Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's a fool's game.

I'm not full,
Not yet empty. 

They say I have to hit rock bottom to fully change and want more.
I'm not sure when that is,
Or if they are right. 

I might be the fool,
But at least I'm playing fool at my own game. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The moonlight is my savor

"The things we won't do for love."
~Tracy Chapman

Following the moonlight I find beautiful people.
They follow me to my dreams,
And sleep beside me when I'm lonely.

It's all because of the moon,
Not my lover.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Face Value: Text for a performance piece

Face Value: Text for a performance piece
by Karl Michalak

It all started
when I went into that big high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death

Something was wrong with my face,
or at least that is what everybody told me.

You see, I came from a place
in the hinterlands up North
and at that time
there were no doctors there
who knew how to handle my particular condition.

I have no way of knowing exactly how the trouble started.
I do know my mother had a difficult pregnancy
and that they gave her all kinds of drugs
to force her to carry to term.

They gave her all kinds of drugs
with very strange names.
To keep her from losing  the baby
that her body didn’t seem to want.

The doctors seemed to belong
to the “all life is sacred/save the fetus at all costs” school.
They did this because
to do anything else would have been a sin.

The doctors did all this
until my mother developed toxemia,
which caused her to swell up
and practically killed her.

They did all this, they said,
because being a mother
was her function as a woman.
Or at least that is the story
that they told her.

And then of course there was Red Skelton.
One day when I was about two
I saw something funny on The Red Skelton Show.
I don’t remember exactly what it was.
I only remember that I laughed so hard I
fell backwards in my chair.
The seat of the chair hit me in the face
and that was the end of me.

At the emergency room
my father refused to spend money on X-rays.
The doctors who supposedly knew everything
said everything was OK.

This was the first of many lies
that the doctors were to tell me.

I found out later
when I was much older
after all the damage had been done
that I had suffered a lateral fracture of my upper jaw.

This led to other complications
all because nobody bothered to take an X-ray.
Or perhaps because my father, who worked in a GE plant,
couldn’t or wouldn’t spend the extra money.
Everything healed up
but in a very strange way.
Years  later
when it was very obvious
that something was very wrong with my face
said one or more of the following:

It’s the Lord’s will.
Just learn to live with it.
It’s all in you imagination.
Don’t be so self-centered.
Shut up and do your homework.
Other people are worse off than you.

So many years later
after I begged them to do something—
I was sent to the high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death
many miles away
to figure out where they had gone wrong.

The doctors in the high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death
said that they could help me
but that because I had no money,
that is, not enough to be a private patient
I had to go through a clinic
frequented by the poor.
And when I got there
something went very wrong, you see
and now here I am
telling you this story.

Because I had no money
I had to do it their way.
I had to beg to be helped.
I had to insist on it.
And as I was to learn over and over again,
after the damage was already done,
nothing flies in this fucking world
unless you have money
or until you get angry.

And there’s one more thing:
Everyone tells me that I asked for it.

Leave well enough alone, they said.
You don’t look so bad.
But I knew better.
I knew it wasn’t all in my imagination.
I knew every time I looked in the mirror
that something was very wrong.
But because I was a child
nobody would believe me.

It took me many years
to hear the help that I needed
and then
after I was butchered by the doctors
in that very busy hospital
in that very expensive City of Death
it took me many more years
to fix it again.

I know what some of you are thinking.
You think I’m just dramatizing
or exaggerating for effect
or crying in my beer
or feeling sorry for myself.

All right.

Maybe my imagery is exaggerated.
But I don’t think so.
Not by much.

I remember very clearly
what it was like in surgery
there in that busy hospital
in the City of Death.

They had shaved my head the night before
the way they do in prison movies
about condemned murderers
headed for the electric chair.

Before they knocked me out
I remember how cold it was.
It was so cold that it made me want to pee.
There were bright lights
and classical music
playing from somewhere.

(You see, the doctor who butchered me
had very sophisticated tastes.)

And rows and rows of surgical instruments.
Scissors and pliers and all kinds of things.
And something called a Stryker Saw
which I later learned is used
for cutting up corpses in medical schools.

Later on
I read somewhere
that when Joseph Mengele
sent people to the gas chambers in Auschwittz
there was always somebody
playing classical music
in the background
just like in the movies.
Just like in those magical surgical suites
in the very busy hospital
in the busy City of Death.

I laughed when I heard that.
I don’t know why.
I couldn’t see because my eyes were swollen shut.
I couldn’t hear out of one ear because it was full of blood.
I couldn’t walk because without any prior consent of mine
they had taken some bone out of my hips
and used it to put my face back together.

