April 11th, 2012 / 12:47 pm

Gay Sunshine, 1971

I remember the first time I thought a guy was hot. It was an ad in The Saturday Evening Post, a really American magazine and there he was, tall and blonde with his suit jacket slung over his shoulder like Sinatra and he was says into the camera Hey Mom and Dad can I have $20,000 for college. And that seemed like an enormous amount of money at that time and I knew my family wasn’t going to help me do anything like that – especially since I was considered dumb but I tore the page out of the post and stuck it on my wall. I figured it would appear to be about my absurd dreams of going to college but I knew it was about that guy. And my brother knew as well. My brother was a chubby guy named Edward who lived across the hall. I’ve met Edward Field since then who is a poet and he has made the name okay but in my family both my fat brother and that sadistic bastard uncle Ed both marked the name as anything but good. I mean I don’t know why I hate my brother so much since he was my first lover if I may be so perverse. I guess it’s because despite his devotion to sucking my cock when we were kids he didn’t actually want to be perverted. He wanted to be dad which he is today but I remember what his glee looked like when disgustingly for the first time I got off. He would come into my bedroom in the morning and I would pretend. Pretending seemed to be what befitted the baby brother. I was ten when our game began. First he’d play with my nipples which made me both crazy and sick because I thought he wouldn’t do this if we had any sisters so he’s making me like a girl but that’s when my boner would begin so I knew I was sick too. Kind of like him. But the look on his face when he took my tiny cock in his mouth was really bad like he was eating bad food. It was just like he was ashamed by what a pervert he was and of course the fact that he made himself sick was what made it okay for me. To be quiet, to softly groan, to put the pillow over my mouth so I wouldn’t make noise and mom wouldn’t come up and afterwards I got paid. He’d throw seventy-five cents on my bed or sometimes only fifty like we were in some western but in the movies cause on teevee they never went that far. Sometimes we went really far. It seemed to me at the time. If Mom went shopping on Saturday morning he’d be right there in my room and he’d be sniffing my asshole and licking it like a dog and once in a while shoving a finger in with the help of some Vaseline. I just didn’t even know humans did this but I was so ashamed that it felt so good and I wanted it and I waited when I heard Mom’s car go down the gravel driveway to see when Edward came in and what he wanted to do today. So this prepared me for Morgan, when I finally left Boston and began my real life in the west coast. And believe it or not in 1971 with this kind of childhood experience I didn’t already live the life of a fag. But I dreamed of it. I guess the family shame came down on me when high school hit which is when Edward began dating girls and he began acting around me like I was dead and generally creating an impression around the house that he was smart and I was dumb. It looked true. All I did growing up was draw. I had the longest hair you could have in catholic school and though I could tell I was good looking by the way girls were always following me around and inviting me to things I was just sort of a quiet clod who drew and read books. When I could I went down with my sketch pad and a book to spy pond where we had played when I was a kid and I would jerk off. Once or twice and older guy like maybe seventeen and once a guy as old as my dad who smelled like he was down there at the pond “having a nip” just got me to pull my pants down and fiddled with my butt until he came and then shoved some money at me and went running to his car. I remember lying there with my pants still down in the dirty grass.

– – –

Eileen Myles was born in Boston and moved to New York in 1974. Snowflake, Different Streets, is her newest book of poetry, out on Wave Press. For her collection of essays, The Importance of Being Iceland, she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant. She is the author of, recently, Sorry Tree and Inferno (a poet’s novel). In 2010 the Poetry Society of America awarded Eileen the Shelley Prize. She is a Prof. Emeritus of Writing at UC San Diego. She lives in New York.

This text is an excerpt from a longer essay of the same name, currently appearing in issue 2 of Animal Shelter, published by Semiotext(e).

