Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Joey Get's Burned

Photo: René Calvo

By 9pm the party had swelled to over 50 people. The dining room table was overflowing with offerings. The wine was flowing. The Apostles were rocking the house. Lakshmi was up next. 

We played to a distinctly Harlem crowd. It was a diverse cross section of America. The youngest attendee was no more than three and the oldest into their eighties. 

Our substitute bass player was a no show and Jeff Young generously offered to jump in and cover. With his eyes glued to my hands, as they moved over the guitar's ebony fingerboard, he deftly laid out a groove. The crowd cheered. They were primed. 

I made the announcement that we would be marching to the garden. I asked everyone to take a piece of scrap paper and write down something that they wanted to let go of, a fear, grudge, loss, something that was no longer serving them. 
"We will stuff them into Joey's pockets and free them in a puff of smoke."
Everyone got to work. The children were the most earnest.

With drums and hand claps we made our way out into the night and beneath the swelling moon. Joey was ignited. In a burst of fireworks he erupted into flames.

Video: Birgit Nagele

Much later, in the wee hours. Kosi emailed this poem to me.

Dancing With Joey

The crowd has gathered
with drums and bells and chants –
Joey dies today.
                        I die today.
My self loathing
my psychosomatic neurosis
my roadblocks and insecurities
are tossed into the fire.
I am tossed into the fire.
I am the dirty sacrifice.
I dance with the wooden demon.
My palms against his palms
our fingers lock.
My bare feet crack the kindling
and splinter
while the flames that lick my thighs
burn his clothes
and my clothes


He wraps flaming wooden arms
around my waist as I
breathe in smoke
the burning wood and sage and bitterness
from his lungs.
Flames scratch
            lick my neck and bare chest
melt my skin.

I am burning…

Joey dances.
His hips press my hips.
He pulls me down
into the ashes.

I am consumed…

Black diamonds appear where nipples were.
My pubis is burnt into rubies.
The music crescendos.
Charcoal burns my back.
My body screams.
                             I scream.
The music screams.
Flames lap between my jewels
to the empty spaces
where the rubbish things –
my bricks — are singed into ash
and dust
and Joey’s charred wood
falls away…

I am golden.
        I am precious.
                I am purified.

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