So they doped me up
and cleaned me up
and sat me in intensive care
with a lot of pillows.

I didn’t feel any pain.
Because my head was swollen up
to such outrageous proportions.
It was like something on
Outer Limits,
Fright Theatre,
or one of those horror movies
I used to watch.
Edema, they called it.

My mother came in.
I knew she was there
even though I couldn’t see her.
For a long time she was very quiet.
I remember that because I couldn’t talk
I had to spell things in her hand.

Two minutes later
I started hemorrhaging all over the place.

After it was all over
we wanted to sue the doctors
but by that time they had dispersed or disappeared
to other parts of the country
to work in other very expensive hospitals
in the other very busy Cities of Death.

The lawyers in my hometown
up North in the hinterlands
said that I probably did have a case.
But they wanted five hundred dollars
for retainer fees, they said,
before they could initiate proceedings.

My father didn’t have five hundred dollars.
Or at least, if he did, he wouldn’t spend it.
Instead of spending money
he went down to the cellar
and turned on the ham radio
and started talking to strangers
about the weather in Wisconsin.

Somewhere around this time
I quit going to church.
Everyone in the church told me:
We are meant to suffer in this life.
It’s God’s will.
Just learn to live with it.
Surely I was being punished for some great sin.

But I figured
any god who would allow a thing like this
to happen to me
can’t be worth too fucking much.

And I still think so.

Because every time I read the newspaper
every time I watch the news on TV
I hear a story about somebody else.
Somebody else
who went into that high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death
and never came out again.

And I realize I am lucky
to have gotten away with my life
even as mangled and misfired as it is.

To take my mind off all this surgery
I went to the movies.
And on the movie screen I saw
all kinds of people:
crippled people,
deformed people,
paralyzed women with pretty faces,
drug addicts,
and women who were raped.

They were all lumped together
in one huge category
called Undesirable.

Years later I went to a major university
in the high-priced City of Death
to find out how these movies were made.

Five years and twenty-five thousand dollars later
I still don’t understand anything.

Every once in a while
somebody gets an Oscar
for playing one of these undesirable people
and everything seems to be all right again.
Look, look, the undesirable ones say,
everything is getting better.
They’re paying attention to us.
But not for long.

Because up there at that high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death
business goes on as usual.

I’m not the only one, you see.
I’m not the only one.
I know this because
while I was stuck at home recovering.
while I was traveling around the world,
while I was hanging around in bars
in the City of Death
learning all too well how to drown my sorrows
I began to hear stories.

There was the young girl
who went to the emergency room
of that big high-priced hospital
in the City of Death.

She had a series of known allergies
but nobody in that emergency room
bothered to look at her chart
so she was given drugs
in strange combinations
which caused her to have seizures
and die.

And then there was the famous artist,
the one who made art out of soup cans.
Everyone loved the pictures he made
of ordinary household objects
and beautiful celebrities.

He went into that big high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death
for routine gall bladder surgery
and never came out again.

Finally there was the man
who liked to make puppets
and made millions of dollars.
Everyone thought he was wonderful
because he made people laugh.

They said he had pneumonia
and when he died
they said it was all his fault
because he should have come in earlier.

This is an increasingly familiar tune.

They blamed it on the nurses,
all of whom were women,
or they blamed it on the patients,
all of whom were powerless.

They blamed it on everyone but the doctors.

And in the meantime
at that very high-priced hospital
in the busy City of Death
business goes on as usual.

And now everyone asks me
Why are you doing this to yourself?
Why are you rubbing your nose in it?

Because I know now that
I am not exceptional.

I know now that my situation
is not unusual.

Because I’m not the only one, you see.
I’m not the only one.

I have no identity now
as anything other than a disease carrier.
The language which other people use
to describe my predicament
has been simplified over time
so that now I am no longer “HIV positive.”
I simply “am HIV.”
As if there were no distinction at all
between the disease and myself.

We are one and the same,

Someday I’m gonna make my own goddamn movie.
It’ll be a Technicolor extravaganza
full of faggots and lesbians and whores
and drug users and blacks and Hispanics
and AIDS patients and HIV positives and homeless people.

The discarded of the universe
who comprise every level of society’s junk heap.

They’ll glitter up there on the silver screen
wearing their rejection like a badge of honor
and in the final reel
they’ll turn their guns on Washington
and the doctors
and the lawyers
and all the other bullshit shovelers
whose laziness and money grubbing
have perpetuated this disaster.

The complacent, flawless, perfect ones
will go down in a hail of gunfire
and all those who have been abused and thrown away
will rise up as one
and live happily ever after
if only for one more minute.