And a little text about Animal Shelter 2:

Started in 2008, Animal Shelter summoned the underground press sex culture of the 1970s as an intellectual conduit. The new issue of the journal evokes the suspended atmosphere of a world drifting in limbo; analysis laced with an undertow of oblivion. Desublimation, digression, negative monument, catastrophe, shadows, horror and sexiness, Gay Sunshine, blue line…

“… At the Liberation … I discovered a coast that had been off limits during the entire war. For a child, the discovery of that seascape was an extraordinary moment, the end f the world, the finisterre; the discovery of freedom as well as an endless, negative horizon where there is nothing but the horizon, nothing but fluid dynamics.” — Paul Virilio, “The Littoral as Final Frontier”

Issue 2 features fiction, artwork, poetry, conversations and essays by Dodie Bellamy, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Moyra Davey, Robert Dewhurst, Ben Ehrenreich, Matt Fishbeck…, Veronica Gonzalez, Bruce Hainley, Chris Kraus, Rachel Kushner, Sylvere Lotringer, Alistair McCartney, Slava Mogutin, Eileen Myles, Jed Ochmanek, George Porcari, Michael Rashkow, Shlomo Sand, Margie Schnibbe, Sarah Wang, and more.

Animal Shelter #2 is available for purchase by emailing sarah [at] semiotexte.com.

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  1. Shannon

      I really like this.

  2. Mark C


  3. Lara Mimosa Montes Flores

      issue 2 of animal shelter. FINALLY ! :D

  4. herocious

      Bookmarked this mentally for tomorrow’s lunch break. Eileen Myles.

  5. M. Kitchell

      got my copy in the mail today, pumped to read it. the first issue basically changed my life

  6. Mahmoud

      My reaction as I was reading this went something like this:  “WTF is this shit, The Rumpus?…OMG WTF THIS IS AMAZING.”

  7. Scott McClanahan


  8. Jac Jemc

      oh man, eileen myles. incredible.

  9. Anonymous

      Got mine in the mail yesterday. I love the Bifo Berardi essay on cynicism and irony. He separates them, where Sloterdjik sees irony and cynicism as bound. Really helpful and heartening (well, and despicable, too, to the extent that those pages also recount some Free-Radio activists of the 70s in Italy moving to commercial radio and becoming the cynical architects of Berlusconi’s media empire). But Berardi’s distinction between cynicism and irony is useful, apart from the Italian history he’s explicating.  

  10. Anonymous

      oh my fucking god. eileen myles. fuck, what a superstar. damn. 

  11. mimi

      it bothers me that ‘both’ appears twice in the seventh sentence

  12. mimi

      also this sentence seems oddly, incongruously awkward:

      Once or twice and older guy like maybe seventeen and once a guy as old as my dad who smelled like he was down there at the pond “having a nip” just got me to pull my pants down and fiddled with my butt until he came and then shoved some money at me and went running to his car.
      is this a typo? if so, detracts greatly (it’s jarring) from the otherwise strong piece for me

  13. deadgod

      Well, the first “and” should probably be “an”; that looks like a simple typo.  One could distribute the sentence with commas to make it more clear, and the relative clause that begins “who smelled” could be attached more securely to “guy” (and not “my dad”).  But the sentence seems legible to me.  The confusion of going without signposting from the 17-year-old to the middle-aged “guy” – that “fiddl[ing]” doesn’t seem to be what the teenager did (?) – communicates the effects of haste and compression in the memory, no?  Going from “he came” to “shoved”… money — that’s nice.

      The two earlier “both”s:  emphasis?  There are other languages – for example, ancient Greek – in which it’s normal to litter expression with the rhetoric of small redundancies that emphasize, but such repetition can strike tin notes in English.  How about replacing the second “both” with ‘each’?  both p and q each – where p and q do the same thing, but not together or in concert.

  14. mimi

      “communicates the effects of haste and compression in the memory” – yes, but none of the rest of the piece seems hasty or compressed – in fact i like the way much of it rambles without the use of commas but is still clear – i think one little comma after “seventeen” and correction of the simple typo would make me very happy  as for the ‘two “both”s issue’ – again one little comma would make me happy – put it after “Ed”  (happier than replacing the second “both” with “each”)  and going from “he came” to “then shoved” to “went running” – that’s very very nice i mention these things because i care about good writing and this piece is good – awful-near-perfect good  

  15. mimi

      seems like as i approach right margin hugging with reply to reply my formatting genius goes out the window