Béla Kiss Goes to the Theatre
The ticket is to a theater near the Sacred Heart of Montmartre: “Theatre of Cruelty, ‘Thirty-Two’, Tax Included, ADMIT ONE, 10c, Good Only December 28 1921.”
I perch in Paris for the emasculated years following my war. Art now is a nostalgia for the battlefield. Yipping through an obsession will never compare to the atrocities that stirred it, this rigor mortis muse everyone else finally sees. These artists took a broom with them to the crypt. In a passing wind, some Greek-blooded escapee from the booby hatch pretends to act out my crimes, dancing like a Balinese woman. For someone so enamored with disorder, his pageant is quite diagnostic. I’m interested in neither madness, nor the theatre, but I’m curious which lovely actresses auditioned to sit inside my barrels. Androgynous flappers lull outside the door. I parse the murk of perfume, tomboys indulging their pre-show ritual. I fiddle with the harness in my jacket. How it would contort each laugh. If only the blood of French women weren’t so crunchy. I soak in the mosque, pompous cathedral spikes prod the rafters. Men and women in thick furs parade by, manqué Coco Chanels. Bobbed hair, anus-eyed makeup, jangly wrists, an epilepsy of honking hardware.
I approach the free-standing grandstand. A hunchback peels the purple curtain back behind the glass. Mop hair obscuring his eyes, he points toward the double doors, reaching with a small blade, shouting inarticulately, “Lo kundum! A papa! Da mama! Lokin a kata dima!” Words to retard the soul. To flex your fear in a mirror. “Ticket,” he jitters, involuntarily, the muscles of his face a mask. My glossolalist, the shell-shocked shadow of a twitch, points the knife to his temple, self-punishment, perhaps, for not recognizing a Sadhu, or a scenic element for the next in line. The terminal meningitis supported by art types, smithereens for inspiration, all at the expense of our microbial populace.
The cushion of my red velvet seat is torn down the center, as if something emerged from it during the previous showing. We surround the stage in a spiral formation. As the hall dims, I see the faces of each ticket holder spotlighted. “What’s this play about,” someone mutters. “The Vampire of Cinkota,” I let slip. “More god than man.” The play opens with what look like giant insects hung by wires buzzing around the stage in triangular patterns. A gong strike halts their wings. Now they appear in the light as severed hands dripping sand on the stage from their stumps. A young man crawls from the mound. Piercing eyes, a medical cloak. In a feat of prestidigitation, he pulls volumetric flasks, beakers, test tubes, graduated cylinders, and medicines endlessly from bulging pockets, encasing himself in a teetering house of glass. A student of his approaches from the back of the room, hands him a book. He opens it, reads a passage, nods. The hunchback who took my ticket emerges from the ceiling, suspended upside down in a straitjacket. More gongs and bells reach an unpleasant crescendo. A diseased bat, half his words stick in the spit of his throat. “Engaged to a young man of noble birth, this young student is pregnant. Her fiancé has abandoned her.” A woman crawls around the stage, smearing herself with imbrued sand. She thrusts her abdomen, bouncing beneath a rag wrap. “She speaks to this medicine man, needing some occult intervention. The young man tells her to see him just before midnight.” Pompous mericlone pig shit aficionado! I would never wear a lab coat.
“The young man lives alone.” The hunchback is yanked back into the rafters. Several times the young man peers out a window. Books and flasks line the walls. He opens a book to the sound of a church organ and sits as if in prayer. Spectators watch in awe as the young woman from before, cleaned up a bit, rings his door. No one speaks onstage. He walks so slowly to answer that the candle covers his hand in wax. She stands before him, wailing, having waited so long she’s pregnant and comes to term. At the window, an aquatic world of fibers, exploding globules of air. His lips form a question. Paws scratch the pane. She silently weeps. Bestial heads appear, crowned in garlands and tresses of flowers. The spotlight widens. A specter approaches them. The young man draws a sword, realizing the face of the specter is the same as his reflection in the hilt. “The master is expecting you. He’s downstairs.” The words come from the suspended cripple, but we’re to assume he speaks to his reflection, which disappears.
Exhibit A for the damage an ease of access to the variety of innovative poisons and explosives any world war can contribute: this very cascade of asinine Punchinello. Sexpots dressed as cats and bears. Scatologists picking through their corn, expansive grins prepared for a heated after-theater coffee and critique. Gobbledygook! None of them have measured the galvanism of backtracked eupnea, the true craft. I’d rather be sequestered in a dungeon for the crime of coming here. The hole in my chair grows wider with every blast of the gong. I get the feeling that these stage rats are puppets of some unseen mathematics, stranded in a division of integers leaching their gestures, peeling seconds from bones parallel with the stage. Let’s bring them closer to zero. The shape of my hands when they gag. All these queer art movements crop up like barbequed crusades. The gas produced by digesting reactionaries spreads too thin. Dada in Switzerland and New York. Surrealism here in Paris, another response to the war, supposedly. Their manifestos come like moths putting out matches by dying. Every germ with a brain effects its paper. The attraction to nonsense as a defense mechanism for mortality. Intellectualized crossdressing, an attempted escape from adulthood, like stirring the peephole in a boys’ shower. Which version of Marxism will finally deem pussy obsolete?
I can’t stomach more of my life depicted via diarrhea. ‘Thirty-Two’ he calls it, multiplying my barrels. Storming out, woozy, I glance again. They’ve rolled barrels onto the stage. Some soldier pokes through the metal lid with his bayonet like a can of beans. Their blue carcass smells spill, gloomily disvalued. Little fissures float to crimp my spine. I feel faint, but understand the geometry of the void well enough to anticipate each footprint. I curse this playwright’s rectum. Illuminate me with lies, I shall root through your lesser derangements till they amplify geyser-wide. An actor cannot understand his own blood because it is someone else’s memory repeated, circulated by proxy, a misadjusted perception dependent on profit. I won’t subject myself to a tinfoil growl, unleavened pelvic melodrama. This nuthouse vulture isn’t even authentic when he takes a bath. He let the snake nibble at its tail till it spat itself up.
Near the “SORTIE” sign: “Produced by Antonin Artaud”. The dull legality of his name in triplet. Portrayer of faux-risky rubber stamp morality. I am certain his hands are softer than a lady. Not even in the memento of a split-end will he see me. My holy name did too much coitus with his spoon and dropper. May all our balls stay cinched in straw. Such purple wet works obscure the Seine’s suicides. His spirit is sooty with overdue bills. I am alone with a baker’s dozen voices groaning my name, writing it crookedly on the track salt. I await the heavy chain, the lashing of the Metro. Long black coats flutter by like premature myths, sick phantoms drunk on a fad. I should break their tongues till there’s something more to say.
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