sacred Heart, and serves You, O Lord, upon its knees and in all of its hearts. The Church begs upon Her knees to be filled with the Spirit and made whole.

To clarify: it does not befit a man that he serve the Church merely for Her own Sake except if it be for the greater glory of Him by whose blood and wine I am redeemed. For now a man must be received in the crevices of woman kind, the organ of song and prayer, which in men serves but two functions (prayerful song, nourishment by bread) but unto the bodies of women the Lord hath offered a third use, by which is indicated the service of her husband in acts of tender devotion. And so she looks at him and makes eye contact with him and he wonders what is to be done. For pleasure twixt husband and wife is a heavenly phase of being in which the presence-at-hand of the Kingdom of God is felt, and each other temporal chronology recedes. Thus, a pleasure-hymn offered to the Glory of the Lord (as, for example, “Smoke on the Water,” as chanted in observation of the somber lenten robes of Deep Purple) can stretch into the time of angels, perhaps hours, because in the act of wifely obedience the clocks melt and time itself liquefies into the stream of godly sensation. He feels his nose twitch and he considers plunging it to the back, but he holds himself steady and still, in honor of the blessèd moment.

The mother of his children, borne in the light to the Lord, born under a star, visited by wise men from distant lands. The Blessed Virgin received the Annunciation by ear, and not a finger was laid upon her sacred head or puffy lips. No angel dreamed of swelling her cheeks, as swelled the womb of the Mother of Christ. No force impelled the Sacred Word to enter into throat or canal, save the physics of the Lord by which that which is written may be transmitted onto flesh, for true Flesh was the Son, upon whom is written what has been written without sin. Her flesh was without sin, I mean. Like, of course the Spirit which filled her to swelling—it is not. It is not complicated.

Husband gaze descend wonder “love?” debauch love resist force carriages hold peach grip hands, maybe? Fingers tighten in bleach-dried hair, hard; perhaps, if the husband blesses her with his own rhythm he removes from her the burden of service? From service to receptacle, priest to chasuble, but he must stay. When uncertainty appears in the interpretation of Scripture man looks to the Church which is the sole appointed authority to teach the meaning of God’s language on earth. And in the morning he (Ted, that is me myself—though it pains me to recognize myself in the moment, as though it were me into whose mouth the sacred implement were thrust—and yet how else, at this moment, to delay beyond the time of trial that moment of unknowing at which the devil, Satan, the lord of lies—and flies—has his momentary triumph; how, fearing the imminence—and immanence—of the tempter, to keep his worms at bay; how, but to picture the man, Ted, Rafael Edward the humble servant of God—not as rod but as river, not as cross but as Calvary—but here too—); switch, and find the plan again: tomorrow morning, to appear on his knees to Father Ted, saying the words of the rosary and touching the shrine of bones with his hand. It is not a metaphor; it is Not a Metaphor; it is NOT A METAPHOR and the hand hath the power with which God endowed the sower, and yet.

Spray face, throat, for he has avoided pushing and the Hour of the Demon is at hand?, but even that word, “hand,” as though her face was not the Vehicle of the Eye of God (is that right? that feels made up) but the arid ground, dusty ground, stony ground––oh but aren’t there so many places where one must not sow one’s seed––and so few where one should; the Church; the Mouth of God; perhaps the ear. Perhaps the ear. Perhaps the ear. Perhaps he will spend in her ear.

And he bends her face to the side, and the moment has crested.