Reparative HERstory #1
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Nope
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A Poem Was Being Written #1
A Poem Was Being Written #2
Adrienne Rich Refuses
Reading
Youth
Writing on Art #1
Kevin James
No Tears for Dead Soldiers, 1998
I am a masochist only in poems


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NO TEARS FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, 1998

Better keep your hands off my
Better keep your hands off my
Better keep your hands off my potential new boyfriend

“I love Dolly Parton,” she said. “I love her collar bones. I wish I had collar bones like Dolly.”

I was fifteen and Lauren was seventeen. She was a woman, and I wasn’t. But we agreed that Dolly had good collar bones.

I was slouched in the passenger seat of her Buick Roadmaster. It was a mammoth-sized vehicle that previously belonged to her grandparents.The car was white with fake wood paneling and it had rear-facing bucket seats in the back. Her grandparents used to take trips to Sedona in it during the late 80s. The drive was about a five day ride from suburban Detroit, and Lauren used to go with them every summer. But her grandpa had recently had a stroke and lost his leg, and her grandma was bad at managing her diabetes and could barely walk. So Lauren got their car.

I was staring out the window as Lauren sped down Middlebelt road -- we passed Stilletos, which was a working class lesbian bar on the border of Dearborn and Inkster. I found the bar’s sign to be very gay, in a way that felt old without being nostalgic or historical. And by historical, I mean important. Since I've become older, the sign reminds me of the cover of a Gore Vidal paperback, or maybe the cover of something by Rita Mae Brown. Those seem like very different things, but it makes sense if you really think about it.

Lauren was not a lesbian at the time, and neither was I. I wasn’t really anything, but I did like Lauren. I desired her, perhaps. But I wasn’t sure. I had previously had a crush on Jean Claude Van Damme, and I blame my grandma for that. We would watch Double Impact and Bloodsport in her twin size, motorized hospital bed (the one she took from my uncle who has cerebral palsy), and she would chain smoke Virginia Slims as Jean Claude mumbled through his dialogue and fought whatever sort of racist fantasy of a villain was trying to kill him.

“Jean Claude Van Damme has a correct nose,” my grandma said. “He also has the right size hands. You can tell if a man is gay by the size of his nose or the length of his ring finger. Your grandpa has a gay nose. He is no Jean Claude Van Damme.”

I liked Jean Claude’s chest and his armpits. His chest was large and bulbous, like some women’s breasts. Male muscle builders construct their bodies in ways that are as feminine as they are masculine. So their bodies are neutral. “I would like my body to be neutral,” I thought to myself once.

Jean Claude’s armpits were a perfect size, they did not look large and expansive like most men’s; rather, they were small and muscular -- with a sparse wisp of light brown hair.

Pretty as a picture
Comin' on so strong
He's twisting my ignition key
Turn my motor on

I was very different from Lauren. And by different, I mean her parents had more money than mine did. She wore butterfly clips in her hair and owned crop tops and 3 pairs of JNCOS from Pac*Sun. I would wear the same pair of Lee Pipes jeans everyday -- they were the JNCO knock-offs from Kohls. I was not cool.

Lauren liked to tell people she was jewish, but she wasn’t. She did it before Madonna. I’m pretty sure that once Madonna became a fake Jew, Lauren stopped the charade. “I don’t like Madonna and I don’t like Trent Reznor or Kathleen Hanna.” She didn’t like anyone that Courtney Love hated. Except Marilyn Manson - she really liked Marilyn Manson.

Our relationship was most likely one of convenience. We were being homeschooled for the same reasons:  Our parents were weird christians and we both had stay-at-home moms. Lauren and I met each other at a weekly day class for homeschooled teenagers that was run out of a baptist church in southeastern michigan. We hated it -- we hated the cooking classes and fake art classes we had to take. I made cheese soup once as a homework project. It was awful -- curdled and sour with large chunks of potatoes. But my dad ate it.

Lauren and I were on our way to the day class for homschooled holy-rollers. Every Tuesday, for the past three months, I would walk to the Dunkin Donuts on Telegraph road in Taylor. I would buy a peanut donut and a black medium coffee for the two of us to share. Lauren would meet me in the parking lot  and we would make the 50 minute drive to hell in her grandparent’s hoopdie.

Her cousin had recently joined the military and this had become the topic of conversation in her car for the past three weeks. She was not happy about him joining, but the rest of her family was. “He just wants to kill people. All soldiers, deep down, just want to kill people.” Lauren continued to yell over the Dolly Parton tape, “Men play too many shitty video games.”

Better keep your hands off my
Better keep your hands off my
Better keep your hands off my potential new boyfriend

We liked to joke that the only good soldier was a dead soldier.

“I have no tears for dead soldiers,” Lauren said. “And that’s radical.”

I nodded my head in agreement, just like I did the last time she said it. I didn’t really understand why my parents let Lauren pick me up every Tuesday. I didn’t question it, but the thought of an angry fake-jew being my best friend couldn’t have made sense to them.

Middlebelt road was the longest stretch till we reached our destination. It was 7:45 and we were supposed to be to the church at 8:00. We were not going to get there on time. We were always late, but it didn’t really matter because it's not like we were really going to school or anything.

I finished the coffee we were sharing. Lauren took only a few sips when it was really hot, and then she lit a cigarette. “I am gonna take the biggest dump,” she said with her Djarum in hand. “It’s gonna be a demon dump.”

“You’re disgusting,” I said. “Fuck you,” she said.

Stiletto’s was only a few minutes behind us, so the boredom had set in. The mystery of gay bars is very fleeting when you see them as just slabs of concrete with empty parking lots, I continued staring out the window and became very hungry as we passed the Wendy’s and the Bangkok ‘96, which were both connected to the Inkster bowling alley. In order to fight the hunger, I began clenching my body in a way that centered all of my tension toward my crotch. I felt like a witch or a telepath, as if I could control my body’s energy in a way that felt beyond or outside of my body. My hands and fingers began to tingle. My face began to feel heated and light. I unclenched. And I thought that i might just actualize my own levitation, thrusting my body out of the passenger seat and into the front window of Lauren’s car.

Leave us alone tonight
Then if it don't work out right
He's all your's
Until then

“Are we going to start a band,” Lauren asked. I had deja vu. We liked to pretend we could one day make music like Atari Teenage Riot, or at least like Bratmobile. But we were just broke teenagers with no actual desire to try hard.

“Without guitars,” she said, confidently. “How do you make music without guitars,”  I asked, not really as a question. “Without men,” she said.

Lauren flew through a yellow light and we continued on our drive. “Yea, that makes sense,” I said.