In Honor of Emperor Norton the 1st of San Francisco (01-08-12)

In Honor of Emperor Norton the 1st of San Francisco
Sunday, January 8th 2012, I participated in a tribute to the 19th Century San Franciscan eccentric, Emperor Norton at the Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix. This was the description on the Facebook event page:

“Description
A night of absurdity with the Cult of the Yellow Sign, Male Pattern Radness, Hi My Name Is Ryan, TK Campo and poetry by Manny Arenas! Emperor Norton is the mentally unstable “Rice King” who claimed dominion over all California, and “Protector of Mexico”. We honor this Genius in Exile.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Norton”
What made this show special for me was the fact that I got an extended set. I was allowed to do my thing (i.e. read my poetry, deliver my bon mots and even sing a song) for the space of 20-30 minutes. I am sure that I didn’t quite use up all of my time, especially once I realized that I forgot to read one of my prepared poems, but it was nice to have the breathing room to stretch out between pieces and communicate with the audience.
The evening started with the Cult of the Yellow Sign members #138 and #808, Space 55 regulars (my buddies) Kevin Flanagan and Ash Naftule, respectively, introducing the show and imparting a little of information on who exactly this esteemed personage Emperor Norton really was. Of course, they also sprinkled in their usual quips about the Cult and made the usual references to the fictional pantheons of Robert W Chambers and HP Lovecraft.

Kevin Flanagan and Ash Naftule, members #138 and #808 of the Cult of the Yellow Sign

I was the first one up from the guests and opened with an a capella rendition of the song “The Boat of Millions of Years” by Van der Graaf Generator. I was initially concerned that my voice would give when I sang this because I had been suffering from a persistent dry cough, but it went off without a hitch. I then proceeded to recite the poems I had selected for the evening, which dealt mostly with the subject of death. I told the audience that this was not a conscious choice, but rather and intuitive one. I offered that since my set would be so morbid, I would sprinkle in a few “buffer pieces” as the “sugar to help the medicine go down”. Over all the response was positive and folks seemed to enjoy the pieces and laugh in the right spots during my preambles between the poems.
A few of my friends took photos and I understand one even took video, which I haven’t seen yet, but hope to maybe post a clip sometime if it turned out well.

Me, reciting fromone of my little journals where I keep my dark ditties.

The other acts were amusing, particularly the band Male Pattern Radness, who sang songs about disgruntled waiters, getting high, and taking rufies (!).

Male Pattern Radness

Hi, My Name is Ryan, one half of the duo Drunk and Horny, did his usual shtick of standing on chairs, yelling through a megaphone and stirring up the crowd to follow him in a song. This time his set had a “New” New Year theme and he dispensed party hats and noisemakers for everyone to celebrate after a countdown. It was fun, but went on a little longer than it needed to.
Next up was the Cult who summoned up a demon…hand puppet! They then called up folks from the audience to ask the demon questions about joining the Cult of the Yellow Sign, and this was truly an inspired segment of the show. The best moments being when audience member (Space 55 alumnus) Shawna Franks allowed her young sons to participate in the question/answer forum, which ended in the demon taking the brothers into not only joining the Cult, but dueling one another to curry favor with the Cult. Chaos reigned!

Cult member #138 finds a handy host for the demon they channeled.

Just as things seemed to be wrapping up, TK Campo showed up to finish off the show. Unfortunately, even though his songs (played alternately on mandolin and piano) were mostly tuneful, his delivery was soporific and cleared the room save a few die-hards and friends.
Over all, it was fun night and I am anxious to see what the Cult does next. The text of the poems I read follows here:
(Note on text: I just changed the title of the first poem from “Altagracia” to “Altagracia’s Lament”.)
Altagracia’s Lament
Amidst the Arizona Red Rocks within her cavern lair
Altagracia plays a tune into the midnight air
Tapping doleful melodies that echo through the night
With velvet mallets on an organ made from stalagmites

Woefully, she keens her sorrow into the desert night
As the victor scorpion-mouse peeps his kettle-cry rite
Night-blooming flowers unfurl buds in welcoming fashion
For the Lesser Long-nosed Bats to lap their nectar with passion

