Tag Archives: Funeral Rites Jean Genet

Poetry, Sex, and Death

I did re-watch Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire last night. It had been, literally, decades since I’d seen that movie. The only thing I really remembered about it is that I had really loved it when I saw it. (Enough to have bought the video of it and kept it all these years.) I knew it had something to do with an angel and a girl in a circus, and that’s kind of all I remembered about it.  (Well, the only other thing I  remembered was that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were in it, sort of toward the end.)

Which is another way of saying I had forgotten practically all of it.

Wow, what a great movie. All that constant murmuring.  The sound in that movie is just incredible. And the beauty of the whole concept. Of course, then I instantly remembered why I had loved that movie so much. Just a poetic work of art, on all levels. Every nuance; every murmur.

After I was done watching it, though, I was wondering why, all of the sudden, I was sort of steeped in old foreign things about death and poetry and sexuality and love between the dead and the living, and Nazis in Germany and the war…

Cocteau’s Orpheus came out in 1950 so there were still remnants of the war visible in its scenery and in the behavior of certain characters. (And I loved how Cocteau’s version of the bacchantes was to make them a women’s poetry society– nasty female critics who turned on Orpheus, who is a celebrated poet in Paris in Cocteau’s version. Too funny. Anyway.)

And I’m still re-reading Jean Genet’s Funeral Rites. It is nothing but poetry sex death Nazis… And in a wholly different way it deals with all the same stuff.

And then I realized, sort of with a shock, that Tell My Bones is all about poetry, sex and death — and love between the spirits of the dead and the living. And even Thug Luckless is about that. And certainly Blessed By Light is all about poetry sex and death.

I wonder what is going on with me? Seems like something profound is trying to get my attention.

And all this Nazi Germany stuff. Early this morning, I was lying in bed, thinking about just how saturated my childhood was with Nazi Germany. To be honest, even though I never talk about it because I just love that freight train that barrels past my door, but every time it does, I always think of the train that’s going to Auschwitz. I can’t help it. I have to remind myself that it’s just a freight train. These are not cattle cars, herding people to death camps.

But my childhood was filled with those images. Cleveland was full of immigrant Jews and so a lot of concentration camp survivors came to live in Cleveland. I was surrounded by them in my childhood. My Hebrew school teacher was a survivor of Auschwitz — her number was tattooed in blue on her forearm.  It was always there, always visible to us, because she wore dresses with short sleeves. She was from Hungary. Her twin sister had died at Auschwitz and she told me that her sister’s name would have roughly translated to “Marilyn” in English. Because of that, she seemed to be very attached to me. I mean, in a nice way. I was only about 8 years old.

I hated Hebrew school. I had to go 3 times a week for several years. That particular teacher thought I was really gifted in languages and she got me a scholarship to attend an accelerated Hebrew school sleep-away camp sort of thing for the summer and I was secretly just horrified by this. I did not want to spend my summer in Hebrew school! Even though I was supposed to be really appreciative of all of it because usually girls didn’t get that kind of education — only boys did.

Well, I really wanted dancing lessons. I really wanted to study ballet and tap because I loved musicals.  And I went home and begged my parents not to send me to Hebrew school all summer.

Plus I never felt Jewish at all. Even though I could read and speak Hebrew really well, and was steeped in Judaism through my adoptive family, none of that stuff resonated with me. By the time I was 5 years old, I had secretly fallen in love with Jesus Christ, because of all the paintings I had seen of him at the Cleveland Art Museum. I would stare at those paintings and I knew I remembered him from somewhere. It was a visceral response.  And I was captivated by nuns, too — back then, they still wore those old-style, flowing black habits and those white wimples.

As I got a little older, I collected crosses and crucifixes and little illustrations of Jesus that I had to hide under my mattress. It’s interesting to think that I also eventually acquired a lot of  sex books, like Story of O, and I was allowed to just have those things out in plain site. But the Jesus stuff — I would have gotten in so much trouble for having that!

And I also remembered, this morning, a time when I was about 7 or 8, and a little Jewish girlfriend of mine, named Edie — she and I were taking a shortcut through a field one cold autumn afternoon and suddenly found ourselves stuck in some serious mud. That thick sucking wet kind of mud that pulls your shoes right off. When we got to the other side of it, we were outside a convent.  We really needed to clean off our shoes so we went up and asked if we could come in and clean our shoes, even though we were Jews. (We actually said that.)

The nuns were so nice to us. And this convent wasn’t anything like the old Carmelite stone convent I go to an hour from here when I’m having one of my suicidal breakdowns. This other convent in Cleveland was vast and spacious and majestic and filled with light and air and high ceilings. And all these truly friendly nuns, in those flowing black habits, all over the place.

By this time, my adoptive mother had survived cancer and had begun her descent into becoming the meanest, cruelest person I knew on planet Earth. And my adoptive dad was away from home more and more. My home life was becoming a terrifying place. So the warmth and the kindness and friendliness of those nuns — it was so foreign to me. I really wanted to stay there and never leave.

I’d forgotten all about that until this morning.

Well, I now have yet another little notebook with a pen clipped to it. I’m still keeping my daily Inner Being dialogue journal every morning after meditation. I haven’t missed a day of writing in it since I started it in early June. (And I tell you, it is an awesome thing. I recommend keeping one because your inner being probably has all sorts of meaningful information to relate to you.) Well, in addition to that little hard-bound journal, I now have a smaller one, cloth-bound, to have with me all day. And it’s for pre-paving every moment of the day. Making sure I’m consciously choosing how I want to respond to every single thing; how I want to experience it. Because every single thing is, once again, starting to get to me and I just don’t have the time to go nuts right now.

I am still feeling a little disconcerted that Peitor took off for London so suddenly — he texted yesterday that they indeed went there for the holidays and will be back in LA for New Year’s Eve. That’s 3 sessions of script-writing that we’re going to miss because he doesn’t want to work while they’re there. I don’t blame him. He can do whatever he wants to do, but the fact that he never actually said anything to me at all about it and just went. It sort of — well, I don’t know what. He had wanted to start working on the new TV series in January but now he’s going to have to finish mixing and mastering a few songs for his new record, then I have to be in NYC in February to start the table reads for Tell My Bones and will have re-writes to do on that.

You know — time gallops away. And I guess I would have appreciated being in the overall mix somewhere. Other than, you know, a quick text that he’s on a plane heading to London…

And then my friend in Houston who has cancer — my one-text-a-week approach is working nicely. I text once and he now replies within a day. He texted me late last night, in detail about the radiation treatments, which are making him feel even sicker, of course. But since he’s a scientist, he is fascinated by the radiation treatments. He explained to me what goes on, scientifically. And it was like he was exulting in this bombardment of science — which is perfectly okay, because it’s his experience and his world. But again, I found it disconcerting. The intense, scientific description, along with the details of just how bad the cancer is. And I was already in bed, with the lights out, when I got the text.

So yesterday culminated in a whole big bunch of images and sounds and thoughts, heaping up on me while I was in bed in the dark, drifting to sleep. Then I woke up, immediately thinking about  Auschwitz and Nazis  — and how, you know, actually it wasn’t really that far removed from me. And then the beauty of the nuns.

So I’m keeping this other little journal as a way to sort of not only ground myself into staying on course with the images I would rather claim, but also to help draw my preferred experiences to me– every hour, every moment, of every day.

Everybody gets to be whoever they are in this life, but I cannot let myself get derailed by any of it. I just have too much work to do, you know?

And on that note, I will get started here. Thanks for visiting, gang.  I hope Thursday is good to you, wherever you are in the world, I love you guys. See ya.

Related image
Wings of Desire, 1987