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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
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the corpse reads classics letters the book of revelations and epiphanies
the making and unmaking of person
Diaries and Memoirs of the Strictly Fabulous

Two Poems
by GiO

The prequel

The girl who taught me how to be
a rock-n-roll groupie, and use a fake I.D.,
took me to her topless go-go agent, Milton Anthony.
"Let me see what you got," he said,
and I lifted up my shirt.
"No scars, you'll do."
Those first years I wore no make-up and no costume.
Except for that sparkly sequined bronze,
or was it copper-colored? that demure full-bottomed bikini.
I popped out of my glasses, shoes, and t-shirt
Neatly folded in the corner of the stage,
If there was a stage,
Instantly transforming into Wonder Girl
Every other half-hour, for six hours, to the juke box,
hopefully to as much James Brown as possible.
The sequined bikini was short-lived,
chafing that tender area between my legs.
As I got bolder I wore less.
I thought for sure people could see I was an artist
Because I was mostly naked. And besides,
I was only doing this to put myself through art school
Those gritty Kojak days.

My first stage name was purloined from
an Asian-American student of Elvin Jones,
describing the "big moment" of union musician drummers
who worked the great catering houses of the outer boroughs.
"And the Lebowitz Catering House of Brooklyn is proud to present,"
(Drum roll please,) "Peaches Flambe."
It was a silly name for a silly little white chick
With no peaches, daring to assume
the funk of the Godfather of Soul.

I didn't start wearing make-up until maybe 1978.
Rupert, my soul mate and Andy Warhol's master serigrapher
From hand-painted Flowers on, who had introduced me
To the color; copper, complained:
Don't you even have lipstick? No, I didn't.
In the cab on our way to Studio 54,
wearing my thrift-shop acquired Diane Von Furstenberg
sheath- so chic! You name-dropper, you.
Years go by.

The door stuff I've been doing for fifteen years on Bourbon
was planted when I saw Frank the great Drag Queen
in that great drag place, P-town Mass.
She was building her audience in the late summer daylight
A full two hours in front of the club,
before the part she was selling tickets for.
Bustling about with a fist full of handbills, in a costume so full
I wondered where the marionette strings were, knowing damn well
Frank pulled her own damn strings, especially on
Those eyelids so heavily encrusted with glitter they retracted
Kewpie doll like on the half shell when she batted
those extra-long lashes.

Oh, so one BUILDS one's audience by being; fetching,
In the door, and doing door stuff, to fetch them from the street.
The first seven years on Bourbon, I was four steps up,
Perched on a never cleaned upholstered bar stool.
There are still saddle stains on the back inner thighs of my heavy duty
red spandex pants with black tassel fringe down the sides,
and matching jacket, Tex-Mex style.
Keep those cupcakes bouncing, keep that attention coming.
fill the room, beginning an hour before each
10pm, 12 midnight, and 2am show.

Showtime in twenty minutes, folks.
I beckon to the man with the thigh burns.
His hair burned off the sides of his head
From keeping it between her thighs, I hoped for both their sakes.
"Put your nose right here," I invite, planting not a copper,
but a dried-blood red badge of courage.

With his nose in my cleavage I signal to the crowd,
four steps below;shhh. Don't let him know
there's bloody, waxy lips imprinted near the top of his balding pate.
The beat cops often commented
they could sense how good a night I was having
by the passing numbers of bald guys
With lip prints on their heads.

I don't procreate. I create and I recreate. I sublimate.
And I've been totally spoiled
by receiving validation in this manner.

It was in Alphabet City, Avenue A and East 5th Street,
Not far from the Hell's Angel's, near the place in pre-adolescence
I'd done my first hit of Orange Barrel Sunshine
where I learned to smoke a cigarette with my pussy.
After a certain hour at Little Peter's,
they locked the doors so we could dance naked.
I saw the skinny copper-colored Puerto Rican chick
take a customer's lit cigar And insert it tampon-like,
bent over, legs spread, puff puff puff the cherry glowed
In the dimness of that dusty from the traffic place.

I bought my first pack, and raced back to the dormitory
when my shift ended at 3am.
Bending over in front of the full-length mirror
on the back of the bathroom door
I learned the hard way to trim those pubes.
I don't know what made me sicker
The unaccustomed direct inhaling of tobacco
Thru the lips on my face to get the cherry started
Or the smell of burning hair.

Yes, to me it still looks disgusting.
But, boy is it a crowd pleaser.
And it's still hard to get unhooked from that
Tobacco monkey;I mean money.
Where there's smoke there's fire-
Fire in the hole!
So you heard about the tattoo?
Those details come later in the story.

I don't procreate. I create and I recreate. I sublimate.
And I've been totally spoiled
by receiving validation in this manner.

