s h e s a i d
copyright 1999-2001, Christine HammAmerican Dream
This is a poem about a lawn.
It's flat where the chairs went in August.
There are dandelions.
A bulldog digs a hole and buries a hand,
buries a handball.
The lawn is mown at near regular intervals by
a flamboyant transexual.
I mean a moody teenage boy.
The mower is gas powered and full of deadly thoughts.
The daughter of the house
sniffs gasoline in the garage.
When she lies on the cool invasive concrete
the rafters full of her father's tools spin above her.
Later, she will become a moody teenage boy.
I mean a second grade teacher.
Until she marries a red haired man
who dies suddenly.
She finds herself feeling nothing and
questions the nature of her reality.
She's not real
so she doesn't question it for very long.
But this poem is not about her;
it's about her lawn
and she's ten and
hasn't turned into anything interesting for
the past 24 hours.
The lawn, however,
was a sunset, a stick of flesh
and a tic in the gunman's eyelid.
it becomes a weeping man,
stands up and
walks out of this picture.
If there were a movie made of my teenage sexual education it would be like this. The style is a homage to Bergman, Fellini and the X-files. My movie makes people think of Edward Gorey after they leave the theater, but they are not sure why. In my movie, there are lots of long pauses punctuated by random weeping. Sometimes music plays softly in the background and it is elevator music based on Jazz. My movie is rife with irony and sarcasm. People say Yeah or Right when they mean You?re crazy as a loon. Most of the dialogue is cliched. There is poor acting in my movie. Actors forget their lines and have to be prompted. My movie is intergenerational and interracial and sometimes the elderly pretend to be teenagers and sometimes the teenagers feel elderly. Most of my movie is filmed at night, in claustrophobic middle class bedrooms with bad lighting. There are posters of Kiss and Ricky Martin on the walls. A few brief scenes take place at the beach during the day and are so over-exposed that it is difficult to make out the figures. The day at the beach fades twice to a white screen. During the beach scene, voices mumble about something without much feeling every two to three minutes. Much of the movie is in black and white, and filled with staring, still nudes. Some nudes are fat and others, thin. There are no normal sized people in my movie. Sometimes blood spurts on a wall and trickles down. Once the camera focuses on toes on a sheet, as they curl, slowly. Once, just once, a couple sits on a mattress in a bare room. Their limbs wrap around each other until all that is visible is pale elbows and knees and long black hair. The sex of the couple is indeterminate. Sometimes the camera focuses on the moon and sighs are just audible. At times the camera work is hand-held, jumpy and up-close, as books, lamps, bottles and clothing fly across a room. There is screaming and crying and the sound of fabric tearing. The camera pulls back and a girl is alone in a bedroom. She rushes the camera and the screen goes blank. This happens repeatedly in my movie.
I keep his cigarette butts in my cereral bowl
on the kitchen table, next to the bottle of wine he drank.
It's become an acrid shrine to forgetting you.
A remembrance of his teeth gentle on me,
of his whispered
questions, my answers always
with the breath of
a woman who has run a long way to get to this place.
Of his thumb beckoning inside me
until you were just
a coffee cup ring wiped off the nightstand,
until you were only
healed bruises and
Mad Play Summer**
Afterwards, I blew Shadowboy and he shot on my sunburned lips.
He tasted of rum and saltines.
His head above me was black, haloed by the sun,
but I closed my eyes and remembered his coming face.
His eyelashes spackled together with pressure, tears and ecstasy:
his mouth a goldfish ?O?.
His sweat dripped on my eyelids.
That summer, we girls, we?d hitchhike.
Black had feet, we knew, but we?d turn away and smile.
That summer, we?d play mad, and hitchhike to the beach.
Everything was safe. There was no crime in California.
We read no newspapers and didn?t talk much,
so that?s what we believed
and wanted to believe.
Sometimes, we took off our bikini tops.
We called him Shadowboy.
He?d tag along with Smooth, who used his music truck as a gift,
get women drunk with notes, make them cry.
Smooth had his blackened, smokey voice and bongo drums,
and Shadowboy had his always ?nearly empty? bong.
Untouchable Smooth was a gorgeous, sincere knife with broken fingers.
Shadowboy, on the edge of the red rock, was tiny and pedestrian,
puffed up in the chest as if he needed only size,
then he?d trip up the sun and clouds.
Smooth would look at us as if we were a forest of red dresses,
pink moons, and shaded eyes.
Sometimes we?d take off our bikini tops.
Shadowboy shot tiny gardens all over our faces.
Black had feet.
But we were too drunk or stoned or sunstruck to notice,
and we slept with the day every day at noon.
Sometimes we?d take it off.
Sometimes we woke up with things stuck in us, driftwood, kelp.
I was left with a sweet urge turning black.
In August, our sea skin was hit by the whisper of winter.
Smooth and Shadowboy(his drool boiling at our breasts) looked blue and rusted.
In the shade of the red rock, I took Shadowboy into my mouth.
He stayed as still and soft as a piece of produce.
When he came, it tasted like snot.
He smeared it in the sand and ran.
I was left with...
I woke up with things stuck in me.
I went out into the thin sunlight but the truck was gone.
We seemed fewer then, weakened by the strange light and lack of music and drugs. Perhaps some girls were missing,
but I had forgotten their names and we all looked alike.
We walked home barefoot, finding bruises we had forgotten.
*featured in the exhibit, Don't Ever Change, run by the Mission Media gallery in Baltimore
**featured on the Babes in Toyland website