Tuesday, February 10, 2004


Bartleby, Dearest

what the world needs now is love sweet love

i. First, Some Didactics

Weeping after orgasm is a classic symptom
of Masochistic Personality Disorder (DSM-III).
In the 1980’s this condition was renamed
Self-Defeating Personality Disorder,
and was relegated to the appendix of DSM-IIIR,
out of concern for its potential forensic misapplication,
in situations of alleged spousal abuse.
(It should go without saying, gentlemen,
that these masochistic and self-defeating diatheses
are predominantly female afflictions.)
Neither diagnosis appears in DSM-IV, but we are confident
that our ongoing statistically rigorous nosological researches
will clinch their syndromic validity
and earn them back their rightful niche in DSM-V,
in Cluster C on Axis II somewhere between
301.6 (Dependant) and 301.82 (Avoidant).
That being said, Masochistic Personality Disorder
must be distinguished from Masochism itself (302.83)
which, along with necrophilia, zoophilia,
klismaphilia, urophilia, coprophilia,
frotteurism, exhibitionism, fetishism and the like
remains, I am pleased to report, a bona fide Paraphilia,
that is to say, a perversion. In these disorders,
which only rarely afflict females,
a meticulous diagnostic evaluation must include
a transducer (either a thin metal ring
or a mercury-in-rubber strain gauge)
placed around the penis ,
exposure of the patient to various audiovisual stimuli
depicting paraphilic and appropriate sexual scenes,
and measurement of the comparative degree of penile erection
elicited by each. Castration ? Stereotaxic neurosurgery ?
Well, because of certain legal and ethical concerns
inevitably and predictably raised
by the irreversible destruction of gonadal and/or brain tissue,
and by the paucity of statistically demonstrable benefit
of these procedures, their use at present
has, unfortunately, been somewhat limited.

ii. The Case Report

I was caught
weeping after orgasm
to a degree unjustified
by the usual post-coital tristesse.

They say I am beside myself,
and beyond help. I ask
what’s mine other than my dowry ?
They offer paraphernalia. Belt and spoon.

I have tried to inhabit the slit
between Fat Tuesday
and Ash Wednesday
but I don’t fit.

Does one sink faster
into the body
on whips and Perrier
or on heavy cream ?

You’d think
that the thin would sink needle-like
while the fat float. Nothing’s
that simple.

Oh, I understand the body’s contradictions
only too well. The bipolar
mortifications of pleasure and pain,
of yes and no.

There is a certain voluptuousness of refusal,
a certain ascetic of consent,
an aesthetic of both that comprises
such disparate parapoetics as sky- and sand- writing.

Still, there’s one parakeet left in paradise,
Little St. Pete, within whose garden walls,
we’re safe from both the Father and the Son,
and from our own pratfalls.

Nobody knows
the degradations I must imagine.
Nobody knows,
not even Jesus.

(Always use bleach.
Void after sex.
Do not use while bathing,
or sleeping.)

The ictus fades
like a siren that has temporarily obliterated
everything but the darkness.
To be sure, the room

slowly reconstitutes itself each time,
even after godhead,
the dresser safely beside the lamp, etc.
But there is that moment, that fissure

of impossible inquisition --
what is pleasure
what is pain
where is God

that even crucifixion can’t answer
since nothing’s narrow enough to needle the slit
between flesh and divinity.
Is that a paradox or a paranoia ?

Personally, I think god is a pun,
a Parousia of a paronomasia --
an accidental gaudeamus igitur.
But I am out of my gourd, after all,

and I neither sink nor float
but only sing a sweet, midstream refrain --
orally, orally, orally, orally,
everything down the drain --

they say there is a pill for it,
a paragnosis, a sinecure.
Ludicrous, I thought, but said
I’m game.

? 1997

Lines 27-39 in section 1 are a loose and overembroidered paraphrase of text found Becker JV, Kavoussi RJ: Sexual Disorders, in Textbook of Psychiatry. Edited by Talbott JA, Hales RE, Yudovsky SC, Washington DC, American Psychiatic Press, 1988.

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