Awakening – David Lohrey

Full Woke


I’ve heard one is expected to go full woke these days
in the same way, one supposes, one might have been
expected to go fully nude in another era. At least, one can
go woke without getting sand in one’s crotch. I’ve made
a point of adopting that old custom from slave times 
of leaving 3 black-eyed peas on my plate for good luck.

It’s part of what is called the reparations lifestyle. Whites 
and blacks reverse roles. I wish to find out who that was reciting
“The Waste Land” through a megaphone. How extraordinary. 
And to think today that one has never heard of it. What does one 
recite now? “Phenomenal Woman,” one should imagine: “I’m 
a woman / Phenomenally. /Phenomenal woman, /That’s me.”  

I suppose one could remember the words easily enough. I wonder
if there are certain gestures that go along with it like a dance. I will 
have to check to see what sort of instructions are included with the text.
I never got the enthusiasm certain men have for Patti LuPone. I liked 
“Company” as much as the next person but the comments online are 
off the charts. They speak of love, devotion, and worship.

I can’t quite place her. If I were a casting agent, I could see her as Don 
Corleone’s widow in “Godfather Part IV”, but beyond that, I don’t know. 
That body, those hips, her nose. And they insist she can sing. One learns 
to adapt to this new life. Watch the games, snag some Louisiana
caviar and a brew, sink into that, kick the dog out the back, turn out 
the lights, turn off the phone…the master is home. 

Not sure that is woke enough. Interesting how certain lifestyles are accepted 
while others are not. I hear the new President has replaced all the flooring 
in the White House with white marble. “Ooooh!!! Yesssss! Exactly!” He’s 
been filmed walking his little fru fru white poodle in his new women’s green 
metallic mid-heeled slippers. This is what follows from nominating a trans
woman for president. If only whites could vote!

“Without other people, life is numb.” Living or dying no longer feels
a million miles apart, separated only by indifference. I haven’t been out
in over a year and a half. I can’t get a permit. When I took the condo, I was
promised the finest views this side of the Valley Nile, or something to that
effect. But it has been one disappointment after another. I feel like Virginia
Woolf, until she walked into the river. 


Cultural Appropriation


Have you heard? Boris Karloff was a heterosexual.
You were there; I was there: watching Fantastic Features
from 11 to 1 every Friday night all through childhood.
She didn’t know what was coming at her; he didn’t know 
what was coming at him. It was thinking he was five steps 
ahead when he was five steps behind that got her killed.

It was being from Calabria that got him into trouble. Had
it been 1928, it would have been different. But 1997? Italy?
An immigrant? Ellis Island and all that? Come on! There
wasn’t anyone there to fumigate. They said they had AIDS.
They said they knew Karate. I don’t know. They let in those
from San Miguel de Allende and drowned the rest. 

There was an old lady from Oaxaca they let through, but 
they killed her daughters. This was the best plot they could
think of for what will become part of the second season
of Sky King. You remember the Piper Cub? The Piper J-3
Cub to be exact. That thing could go. Far better than the Cessna.
In fact, while the Piper Cub was the shit, the Cessna was shit.

Keep in mind that all we wanted it for was to fly into Port Gibson.
We would be having lunch with the Governor and his family at his
river-side estate, a one-thousand-acre property. “Head on over to 
The Spread” was the key expression, with a power equal to open 
sesame for the in-crowd in Jackson, Mississippi; to hell with 
Eudora Welty. This is the twenty-first century. 

Black guy out back shucking oysters out of a 500-pound barrel.
Had to roll the fucker up the drive and out back behind the pool.
Topless waitresses from Bali serving shrimp on little bamboo skewers.
Two Samoans, 400 pounders, I kid you not, with tats galore,
standing in loin cloths and ready to kick anyone out without an invite.
The Governor and his Tahitian lover were in matching red speedos.  

Combine all this with the communist mayor of Jackson. You know him?
Can’t remember his name: Mifune Kinte Lumumba, driving a $300,000
Bugatti surrounded by six bodyguards sent from Chicago by Muhammad
Farrakhan or whatever; I’m just saying, okay? I mean, they got it going. 
And then they got this video thing all set up and at 4:54 pm sharp, guess
who pops the fuck up? Michelle and Barack themselves, waving. Boom!

They made the whites get on the ground and kiss the mayor’s feet. How 
the fuck should I know? Shit, yeah! I stuck my tongue right between his
toes. You don’t fuck with those Muhammad Ali look-alikes, homeboy.
They don’t play. All whites, bro. Yeah, mens and womens down on the floor.
I had his whole toe in my mouth. Shit, yeah: both Senators were there.
President of the university, professor of white studies, and the top sushi chef.


