“Katrina Does New Orleans” trumps “Debbie Does Dallas”

This is a prose poem composed for the Italian literary magazine Le Storie for their Life-and-Death-of-Porno-themed issue. They asked me to riff on the death of “hardcore.” It was 2005. Katrina had just struck, and my heart was broken. The theme seemed absurd. Cheap. Irrelevant. And yet somehow became a springboard for revisiting the term, making an unexpected juxtaposition, and attempting in the raw wake of the tragedy to honor the city, its pulse, and its people.]

“Katrina Does New Orleans” trumps “Debbie Does Dallas” – Redefining Hardcore in the Foot-Stomping Rump Jazz Funeral Wake

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. With my legs spread like a lazy compass. The klieg lights burn.

Hardcore is a young pregnant woman waiting for hours to get on a bus evacuating from New Orleans. While in line, the woman miscarries. Afraid to lose her place, she tries to wipe herself clean with her skirt and hands. In this way, she stays practical.

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. Parched skin. My pudenda, a desert. Sand-suck-whorls. The labor of lubricant and silent tongues.

Hardcore is a seventy-six-year-old man found eighteen days after Hurricane Katrina struck, sitting at his kitchen table in a foot of black sludge. When he was told he could take one thing of value, he chose the plastic water jug that had saved him, even though it was now bone-dry.

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. Focus. If you think of the human body as a map. If you think of family as a kind of constellation. If you think of a human being as a radiant point…

Hardcore is a teenage boy waiting in his flooded house for help to arrive, for food to arrive, for water to arrive, for rescue. On the third day, he realizes he is starving. ‘You know how when you’re hungry, your stomach growls?’ he says. ‘When you’re starving, you get cramps. The best thing to do is lean forward and hug yourself.’

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. If you ignite a screen with flickering bodies, grappling. If you zoom in, nebulize the pores. If you draw the connecting lines between this body and that…

Hardcore is how one couple climbed onto their furniture in their rapidly flooding house, watched their two dogs drown, watched snakes slither by their submerged couches and lamps. But when the water stopped rising at the level of their necks, and a ball of fire ants floated in and bit them – that was the breaking point.

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. The money shot: dollars shoved in every orifice, cum splattered over coins and bonds and gold bars and property deeds, dripping.

Hardcore is a husband swimming outside his house in the flood, busting the second floor window to save his wheelchair-bound wife. ‘What’re you doing?’ he asked. ‘I’m praying,’ she said. Quietly. The husband hauled his wife out of her wheelchair and into the water. The rooftop was near. But the current churned powerfully. ‘Let me go, husband,’ she said. ‘You can’t hold me. Take care of the children.’ And she was gone.

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. I burn. Flame out. A pornstar supernova. Fade…

Hardcore is a young boy who lost everything, but saved his dog Snowball. Summertime’s survival treat, cheap shaved ice drenched in syrups. The boy’s favorite the triple-flavored “rainbow”: cherry, ice cream, bubble gum. The boy’s about to board a bus outside the Superdome, going he doesn’t know where. The police take his dog. No pets allowed. The boy cries, “Snowball! Snowball!” and sobs until he vomits.

Hardcore is a rescue worker who sees a lead pipe pierce an attic roof. The rescue worker skims his boat over. Splits the shingles with an ax. Inside, a young man lies prone. He’s not even cold yet. Near his body, a small dog barks. The rescue worker grabs at the dog, but the dog refuses to leave. The boat pulls away.

Hardcore is dogs frying in downed electrical wires. The sound of sighs in the dark. Cries for help. The flicker of failing lights, streaming from damp slats and eaves. Water laps. Septic and thick. Fishing boats cleave, choppers hover. “Fats” Domino plucked from a rooftop. The boat moves on. In Slidell, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s black caddy underwater, guitar floating. Prized belt buckles wedged in muck. A city, drowned. Strains of deathjazz. Swampy chords from a slide guitar, echo wetly. Ghostly brassband marching, past watery tombs, twirling bright umbrellas. One woman floats, face down, her pants slipped all the way to her knees. A purple ribbon still drifts in her hair.

Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. Porn set. Night. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley…

FINIS

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