This is the stuff that goes on in my head while I'm naked on stage.
Betcha can't close your eyes and pretend I'm on the radio-

Satire is making fun of people who are smarter than me.
Irony is making fun of people who are richer than me.
Burlesque is making fun of people
who are smarter and richer than me,
while taking my clothes off.
I got a call, from a retired stripper I had known on the road
all those years I toured Canada.
She knew I was making an appearance at
the New York Burlesque Festival,
"GiO, you're not going to do
any of that nasty stuff, are you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, GiO, you know, that Bourbon Street schitck you do
with the beads and the tie and the beer bottle;"
I knew what she meant, but I had seen the delight,
or maybe it was terror,
on the faces of my audience for so long,
she wasn't making sense to me.
I have moved out from the shadows of eroticism.
On stage foreplay is NOT what I'm about.
Where's the beef? More importantly, and so succinctly-
Where's the fish?
This New Burlesque often seems to be about
the delicate sensibili-ties of the tease,
a skin I can slip back into, when I choose, but;
I would so much rather be in your face.
Sometimes on your face. So you can;
Guess my weight, of course.
Is this what people are afraid of?
Is this what people think is nasty? Someone said "bawdry."
Am I a combination of bawdy and tawdry?
I don't procreate. I create and I recreate. I sublimate.
And I've been totally spoiled
by receiving validation in this manner.
Paglia said, "Sensitivity begins in the body,
the first sculptor of the imagination;
Poetry began as music, music began as dance;
Poetry as assault and battery on the body;
Poetic vision transcends space and time
by violating social law."
I have been violating social law for quite some time now.
It was a forced evacuation from fancy costumes ;
I can't hardly get paid for fancy shows anymore,
the corporate face of striptease won't allow it.
My performance art used to be about expressing themes:
I morphed from a Caterpillar to a butterfly,
there was the soft sculpture TV on my head;
the cowgirl;the mermaid;
the pregnant bride with the beaver puppet baby;
and the Electric Guitar.; a thing that can make a man a god.
When I first started taking my clothes off for money
I pretended my body was an oscilloscope.
I didn't have to play the guitar. I was the guitar.
A Stratocaster for the stratosphere, I felt transcendent.
I thought I was sooo avant-gaarde
with a costume that made me look like an electric guitar.
Man Ray's cello updated, or is that cella?
I described my dance vocabulary to Jimi Hendrix
Star-Spangled Banner as epileptic.
Someone asked me how I thought the epileptics
would feel about that.
I thought: complimented.
Poetry as assault and battery on the body.
I don't procreate. I create and I recreate. I sublimate.
I have been sooo spoiled by
receiving validation in this manner.
There I go again, violating social law.
People are afraid of eroticism. The word "rot" is in it.
In order for there to be a fun quotient,
to make it less scary, it needs to be dressed up.
Put some frills on that puppy.
Eroticism is always the theme
now that I'm limited to two, maybe three songs.
whatever music grabs me viscerally, by the soul,
delivering me to that place;of beauty.
James Brown said,
"In order for me to get down, I got to get in deep."
I finally understood that for me,
the window dressing was fun, but bullshit.
Most people are always going to believe I'm a whore,
whether I take the damn fishnet stocking off delicately,
or I sit on your face.
I feel emancipated now,
no matter how wide I spread my legs, naked,
you still can't see what's inside.
Let's get personal.
Despite all my studies in psychotherapy,
I have not truly analyzed my own sex drive.
I know I was an adolescent until I was 37.
My sex drive was probably impaired
from being on some sort of birth control chemical
for the better part of thirty years.
Sex life is different than sex drive.
Good thing my hormones engaged promiscuously
during the Woodstock generation.
My sex life was always willing to trade sex for affection,
but my sex drive was always at its' passionate best
expressing rock music, naked, in front of strangers.
Poetry as assault and battery on the body, violating social law.
Now that I'm pre-menopausal,
and no longer keep those chemicals in my body,
the testosterone is kicking in:
from a low sex drive to humping guys' legs.
Is there anyone here that doesn't understand the principle
of the lap dance?
Also known as Catholic sex?
Perfectly safe, great rhythm, and if you feel guilty,
YOU can go to confession.
A friend of mine, a thoroughly respectable woman,
said she saw about lap dancing on cable.
The dancer was new, and afraid of what might happen
if the guy ejaculated while she was on him-
through at least 2 layers of cloth-
and that's if he wasn't wearing drawers.
I suppose it was a hygiene issue.
Usually it's a woman's body when
it's a hygiene issue and the word nasty is used.
Paglia said, "Disgust is a male response to female nature;
Men are afraid of being drained
and made powerless by the vagina."
Every woman's body is a dark, secret place
where you and I came from.
You've heard about the nine months to get out
and the rest of your life trying to get back in?
Some people think we have, uh, teeth down there.
In antiquity they called it "Vagina Dentata."
I have chosen not to procreate.
I create and I recreate. I sublimate.
I have been unabashedly spoiled
by receiving validation in this manner.

So, what about The Beads, The Dick Tie,
and the beer bottle?
I almost always work them in that order,
although they did not arrive in my repertoire that way.
The beads were last, because it took New Orleans
to assimilate the bead culture and then, push the envelope.

The nasty rumor: Did you know many tourists believe
girls who dance on Bourbon Street, might not be girls?
I have a test for that.
I thread the beads through my bikini, then;
You got to floss everyday, keep that gum tissue stimulated,
and you know I'm really a girl because
it smells like fish and tastes like chicken.
If it smells like fish it's a dish.
If it smells like cologne, leave it alone
Am I nasty? Does it sound disgusting to you?