The Already


From Behind the Filing Cabinets


I’ll say this: a poem about Stevie has inevitably 
to be about Stevie. Not like the others who cared
about cricket. Not in 1959 when words mattered.
Stevie Smith and women like her still knew a thing
or two, just ask John Lennon’s Mum and Dad. She 
did her writing while Hoovering. Hers was a poetry
of introspection, before the women’s movement. 
Stevie was never on the attack but felt she was 
under. Besieged by the mundane, attacked by the
obscene. How many men did she tell to go to hell?
She didn’t blame them, but she kept them away
just the same. She was more the poet of the hemorrhoid,
not that she ever wrote about one. That’s Stevie
now, although you better look harder. She was not 
waving but drowning. She drank sherry to stay afloat.

Everyone loved Larkin. What a crack-up. He both liked
his women and his books stacked up. Philip was a ladies’ 
man, surely, if not quite a man’s man. Philip, I’d say, had
a chip on his shoulder; mind you, nothing like Korean comfort
women forced to put out for Japanese soldiers. No one ever 
called him a comfort, neither man nor woman. Larkin’s work 
sparked interest; it caught one’s eye, like a drawer of knives.
He had that Evelyn Waugh spirit, that middle-class gumption, 
the sort found in used bookshop owners who worked behind 
the shelves. Larkin’s subjects didn’t include other people; 
they didn’t interest him, and that was why he never got too far
in writing fiction. He was too fucked up; ask Kingsley Amis. 
He blamed his Mum and Dad, admitting it was not their fault. 
He clung to the is and to the nothing that is not. That was his
stuff and it was enough.

My man was Wallace Stevens, a man who’d have preferred 
to change his name. He kept his name but changed everything
around him, including that jar in the hills of Tennessee, beneath 
the kudzu. He found marriage tough. He was no salesman; he 
was an attorney. Wallace hoped to get out alive but ended up 
at the Hartford. The poet brought palm trees back from his trips
to parts unknown but they were always in Florida. Once there 
he got punched in the nose by Ernest Hemingway and got a cone
from the emperor of ice cream. That’s how things were. That’s 
how things are. He preferred the tropical, but liked snowmen, too. 
Somehow, he managed to achieve what so few dare attempt; he 
lived alone while with another. If he was married, and he was, 
he never told his wife. And, it seems, she never told him. Instead
of love, he found poetry. He never wrote of how things are. 
He played the blues guitar like a master.

Thomas Stearns, you get right back here. Yes, ma’am. The man 
we know as T. S. Eliot was once a little boy named Thomas. How 
do you like that? Notice how much he had in common with that 
other poet from St. Louis; that other Tom who lived among broken
objects. Both the progeny of preachers. Both raised by formidable 
women; a boy and, then, a man who couldn’t help overhearing women 
talking. Did Miles Davis read The Wasteland? Tom praised Delmore 
Schwartz and Frederick Seidel. He wasn’t hired by Faber to write 
poetry, but to sit among the file cabinets and ride the swivel chairs. 
He did a bit more than push papers. He remembered to feed the cats. 
He was not the sort to spend his days at the racetrack. He wouldn’t
have dug online dating. One can’t imagine Eliot looking for a piece 
of ass on Craigslist. The River Thames, in the end, was no better 
than the mighty Mississippi. Eliot should have crossed that river 
and looked, instead, for Ike and Tina Turner.




Nina Simone went to Liberia and didn’t come back. They killed 
Martin and were trying to kill her. Nina, Tina, and Tiny Tim: 
now that would have been a trio. They could have set off on 
the Oregon Trail, not in a bus, but a stage coach, with Little Rich 
riding shotgun. What happened to America’s sense of humor? 
What happened to Cat Ballou? Why did Jane turn against the war? 
She should have led it. I always wanted to see Lee Marvin 
in the White House. 

A condo in Memphis, Tennessee for $700,000. Who are they kidding?
They are selling $60 Christmas tree ornaments at Trump Tower. At
Piggly Wiggly, they sell ten eggs and call them a dozen. They still 
sell pig ear sandwiches for sixty cents. Forget about Lego; I promised 
my kids a Slinky. Sleepy Joe didn’t fall; he was pushed. It was an 
assassination attempt. A woman in a sari and wearing tennis shoes 
was caught on camera running from the scene. I feel sorry for Aunt
Jemima now that she’s out of work. Why doesn’t she run for office?

