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Tenement Press is an occasional publisher of esoteric,
accidental, & interdisciplinary literatures.


‘My head is my only house unless it rains’

Don Glen Vliet






Rehearsal      /     9. Wayne Koestenbaum
 


Wayne Koestenbaum, ‘He Eats Hearts,’ © 2020



(elegant toplessness stoned in stairwell)



Back in the ‘remember when’ of 2016






In July 2016, Hotel asked me to make a recording of my poem, ‘(elegant toplessness stoned in stairwell),’ which is an excerpt from Camp Marmalade. And so, while seated at the piano, in my apartment's living room in New York City, I recited my poem and spoke-sang into my handy ZOOM recorder. Sometimes, to punctuate or accompany the reading, I played fragments from pieces by Robert Schumann, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Isaac Albéniz, Vincent Persichetti, and David Diamond. At other moments, I improvised rudimentary melodies upon which I could string the text’s syllables. None of this mélange—except for the poem’s words—was planned. I am grateful to Hotel for giving me the chance to improvise.

Koestenbaum, 2016



they hated my poem about
a dead baby             



                    dead babies
in sonnets aren’t funny



I never said dead
babies were funny



                    imagine the
old man in wheelchair
falling over



                    will the
audience misperceive my
remark as anti-
Semitic and boo or
hiss it? don’t avoid
the screening just because
I’m afraid of being hissed



                    assemble an
entire life from found
scraps



could my life
begin with the fat girl
babysitting while Mom
and Pop see Odd Couple
for their anniversary?



                    kept
boy follows
two steps behind doddering
master whose Cockney
S/M imprecations
toward rental dog
we overheard



elegant toplessness
stoned in stairwell



                    flatterer tells me in
steam that young guys
must be “after me”



Band-Aid
on the other
Wayne in pool
looks like skin tag—



mistook him
for handsome workout
father with pudgy son



splodgy, ochre, dull
grey, pink-grey afternoon



                    he mentions me
once in vaguely sexual
context



                    says hello at deli,
surprisingly high
voice for a son



                    study
Diane Arbus for sake
of flirtation bait



pleurer I said as
dream in tango elevator—
expect chaos



applying makeup sedulously
while crouched on suspicious
floor



                    fear of
being marooned with
Rowan and Martin or
not being tall enough
to see Martin’s squinchy
eyes, his distress muted
by squinch



                    —remove
thy ass from my presence



Cleo removes her
Nairass



                    his ass
received verbal Nair,
semantic depilation



                    ‘fold’ I
said to Madame Grès



face mauled by age
or angry dog in’
53 restaurant



                      very
pre-K of you he
said at breakfast



no discussion of
need or nipple, the
damned ore’s lumpen
presence in whose earth?



Bangladeshi porn found
in grocery bags at gym



your French bread tantrum



                    was it
lipstick on blind glamour
face repeating
the invisible city’s
remaining condoms
as if beauty were
the result of our efforts?



pancake on jaw
edge



                    —should not
they unplug my nose
and shout numbers into
a dead phone?



                     the
dead phone is mine—



                      —when someone
is pushed three times
out the express chute—
maybe a terrorist



Jane Fonda’s surprising
youth, running and
jamboreeing—



                     Jim is
the repeated desired name
but a hollow resides
where Jim once lived



                     LSD son
was Jim, a
suicide, or rumoured
to be a suicide in
S.F.



erotic fantasy
of the suicide nude
answering a Victorian
pink lady door



here in Baton Rouge they’re
picketing The Vagina
Monologues



stuffed myself on crawfish
étouffée and broccoli,  
didn’t stop to
judge extent of stomach
fullness



his eyebrows deserve
dissection, elegy, troubadour
energies



                    why is my
coccyx always the tragic
Kundalini sore spot?



                    one more
bite of $3 vegetable



                    we
wonder why our emotional
and spiritual horizons are so
straitened, we realize
four serried trees are sublimely
waiting for me to announce them



not convulsive beauty
but not obvious beauty either



                     repose achieved as
landing strip where
dismal life attains
longawaited equilibrium,
and perhaps we extend the
‘high’ and realize getting
stoned is the origin of
literature



                     or getting stoned by
angry homophobic journalists
and townspeople



                      a pause
before I say yes despite
Elton John and not
fearing loneliness or
the buttfucked girlfriend
who took it up the ass
from the sadistic boy
because of pregnancy fears



this story told to me
as the height of her
humiliation or as an
extension of what my
cruel gay body and draconian
Rudolf Serkin will
power did
to her



                        breasts felt
up by third wheel boyfriend
and I realized I was
a noncontender



upside-down mouth seen as
zucchini bread giftgiving
and The Fox reparations
received on Third Street
and my surprise that San
Jose had a good used
bookstore because I was an
impossible snob



why always is my suicide
fantasy poised on mother
of baby I adore more
than dignity allows?



my questions are my
father’s, precautionary,
nervous, dry, scape-
goated—like neighborhood
dog we
Jews feared



I’ve never seen such a
compromised set of
knickers or lowhangers—



                         his pedagogic
illocutionary lowhangers—



                         or
Festschrift on my behalf
including Princess Di
mourning’s profundity



                         —not sure why I’d
let him suck me off



his persistence reminds me
of Mary Ann at ditto
machine, stink of my
cruelty



                          —not sure why
grease clings to my jacket
or why liberation is
achieved in unlikely
locale



                          two boys
together in tub
when father leaves
bathroom (No More
Tears) and I experiment
with rubber ducks



                         the joke
(told on third-grade bus) of
snake as intercourse



the stalled Music Man
bus where my first dis-
obedience broke its waters



teaching Yahweh
about genitals,
grasping Yahweh’s glitter



                            and are
four recited nouns the
secret of his sudden
access to fountains?  



                            Rosi-
crucian rose goldenness of
failed immortality?



                             lost thumb
of matzoh ball purveyor
spooning goulash
near Hildegard Knef
LPs for sale
in thick plastic sleeves  







Wayne Koestenbaum has published over twenty books of poetry, criticism, and fiction, including Ultramarine (Nightboat Books, 2022), The Cheerful Scapegoat (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents, 2021), Figure It Out (Counterpoint, 2020), Camp Marmalade (Nightboat Books, 2018), My 1980s & Other Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), The Anatomy of Harpo Marx (University of California Press, 2012), Humiliation (Picador, 2011), Hotel Theory (Soft Skull, 2007), Circus (Soft Skill, 2004), Andy Warhol (Penguin, 2001), Jackie Under My Skin (Plume, 1995), and The Queen’s Throat (Da Capo Press, 1993), nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. He has given musical performances of his improvisatory Sprechstimme soliloquies at the Hammer Museum, The Kitchen, REDCAT, Centre Pompidou, Walker Art Center, The Artist’s Institute, the Renaissance Society, and The Poetry Project. His feature-length film, The Collective, premiered at UnionDocs (New York) in 2021.  He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and a Whiting Award. Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library acquired his literary archive. He is a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center.



︎︎︎    Back to Rehearsal




                                                   
Were a wind to rise
I could put up a sail
Were there no sail
I’d make one of canvas and sticks

Bertolt Brecht, ‘Motto’
(Bucknow Elegies)

editors@tenementpress.com

Tenement Press, MMXXIV