I've been doing the Tie Trick the longest.
I saw Keiko do it first.
The board flat, bone thin Japanese chick
with the mobster boyfriend
who bought her a set of rubber tits.
Hey it's just an expression- mine aren't real either:
I had to extend my shelf life in the industry, so I bought a shelf.
When I first saw Keiko she wore flat dance sandals and
looked all arty-farty like she'd had
years of Martha Graham-style modern dance class.
Twyla Tharp was breaking into the dance scene with
"Push Comes to Shove" at that very moment.
Gritty New York City in 1972.
Last seen in reruns of Kojak.
After she got tits, she wore a looong, oh-so-fluffy,
white fox coat with nothing else
but fancy underwear and stilettos,
as if we were in some kind of Maidenform dream.
She arrived at sleazy little topless go-go gigs
with a roll-away bed
and some lackey to place it by the stage.
Then she'd do a couch dance,
first invented by strippers who wanted to do floor work,
but were prevented by strange liquor laws that
disallowed any portion of the body to touch the floor,
other than the feet. Something about hygiene, I think.

She removed a necktie from some hapless customer,
and turned it into a g-string.
It was the first stripper trick I ever learned.
The second stripper trick I learned was
how to twirl my tassels in opposite directions.

I discovered dick ties in Bourbon Street t-shirt shops
during the Republican Convention of 88.
Right next to the ones that looked like elephant trunks.

The innocent tie trick has become a metaphor about
the oppression of female sexuality,
and resistance to male dominated society.
The tie test: the bigger they come- the harder they fall.

I don't procreate. I create and I recreate. I sublimate.
And I am constantly validated. See you're doing it now.

I learned to balance a beer on my head when
I was going to have to work totally naked
for the first time. Is it hard to imagine;?
after all you know about me now,
there was a time I felt uncomfortable with complete strangers
possibly catching a glance of my "privates?"

Thirty years ago, that seemed nasty to me.
What would you expect from any girl who did not
possess the knowledge of how much more hygienic it is to
shave that thing?
Is it really more hygienic,
or is it collusion with the patriarchal system?

I grew up seeing my grandmother pretend to get drunk
on two sips of champagne at Christmas,
and dance to salsa music with the glass on her head. Perfect!
If I was naked and balancing a drink on my head,
you'd probably be watching for the drink to fall,
rather than catch glimpses of my sacred triangle.

Paglia said, "the real meaning of striptease;
a sacred dance of pagan origins;
a hazardous sphere of primitive power."

My, how things change,
now I want you to try and read my lips
while I've got that beer on my head.

I am GiO, The Burlesque Queen of New Orleans

It must be hell being you.

the depth of your rage is only equaled and reflected
by your art at the opposite end of the spectrum,
a brilliance that beckons.
I often care deeply for those sublime objects forged by that rage
As if a thing could mean more than joy
at the threat, or promise, of spending time with you.
Pursuit of beauty, yes. Rabid to own, or control, no.
My own tendency towards self-destruction,
no comparison, by the way,
to what I perceive as your monolithic,
yet caldron-like crucible,
or fire in the belly,
draws me, moth-like.

It must be hell, being you.
I cannot fathom the depth of your rage,
no matter how you care to display it.
Oh, I can observe it,
witness it,
point to the truth of it,
make excuses for it,
react to it,
be afraid of it,
be proud of it,
shocked by it,
deny it,
get angry about it,
psychofucking analyze it,
try to absorb a few of the waves of it,
try not to be so saddened by it,
or resent it.
Convince myself, irrespective of my history
of taking emotional abuse, as my mother before me,
my guts twisting and straining
at the enabling, or acceptance.
The only choice is to forgive you for it.

It must be hell, being you.
I cannot fathom the depth of rage
of self-hatred and loathing.
So, when you display anger,
or disrespect,
or any of that stuff that
belies your big heart,
It's all about you.
Perhaps I should accept
that tongue-in-cheek invitation to
go for coffee and talk about "the relationship."
I wouldn't dare waste precious time, when
you could be transforming rage into art.

It must be hell being you.
I cannot fathom the depth of rage.
With the clock ticking down,
and the bumbling and stumbling,
it's a miracle you wake at all.
It's a miracle when I lie beside you, sleeping,
and the snoring transforms to purring.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry or vomit.
I hate for you to be subjected to any of that girly stuff.
I would rather not see that million watt
brilliance, be unnecessarily burdened by
inconsequential peccadillos of personality.
I would rather smooth the way a little,
never forgetting that I have survived
the oppression of being too nurturing a vessel.
This is not worship, but awe.
I wish punishment was not involved, but
I know neither of us can control
what spills over from that cauldron crucible,
and if I feel punished, then you feel
relentless torture.

It must be hell being you.
The depth of your rage is only equaled and reflected
by your art at the opposite end of the spectrum.





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the book of revelations and epiphanies working class sweat
the making and unmaking of person the corpse reads classics letters

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