Speaking of hotcakes, I’d kill for a box of saltwater taffy. Only John
Kerry can solve the diplomatic question of who makes the best chicken 
sandwich. Kerry, known for his lightning intellect, said it all begins
in the seed shop. Kerry’s wife makes divinity that is out of this world.
She said in an interview that the key is the cognac. John and his wife
will be wintering on Mustang Island where they own an eight-bedroom
bungalow. They are known to travel with a small security detail and
John’s valet. He needs help in the morning stepping into his shorts.

Decided to take a subscription to Set for Life. Recipes, sex columns, 
fashion, but most importantly real estate. A decent financial planning
section, obits for business leaders. Personals. The best. Love the widows
of multimillionaires finding Palm Springs hard to take. My oh my, 
to read the yearnings of sixty-year-old women. Their pleasures, needs, 
their requirements. No wonder I never received Valentine’s Day cards 
in the 5th grade. They knew. At one time, these gals had it all; her husband
found her irresistible. He was 73; she, 38, and still a fox.

Yes, we’ll have to find a job for Aunt Jemima. Perhaps a position on the 
board of Johnson & Johnson. VP over at Intel. It’ll work out. It’s tough
after a career with a major food conglomerate. They once bid for one
of the companies on the Memphis cotton exchange. Back in the day, when
Anna Mae Bullock was still living on the Tennessee Delta, the golden
years lay ahead. Twist of fate. Not so terribly different from the Mahatma.
The architecture of place and the struggle to get away. It is a story 
of escape. Today, Tina Turner lives like Doris Duke on Lake Zurich.  


Sign the Petition


You should sign the petition to end world hunger.
Our organization is looking for 250,000 signatories.
You can add your name. By signing today, we get
that much closer to reaching our goal. There are 
children dying. They are in your hands.

Would you like a pen? Come on, then. Just sign 
below. Your name means so much. Little Ntolo
needs your love and if you sign today, he will 
send you a hug by mail, guaranteed or your money 
back. Sign your name and see the children grow.

I have to ask why you don’t care.

I have to ask how you can sleep at night. That’s
real funny, I thought to myself, because they hadn’t
said I would feel guilty for my failure to understand 
the causes of WWII. I was not asked to feel guilty for
being a jerk. I’ll just feel bad for not saying anything. 

I should sign up to feel good. Will this put food
on little Ntolo’s table? The blond chick with the
clip board promises it will. “The moment your pen
touches paper,” she says, “the children in Africa
will be fed. And you will feel a whole lot better.”

She knows what to say to make someone feel bad.
I feel awful, but I am not going to sign their petition.
I just know in my heart that whether I sign that paper
makes no difference at all to that kid in Malawi. I know
world hunger will not end on account of me.

Something about this tells my story, the story of why it is
I’ve come to distrust most everything I hear when it comes
to improving the world. Sharon Gold told me back in the
1980s that revolution was right around the corner. I didn’t 
believe her. She drew this conclusion from watching Shaft.

Sharon introduced me to some lawyers with black curls and 
expensive brief cases. They were ready for change but had 
high paying jobs, drove Corvettes, BMWs, and Datson 240Zs.
Something about them convinced me they weren’t about to give
it all away. No, these guys didn’t look like revolutionaries to me.  


Ready for My Close-up, Mr. DeMille


We clamber for the mask of the good man.
We will kill to wear it. It is the ultimate form
of passing. It is the final form of disguise.

The black man no longer seeks to pass as white.
Whites now pretend to be black. Gays once hoped
to be seen as straight. No longer. The straight white

man is to be chased out of town. Make him old
and you have the pariah. The picture of evil. The
old white man is depicted as sick. His heart is black.

His shit stinks to high heaven. What we hope above
all else is to become a black transsexual, an invert
of color, a mulatto hermaphrodite transsexual, the

ultimate binary, the final frontier of mixed identity,
someone who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic,
with multiple personality disorder. A mulatto

hermaphrodite transsexual schizophrenic is our aim,
the ultimate fractured mind and body. A person who
is everything to everybody, the living embodiment

of that cubist masterpiece, Nude Descending a Staircase,
all the way into the basement of the human soul. Fractured
incoherence lacking identity. A nonentity at last. With this

on your resume, as a nobody, you will certain to be
accepted into Princeton – on full scholarship. You will
be free to bed Marcel Duchamp, his corpse or his memory.