Ruefully she dreams of times before the bloodlust came
The family curse which took her tía, and drove Lupe insane
Forcing her monthly, to transform and shed her human skin
For animal pelts and raven’s wings, steeped in blood and sin

Altagracia could not allow this curse to carry on
And so she chose to kill her aunt, nescient of what would come
By taking the life of her aunt, she hoped more lives to save
But with the best of intentions the road to Hell is paved

The tlahuelpuchi can’t be slain by one who shares her line
The curse just passes to the kin whom perpetrate the crime
By killing Lupe, Grace took on her sanguinary bane
As well as her occult powers, and transfiguring frame

A vegetarian at heart, she cannot brook the thirst
For the blood of innocents, with which she has been cursed
And fight the craving as she might she cannot shirk her fate
But rather acquiesce and drink until the thirst abates

And so she bays unto the moon, coyotes take her cue
Joining in her lamentation, with guilt and gore imbrued
Knowing that her isolation will no way stay the curse
From finding another victim with which to slake her thirst

Wiping up tears with livid hands her ululations spent
She feels the change about to break as she catches a scent
Her body writhes, her structure pops the fur begins to spread
She is now crib death incarnate which newborn mothers dread

XIII
You say that you do not know me; fear not, we shall come to know one another better soon enough—when the time is right.
All come to know me at some time or another: kings and paupers, sinners and saints, the youthful and the decrepit.
All men fear and loathe me; the only ones whom come to me willingly are the wretched, the disfigured and the sickly.
They welcome me with open arms; they constitute my flock.
The generals are my acolytes, my altar the battlefield; my host is mankind and my wine, his blood.
I also provide a service.
Like a blackbird I herald change.
I weed out the old and make way for the new.
I bring an end to suffering and provide a bridge to the next station.
But with all of these responsibilities at hand, I have no time for rest.
Daily, I beg for the hour when I might be suffered to reap my own stalk from this field of perpetual darkness.
Until that day, I shall continue to sheave the souls of the fortunate ones…you favored children of God.
BLACK HYMENEAL
Azraelle, my moribund bride
Gowned in ebon lace
Down the funest aisle you stride
With an exequial pace

Niveous hands let fingers slip
With sharpened ruby nails
Like little bloodied arrow tips
Which have my heart impaled

Your fine fair bosom does not heave
with movements to respire
Yet moves my will, in twain, to cleave
As my heart would to expire

Trailing from your muddy feet
A somber bridal train
Sullied in your brief retreat
Through graveyards in the rain

Tangled in its filigree
Are tokens from the grave
Supported by (with impish glee)
A grotesque lilim babe

Behind a veil of spider’s web
Sable tresses flow
In rivulets, about you, ebb
Away from your dark brow

Peeling back gossamer mesh
Your eyes aglow like gleeds
Burning into my weak flesh
To my wan heart, which bleeds

Your crimson labia do stretch
Into a hungry smile
Enticing me, a poor fey wretch
With lewd and baneful wiles

Eagerly I give to you
My last remaining breath
And as my lips avow, “I do”
Receive your kiss of Death

Ode to Stout
Stout is like a chocolate drink
Semi-sweet and well nigh black
Delectable amaritude
In creamy bitter draught
Sweet unmalted barley wort
Cordial cocoa quaff
Heavy, almost viscous
Seen darkly through the glass
Liquid velvet, hazy curtain
Obfuscates the eyes
Tawny lips, the foamy kiss
A bittersweet goodbye

Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
Is what she said to me that day
Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
Is all she had, for me, to say
“I do not like you, not one bit
Your very presence makes me shit
And so I leave you with this phrase to think upon in future days
“Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
A phrase so plain, so pure, so true
Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
An offering, from me to you
Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
It leaves no doubt per what to do
Manny Manny, Kiss My Fanny
And eat my shorts while your down there to”

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One Response to “In Honor of Emperor Norton the 1st of San Francisco (01-08-12)”

  1. Rand Lyons Says:

    An eloquent elucidation, my renditionist comrade!

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