Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dumplings and Trumpets: Lara Glenum

In a very remote place in Northern California, the old man and I are staying in a small house that is completely off-grid. To get there, we have to pass through three gates, two of which are on properties owned by local cattle farmers. The land between the first and second gates is owned by an organic dairy farmer and after my reading at Moe's in Berkeley Thursday night, the old man was driving, so I got out to open the gate. Usually when we arrive at the house late at night, the cows don't want to move away from our car because they are hungry or curious, but most of the time they skitter away if we flash the lights or talk to them. Well, as I was unlocking the gate I noticed one breathing very loudly and heavily and did not like it at all when I said, "Hello, pretty lady." It stomped its feet, something the other cows do, but this stomp was harder. Then it took a bit shit and stomped on that with its back feet. Then it filled me with some sort of grunting low growl and it made eye contact, something the cows never do. I was face to face with a bull.

How interesting that earlier that night, I'd joked with a Moe's employee about bullshit being ubiquitous in every language. Furthermore, I'd recently finished reading Lara Glenum's Maximum Gaga (drooling... stop... composure... why composure I can drool on myself if I want to) and was twisting my mind around "The Bully Machine." 

I never thought so long and hard about the word bully--aggression as aggression, as sexual aggression also. I can't think of anything more aggressive then a bull, an animal that has to stay away from the herd except when it is allowed to reproduce, but this is not in any gentle manner, right? The valiant old man took care of the gate while I was allowed to drive safely through, looking at the bull scraping its hooves as though he were ready to charge the rental car. Why would he do that? What was the bull trying to accomplish? Why didn't he like us? Why is this animal pumped with violence, aggression, and a general dislike of all things not cow vaginal?

In Lara Glenum's poem, at least one cow is mechanical (but isn't all this mechanical too, no matter how aggressive it is), the bull is a simulacrum and this set up, letting the bull in the gate to mate, a rarity in farmland within all of our lifetimes. But in the world of Maximum Gaga, there is a miraculating machine, a sex machine and something of a lactating space, a decoy Queen cow costume, and the mechanical cow, "was a body without organs," the emptiness of it all, the rape of it all, the evolution of it all of being made taken and taken thoroughly. The poem finishes with the line: "the balling was grand" and I can't help but think about the word bullying, how Lara Glenum makes me think of words in a grody new light. Bullying is awful and haunting to think about on the level of the animal with its undeniably huge balls and ache to destroy anything in its way. Yet this is Maximum Gaga, the land of Catatonia, where this balling is grand, gross for its mechanics, gross because it's titillating. 

Listen to "The Bully Machine" here:

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