Daily Archives: January 15, 2022

Remembering The Palm Gardens, 1981

from 2008, revised.

What Ed at the door said was true: they were all tired, all the time.
Tired from pushing themselves through double shifts
on behalf of houses, children, better lives —
whatever they had to have.

Half the dancers were former high schoolmates
so there wasn’t much mystery about why they were there.
Half the reason we came was to pay to see
what we’d once tried our best to see for free.

“Brandy” used to dance
to the most radical rock songs she could find.
I saw her dance to the MC5 once. She made me believe
the revolution will be a miracle of taut thighs and dissociation.

You push a commodified body
against the pulse of commodified rebellion long enough,
something begins to happen.
The ones who watch them don’t usually see it,

but I never met a stripper who didn’t understand
the balance of power in any give and take relationship.
What it took to gain power, what was inherent,
what could be assumed, what was the coin of the realm;

all was there in the tall shoes and the soft tummies
of the dancers who didn’t speak
until you’d set them up with a drink or a couple of dollar bills,
who then told you everything in high brisk voices laughing now and then

at some drunk who’d gotten crude with them earlier in the night.
I’d sit there secure in the knowledge that they’d never say that about me.
After all, I only went there for the education and the irony
and I told everyone that, even when I couldn’t stop staring

at Sharon from my math class who whipped my ass in every test,
at “Brandy” and her hip-pulsing anger, at Ed
whose scars and meathook hands welcomed everyone
to the Gardens, even at myself in the mirror behind the dirty bar.


From 2008. Originally published in “Flood,” a chapbook from Pudding House Press. Now out of print. 

All people can be divided into two groups:
those who divide people into two groups,
and those who do not.

We call the people who divide people into two groups
“them,” and we call those who do not
“us.”  Sometimes, we call “them” “the Others.”

Let us say everything we know about the Others:
they are grown fat with their unjust ways.  They
hate us.  They are the source of the Smell — ha,

they are overripe with it.  If you were to crack open
the “O” at the beginning of the word “Others,” it would be
as though a durian had been split in a closet and left to rot.

In fact, the Others
are the splitters of all fruit,
the drainers of all carcasses.

We, of course, are the stitchers of that which is split.
All people, then, may be split into two groups: the splitters of things, and those
who guard that which can be split. We are the Guardians,

and we call the Splitters “the Others,” “Them,” “Those People.”
They are known for cunning, conspiracies, their inability to follow
laws.  If you straighten out the “S” at the beginning

of the word “Splitters,” you see that it is a snake’s spine;
they have been holding the serpent close to their breasts
since the beginning. Venom is their milk; we

are their silent milkmaids, the ones who carry
the venom to their tables.   
It sloshes onto us and we are burned

daily.  All people, in fact,
may be divided into two groups:
those who are burned, and those who do the burning;

or perhaps it is those who are poisoned
and those who live on poison,
or those who worship division 

and those who pray for shielding and healing;
it’s as lamentable as it is observable
that this is how it is: lines drawn between us and them,

them and us, the People and the Others.
In the end, of course, we know that all people
can indeed ultimately be divided into two groups.

and the division falls as follows:
all people can be divided into two groups —
those who divide people into two groups, and the dead.