PILGRIMS’ PROGRESS by Ariana Reines from Love Among the Ruins Catalog

Greer Lankton, SIAMESE TWINS 1981 Private collection

Greer Lankton, SIAMESE TWINS, 1981, Private collection

 

In SAFEWAY I heard a whining

Song.  Dill fills the air with longing

 

What was the Twentieth Century

Appetite.  I grew up wondering would I

 

Ever fuck like them, the dead.  They left

Behind the lingering sense of an ethos:

 

To discover love, if you could, in your

Own way for your own self, outside the dread

 

And shame they’d installed all around you.

Is the asshole closer to death, is shit close to it

 

And why when some pray do we put our ass

In the air to kiss the ground, the rosebud

 

Of the dark side of our minds waving in the blue

Sex and death got married and had a baby.

 

I wasn’t there when it happened and nobody exactly

Told me about it.  There was a lingering scent on the air

 

My first years in New York going to the one no two really

Good nightclubs, when the Meatpacking District

 

Was still full of actual meat and blood and tall whores

In beautiful crowds picking carefully over the cobblestones

 

In their enormous heels and wigs.  Here ends the only

Nostalgia I shall permit myself.  I was feeling kind

 

Of Auschwitzy in a vegan restaurant in Warsaw.

There was an H&M and a multiplex across the street

 

From the ghetto wall nestled inside an apartment

Complex.  I’m alive only because the false identity

 

My grandmother’s husband bought her before he was killed

Meant she had a job just outside that wall.  The malls

 

Are built all over the world that we might shop our way out

Of oblivion.  It was easy to weep at the wall.  I put

 

My forehead on it and said my dead uncles’ names and Tadeusz

Richter the name of the man my grandmother actually loved.

 

A plague.  A genocide.  The usage of the world.  Lathe

Of all difference.  I used to have a nightmare that recurred:

 

A spiral of water draining down a hundred thousand family

Pictures.  None of them people I knew, all of them faces

 

I could love if I had the chance.  The idea of loving as a public

Act is something I inherited.  The felicity of men who fuck

 

Like friends is the thing I admire.  The Emma

Goldman brilliancy and courage of the women

 

Of Act Up is my living moral referent.  But I

Don’t know how to write a poem about AIDS.

 

I don’t know anybody who died of it.  I read Tim

Dlugos to face Warsaw because of a line about his

 

Father or grandfather speaking Polish.  Can everything

Be made to resolve into my originary pain?  What drove

 

My mother insane.  And an idea of liberty and elegance

Perfected by gay men in cities: the constellation of my youngest

 

Desires.  I’m on a banquette in Winslow Arizona next to my

Post-gender lover, my person.  I used to talk a lot about the Gay

 

Priesthood, about queerness as a Kohanim, priest

Class of the world, with whom you get high, tend to the sick

 

And imprisoned, advocate for the misunderstood, and die

In grace.  Where would we be without nightclubs, the liberation

 

Of sex from “love” as defined by hetrosexist patriarchy, the lesbians

Who teach poetry in prisons, the women who radiate zero

 

Sexuality in order, like running fleeing nymphs to flee the frankly

Real male gaze, where would we be?  Where would we be without

 

Chelsea Manning’s agony?  The Dans Macabre of plaguetime Paris?

The New York I never knew?