Pleasure City

Canto I:

Next stop, the driver said, smiling through cracked wicked lips,
Pleasure City – we huddled, prenatal, wondering –
even in the suburbs the legends grew,
spread by the Party Planners,
the malcontent underbelly of the American Experience,
bastard step-children of the rotted family tree,
planted by righteous Puritan hands,
unsoiled by the burst and bloody entrails they tilled into the New Land.

A mystic angel sang guitar, played his words,
inspired by the big wheels (big wheels),
the bus across the wilderness of naked earth.
No flies on my shit, he sang,
no vultures preparing for the feast,
vomiting cold logic on the corpse of the American Dream.
Pleasure City – last stop on the long, hot road,
sun-drenched with memories long forgotten,
hands that played their songs of construction,
the leather blood-letters,
as buried in the sand as siblings of Antigone.

Ah, but Pleasure City – cool and hot, wet and parched dry!

Old lady in the back, azure-domed, triumphant,
proclaims that she has seen its better days,
the frontier of the experience.
The driver calls her forward,
gives her the crown preserved for Christian martyrs,
kicks her in the teeth and laughs.
He is not amused, for we laugh with him,
unknowingly blind and mute,
another shipment of Other-Worlders seeking to feel again,
to walk the streets of Paradise.

Samerica, we smiled and stepped from the bus platform.

Canto II:

It was another long hot world away, our nesting places –
lofty crags for eagles perched on tenement windows –
waiting longing for something anything sweet release from boredom,
enemy of life itself.
The television man appeared one sunny hurt-swept Afternoon –
like maggots on the corpse of dawn we clung to this:
the dream of Pleasure City.
Escape, escape from this into God knows what else there is…
special deals free food and lodging,
the party bus to Paradise.

Am I the ninety-ninth caller?

The embodiment of Pepsodent living greets us.
We smile back,
our jaundiced grins exposing rotted Lifestyles.
This is our Destination.

Under the cold hard moon of desolation we cross the tundra,
mutant wildebeests on wheels of fire,
our gaudy polyester lives unfolded,
wrinkling in gorilla-proof encasements.
Across the lifeless plain our lifeless souls greet new days;
hopeful, hopeless wanderers,
the Happy Hunting Ground defiled by technology.
The radiation clings to our bones,
the remnants of a nuclear yard sale.

The bus driver’s azure robes are caked with dust
from roads where tires collapsed.
The Conestoga, pleasure-bound, rolls into Paradise.

Canto III:

The doors swung open with a burst of unexpected energy.
A thousand colored suns eliminated our shadows, our doubt –
Ezekiel’s wheel had fallen, spinning,
where the fortune tellers shuffled after every deal,
the faces of divination no longer Egyptian.
The sun does not set upon the horizon,
but lingers, mocking while void of sleep,
drenched in the cool, hard sweat of Anticipation,
we rub our heads for luck (heads without a sensible hair).

Outside, in the blaring light of midnight,
a jester expelled from Caligula’s court salutes us with a sneer.
He complains of pains, of hunger, of thirst –
wants we have satisfied with endless rolls of change,
while hand and foot courtiers slip us watered Scotch,
stale biscuits and gravy.
The driver laughs, throws our lingering clown a “piece of eight.”
Coin of the realm, worth five dollars inside.
It is not edible, for the jester cannot enter the court.
He laughs and throws it away, cursing lady luck.

“Samerica,” he cries, his throat hoarse with fervent whispers,
“Your addiction to Horatio Alger is complete,
your opium pipe is a machine,
the Tree of Knowledge where fruits are matched.
Apples or oranges,
the difference being small change to a small fortune.”

Canto IV:

Bridegrooms no longer hesitant, we re-enter the honeymoon suite.
The floorplan is memorized, our tour guide is unnecessary.
Stepping like ancient warriors on velvet carpets of fortune,
we weave our way through the rabble, the riff-raff.
Heads turn with frank stares, ruby eyes filled with avarice and pain.

The Holy Rollers have entered the chamber.

Foolish and reckless,
then conservative,
we take our turn at the table,
feeding on the adrenaline like baptismal liquids.
The numbers before our eyes:
first, Hymn 40, then Hymn 13.
The priest speaks gravely,
intoning ancient symbols that reveal we will not see the gates at dawn.
The azure-domed Madame from the bus swoons, star-struck.
She has come from the far pavilion.
Men in togas, she proclaims,
announce the King shall dance tonight.
The bus driver laughs.

The King is Dead,
but Long Live the King,
and cash me in.

Like Egyptian cities of the dead, the Path of Ramses,
the Suburbs of Osiris,
we will name our streets after our gods.

Canto V:

In the blackened cathedral we sit huddled.
The King will speak, his emissary has taken the stage.
His mistresses,
the golden-tressed and nubile peacocks of the night
have begun the rite of initiation.
The drums have begun to sound,
the trumpets herald the coming of the New Christ.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall be Entertained.
Blessed are the weary and forlorn, for they shall be Amused.
Blessed are the chosen ones, the Holy Rollers,
for they shall receive Complimentary Champagne.”

Almost before it has begun, the stage is once again deserted.
A flash of white sequins, the smell of hot light sweat.
The sonic boom from pelvic thrusts, of gymnastic exhibitions,
is overwhelming.
Quickly, the onlookers are ushered out into the cold hard sweet wet night,
into the lighted halls and corridors.
The service is completed here, for the bells are still ringing.
Flashing lights and sirens scream their homage
to the gods we have created.

Canto VI:

Two lovers bend their obsessed wills in anguish,
the Paradise of Pleasure City fuels their passions,
their deep despair.
In rooms where once The Voice
held the attention of the molls and saps,
the final moments of ecstasy seep through pale gold curtains
as daylight robs writhing forms of their dignity.

The bottle empty as their thoughts and wallets,
they wince as its shattered fragments
draw their watered blood across the cold tile.
Visions of Hitchcock’s motel run with the crimson water
as it slips away.

It was to be a new beginning,
Lady Luck and Prince Valiant embarking,
heading to the New Crusade –
after cleaning out the Golden Nugget.

Canto VII:

The neon hourglass fills our eyes;
there is no time remaining for us.
Our sins have not been washed away.

Like Eve and Adam thrust from the gates while forced to watch
the life within the garden, we are returned to the dust from which we came.
The desert moon mocks our retreat.

Pleasure City, the bus driver exclaims.
It is but temporary Paradise,
this golden oasis on the face of destruction.

But Pleasure City – cool and hot, wet and parched dry!

Across the painted desert we wing silent, droning miles;
the tenements and caves from which we crawled
intone their homing beacon cries.
In the back of the bus,
we cross the desert,
spent as useless lovers,
the emptiness of our copulation
reflected in our gaunt souls.

Summer 1990

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