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Jessica Hagedorn

Jessica Hagedorn is a poet, playwright, and screenwriter whose works include three novels, Dream Jungle, The Gangster of Love, and Dogeaters, and a collection of poetry and prose, Danger And Beauty. She is the editor of Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction and Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World. Her screenplays include Fresh Kill, a feature-length film directed by Shu Lea Cheang, and four episodes of The Pink Palace, an animated series created for Oxygen TV. Among her plays are Dogeaters, adapted from the novel; Stairway to Heaven; and Most Wanted, a collaboration with composer Mark Bennett.





F

What you see is what you get.

Oh yeah, baby.

You gotta have rhythm, in your soul. The word SOUL. Something funky and torrid by James Brown, juxtaposed against a lush green landscape, manicured and mowed to perfection.

A jungle, jagged and forbidding, female and tropic.

Green perfume: the scent of mildew and rot. You can see your breath, like in a steam room or a Turkish bath. It is unbearably humid. Prehistoric birds are... squawking.

The word "bath" is subtly erotic. The marriage of "Turkish+bath" unbearably so.

A dead body lies in the midst of this lush green splendor.

Think of Antonioni's Blow Up. Think of a gold course. Think of me.

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Always a dead body. Always a corpse. Always a surprise. But arranged beautifully; arranged to stun and shock and titillate. All things beautiful and mysterious, to the bitter end.

Death is my fetish.

And Saint Sebastian.

And God.

And get thee to a nunnery.

The word "nun" for example.

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Death is ultimately at the bottom of this coy little rant (the word "coy," the word coy italicized). Not just any death, mind you. But a sense of foreboding, something ominous and looming in the background.  Dissonant chords, the distant wail of a siren.

Sudden betrayal. I've been made to feel like a fool. Baby, baby. I have danced towards the edge of an abyss. On the edge of a razor blade. Ooh, baby. The word abyss itself. Onomatopoeia is my fetish, the word onomatopoeia itself. (I've always been able to spell it correctly, even as a child. Drawn to it like a magnet.)

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Decaying beauty in architecture is another delight. Those faded green colonial mansions in the tropics, for example. Ravaged slowly from the inside and out by heat, rain, animals, and time itself. Faded, crumbling, peeling paint on the walls. Vegetation choking architecture: I could brood about that for days.

Rust.

Ruin has been cheapened nowadays, become a trend called "distressed."

Distressed jeans, distressed interior design. Pathetic.

Decay, like anything else of value, has to be earned.

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I celebrate Havana slowly sinking into the sea. Manila slowly sinking into the fetid Pasig River. The boxer's broken nose, broken teeth, swollen eyes, and puffy lips. The convict's lovingly detailed tattoos.

The word skeleton, italicized, has possibilities.

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My desires are inherently Catholic. The face of a fallen angel makes me hot. And mind you, angels exist in New York City. In Barcelona on the Ramblas, in Berlin in those squatter encampments, and in Manila almost everywhere.  Probably in Bangkok too, though I've never been there. I'm not referring to sentimental, fat cherubs or beatific, asexual ethereal creatures. I'm naturally referring to Lucifer, fallen archangel, a major clich, darkness as the other side of light.

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Here's what I crave: salt, shoes made of buttery leather, and the power of certain words said aloud. Blood, for example. Fallen angel. Hunger.

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A fallen angel, a young man with a bleeding, sinewy torso, sticks his head into the garbage, foraging for food. A shirtless, barefoot young man lurching down a Greenwich Village sidewalk in a stoned stupor. He stinks: he is hungry and dirty and evil incarnate. He will die soon. His mind is gone. I fall in love with his face, the face of vice.  The face of F: feral, feline, fucking, fallen.

If I had the balls I'd offer him a cup of java. Or a juicy burger, a milkshake and some fries. Then... nothing too graphic here. Nothing too obvious. I'm a good Catholic girl.

I understand taboo completely. The need for it.

Sex = death = divine = damned = heaven.

The word "taboo" is absolutely pornographic.

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I like 'em young. But not too young. I like 'em when they're posed on the brink of the abyss, of manhood-- past adolescence but not quite seasoned yet. Not ready for death but ready for the forbidden. Tattooed biceps, form, but... not too pumped up. In fact, I hate muscle boys. Much too obvious. I prefer a juicy burger every once in a while. I usually stick to vegetables and fish, but I can appreciate an expensive slab of meat. Well done. For someone who likes blood (the idea of blood, anyway) I don't care for rare meat.

I am the least visceral person I know.

I'm a bundle of infuriating contradictions.

An element of danger is always delicious.

Gardens gone to seed, black and white movies. It's no accident I'm a film noir buff. Black film. Dark film. Ominous, ambivalent film. A dead body, usually a woman's somewhere in the lush green landscape or in the gloomy lobby of an elegant, empty building.

When you least expect it.

The word "desire" is music to the ears. Desire: a fallen angel who knows how to kiss. A lithe demon who carries the memory of hell in his little black heart: that's heaven. A taste for expensive meat and the dank, green smell of rotting gardens.

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Despair. The word "despair" excites me. The eerie cadences of high mass, sung in Latin. Dead languages. Pretty to the ears. The word agony. Close to death, but not quite yet. You keep me hangin' on.

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F for fetish. F for father. Bless me F, for I have sinned.

F for futile. F for fact, F for fiction.

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Sublime. There's no end to it.

  
 Jessica Hagedorn


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