The suit

Last night, 9/20/08, I performed a poem that is not a poem.  I wrote it down, typed it up, printed and read it.  It is really the script for a piece on the business suit. The performance entailed me undressing and completing the performance in my underwear and painting my forehead and chest  red, black and green.  No one knew what I was up to.  Afterwards, several people asked if I would be repeating the performance.  My initial response is no.  The piece was conceived as a one time performance that can’t be repeated.  For one thing, the surprise value is gone.  But beyond that, the piece is a kind of declaration of independence.  how many times does one need to declare independence? How many times does one need to openly reject hegemonic culture?

no shame
no shame

 That women on the floor to my left opening the water bottle is Jolia Allen.  She was one of the featured poets.  Below is DJ Watson , our final featured poet.

casting spells
casting spells

The event was an art opening curated by and featuring Mildred Rivera. Mildred, Madrid, is a Nuyorican artist who has been in Los Angeles for several years now.  This was the first time she had poetry as part of the opening.  The photographers were logocentric, forgetting to document the art, except perhaps incidentally. Then again, as the mc and opening poet, my stripping firmly focused the cameras on the poets.  I continued to mc in my shorts until the reading was concluded.

mildred and flag
mildred and flag

Mildred reading her 9/11 poem in front of an image of the U.S. flag.  The flag features a question mark and fingerprints superimposed over the stripes.  I’ve got to get a better image of it. 

Here is the poem I read.  Beginning with the tie, each article of clothing mention I remove.

The Suit


As you see, tonight I’m wearing the uniform.

The uniform, for all occasions

Weddings, funerals, graduations, induction ceremonies

The business suit, appropriately serious, somber, sober


A demilitarized officer’s dress blues

A remnant of 19th century rationalization of dress

The decorative buttons, a handkerchief

Where medals should hang

And no more epaulettes

Perfect soldiers without commissions



One night I was watching the Africa Channel

And this brother was being interviewed in his office

About the business climate in South Africa

It struck as ridiculous that this brother

Should have to dress in western suit

In order to be professional

That the premier of China wears a western suit


We wear our suits in the tropics and the deserts

And the air conditioned suites choking the planet

Honorary Europeans, bourgeois apes

And working class mimics


The tie, what is its use?

Merely a decorative noose

The shoes that do not breathe

These were a snake. Though they fascinate me

I don’t like snakes, but I wouldn’t

Wish this on them.  Is this how Eve’s children

Were meant to crush the serpent’s head?


This suit, is this the sign I’m civilized,

I’m modernized, this jacket, double breasted

For what? These pants? The shirt? Piece work

Stitched by Thai fingers

Sometimes I can taste the sweat


I don’t want to be modern anymore

It’s tiring and ridiculous

And harbors its own barbarisms

I don’t want to be an honorary Westerner



Call me romantic if you want

Call me essentialist and dismiss me

Call me post modern pre modern

In boxer shorts and spectacles

Even the post modern pre modern

Has sense of modesty and the practical


I will paint me in this sign

Of my black modernity (red black green)

I will wear this emblem

Of African antiquity (ankh)


I shall call me:


Tableau: the being-ness of simultaneous blacknesses


Now, I will read a poem



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