TATTOOS FOR KATHY ACKER
Her mother kills herself. The surgeon general had just determined that suicide was a major health hazard for those with excess income. Dear Abby, she wrote, On behalf of concerned daughters everywhere, thank you for encouraging "Desperate in the USA" to seek immediate counseling—it could've been ugly. Look, she already knew about baggage. Think of her at 17 years of age. Her mother took her diary and used it as a collage in the suicide note. In between her attempts and his whimperings she took refuge in the work of Baudelaire.
She savages capitalist America. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Richard Nixon were asked what they stood for and replied: "Fucking teenaged girls." To earn the American Patriotism Interest Project award, young hopefuls were instructed to soar like birds of prey in the skies of commerce. Each year the top American bankers and high-ranking government politicians were invited by the CIA to watch napalm-fireworks in foreign countries. She flew on her Yamaha through Clinton's US of A.
She plagiarizes. Pirates have always terrorized the bourgeoisie. Pirates affect government, life, trade, and culture. But what do we really know about the black flag? Who was she? What weapons did she use? The pirate adventurer, put plainly, was a thief, a child pornographer and a filthy-mouthed outcast. Pirates were sex-trade workers who made hand-painted maps of imaginary islands: you see, the Pirate was the last true artist. I remember her as if it were yesterday, as she came plodding to the inn door, her sea-chest following behind her in a handbarrow; a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown woman; her tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders of her soiled blue coat; her hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails; and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. I remember her looking round the cove and whistling to herself as she did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that she sang so often afterwards:
She dies of cancer. Finds that Mexico rattles when she breathes. Room 101 is an imaginary room into which you can put objects, services or even concepts that you would like to see removed from everyday life. Ritual is a sort of removal from reality—the blown rose means: decay is sacred here. No one denies it.
"Tattoos for Kathy Acker" is
an excerpt from my manuscript entitled "Hazard" which explores
some of the more unusual biographical details of a number of canonical
and avant-garde writers and artists. In "Tattoos" I try to pay
homage to Acker's exploration of the body's fraught relationship with
politics and language.