Maximum Madness

I was five and she was six
She played the fiddle, I fooled around
We hid beneath the floral covers
People thought we’d become instant lovers

Our mothers drank themselves to death
Our fathers died in pain alone
Our families fell apart together
Our town had no ringing bells

We didn’t play on pogo sticks
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ran too late
Mother clipped her long toe nails
Father Christmas disappeared

No one took pot shots late at night
Family members came and went
Her happy brother played the horn
Her favorite sister hit the road

It all ended in Kamakura
They testified against each other
Our fathers pissed it all away
Bang-bang went the kitchen door

Trespasser galloped far away
Wildwood was plowed under
The farm became the outer limits
Beer spilt between their legs

She explained how she lost her fingers
The boys grew up and became old men
We could no longer use the laundry
The only gold was in their teeth

Mother searched for late-night booze
The family arranged an Alaska cruise
The boat capsized when someone jumped
All was lost to vodka stingers

A Good Paddling

Yes, it was better back then, far better to be alive.
They put the groceries on a conveyer belt at the A & P,
which ran beneath the ground. They were carried outside
to a spot in the parking lot. One didn’t push one’s cart across
the blacktop back then. It was called civilization, this; what is it
called now?

The angry man called me a motherfucker when I brushed up
against him in the subway. Of course, I had never laid eyes
on this man ever before. He was a fool. I could scarcely care,
I wanted to say, but I said sorry. I’m terribly, terribly sorry,
my dear, for touching your tender shoulder.

No, we weren’t rebellious at all. We obeyed. It was all about
Yes, sir, and knowing when to stop. Although there were those
among us, like Matt, who had a well-cushioned ass. He provoked
the flat-topped coach to strike; he grabbed his polished paddle
and swept it across Matt’s backside. It made him laugh.

We said Ma’am? not What? If we wanted to thrive, we had to submit.
There were rules in my day, not chaos. We had no rights. Our parents
stood with the school against us. What? was thought rude. It was not
permitted. They called it respect, but we all knew it was obedience.
The men were just back from the war. They were fighters. They were
prepared to knock our teeth out.

It was a tough time and we were expected to take our clothes off. No
if ands or buts. Get your pants off, strip. We took showers together
in the nude. Modesty was a sign of femininity. No blushing, no hard-ons.
Get your ass into the pool. Boys in those days were expected to be men;
we were in training to kill.

Those were the good old days, and don’t forget it. I was there. Kids
didn’t tell their teachers to fuck off. Not back then. Adults ran the world.
Our lockers didn’t lock. Mom and Dad left the doors wide open. Mother
let the car run while she dashed in for milk. Kids stayed in the car. Some
people believe in progress. Things are always getting better. I laugh.

Dancing on Graves

I’m all for dancing on graves.
If the enemy lies within.

The defeated crumbles to the mat.
The victor can’t get any sleep.

I have a screwdriver but no screws.
The repairs can’t be made.

My neighbor snores.
Something has to be done.
If the enemy lies within.

The defeated crumbles to the mat.
The victor can’t sleep.

Banzai Today; or, Toxic Masculinity in a Loincloth

Mr. Goto and I spend every Thursday at his sister’s
restaurant in Shimokitazawa drinking Asahi Dry.
After class, he likes to practice his English. I enjoy
shooting the breeze; I need a little company. I try
to avoid expats who either hate this place or, worse, love
it. Either way, their self-hatred makes me uncomfortable.

We first met shortly after his return from the States. He’d
been there for three years with a top-notch firm out of Chiba.
He’d left his wife and kids behind. Goto hadn’t wanted his
wife infected by American ideas. Women, he declared, are
only good for two things: fellatio and cooking. He feared his
wife would meet Americans who would talk her out of both.

His son is getting soft. Goto-san says the problem started
when boys stopped entering the army as they still do in China.
He’s determined to teach his son not to be ashamed of his body.
He has taken to hiding himself from his family. He cups his
genitals when they enter the public baths. Father Goto
believes his son acts like a little girl.

When Goto was young, he attended a private military academy
where boys swam naked and ran track at dawn in the buff.
Being unashamed of one’s body is part of manhood, according
to the Japanese. Rituals of manhood have slowly disappeared.
His son doesn’t want anyone to see him naked. Nudity is no
longer required at his school; they don’t take public showers.

Goto-san says the first step will be to take his son weekly
to the bathhouse. He will not allow his son to bring a towel.
He will wash with the other men and soak in the public pool.
Next, he will make his son walk around the house naked.
He will not be allowed to show embarrassment. The boy
must not cover-up, blush, or seek to avoid his mother’s gaze.

Young Yuki, Goto’s son, will have to train for the annual
all-male nude parade in which men and boys run through
town with nothing on but a loincloth between their legs.
Women and girls line the streets and splash them with cold
water. The midnight Hadaka Matsuri features nearly 10,000
males who prance without clothes through the city streets.

Many attend with an eye to having fun. Goto-san tells me
he has an ulterior motive. He wants to celebrate the night
his son blossoms. He wants to see the boy naked with his chin up.
He promises to commemorate his own father’s military service
and the sacrifice of Japanese soldiers in defense of the nation.
Goto-san can’t wait to drink to his son’s courage and masculinity.


“For all I know, he’s fucking you, too.”
These are words to remember. This bit of bile
sits on my mind like a mustard stain on one of my
Oxford dress shirts. Shit. Try getting that out.
Yes, these are words spoken to me by a woman I once
knew. She was the kind of woman—you’ve met them—
who says things without thinking, like dogs that defecate
on your neighbor’s trimmed lawn. The same way, one
imagines, Joan Crawford once took a hanger to her daughter’s
bare bottom, forgotten by her the moment of impact but
remembered by Christina for the rest of her life.

The tears did nothing for me. I had no sympathy, not then,
and even less now. She thought, in her prime, of bedding
our employer and now missed desperately his warm embrace,
imagined as in a fever that he was fucking someone else;
if not his wife, then anyone else would do. My friend’s eyes
flashed as she turned around. Yes, why not you? He’s fucked
just about anything that moves, it could just as well be you.
I failed to see then what I see now which is her low opinion
both of herself and of me. In her defense, I now see an essential
lack of conceit. She figured we were both worthy of Mr.
Seidman’s attentions. We were both just little whores.

How did such an attitude take shape? I wonder about this.
A bright woman, well-educated, a feminist, who once adored
the likes of Virginia Woolf and Anaïs Nin. She was a mature,
sensible person shaped by her times, made to feel her worth
measured by a bank account and a man. Oh, Camille,
I remember. My dear old friend, so distraught, so frustrated.
How she liked our boss, a horny attorney who bragged about
putting women up against the bathroom wall. She envied them.
She was jealous. When you see yourself this way, as nothing
more than a catch, it must burn like hell not to be caught.

Those posters of Mick Jagger and Steve Biko weren’t just
decorations. Not at all. They were fantasies, like a soldier’s
poster of Betty Grable, hidden in the springs of a buddy’s upper
bunk. She’d like to have been taken to bed by royalty. Rock stars
or political activists would do. Celebrity cocks would have given
her a sense of pride. What a blow to be relegated to playing second
fiddle to our boss’s wife. What an insult for a woman who liked
to goad men to violence. Prick teaser extraordinaire: how the men
were made to throb, how she loved to send them home with their
pricks between their legs, desperate rejects. It was all a thrilling
game until our boss threw her out. No, he wanted some all right,
but he’d finally had enough. Who could blame him?