Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The Bad Seed

Suborn was his favourite verb
He'd read it in the dictionary and it stuck
Indeed it was his very favorite activity
The thrill of meeting a girl down on her luck -
Freshfaced was best - and prey on her insecurity
He lived for the moment when, under pressure, she would turn
Inside he celebrated, it was all too easy
The school of hard knocks, those lessons learned
The fruits of smooth talking with the steel of coercion
A girl newly suborned was worth the price of admission

He would never betray himself, he kept a cool countenance
His style always approached, but was just this side of flashy
You had to know how to maintain the serene balance
For this was no mere vocation, to resist the lure of easy money
The family business was of no interest for him, no, not at all
No stodgy funeral home for him, no assisted living, why think small?
Why bother? Not when other players were parading around crack dollars

Drugs were too easy, the real challenge was breaking a spirit
That other word, misogyny, was for squares and without merit
Early forties, he'd seen it all, had hardened his mind to it.
A late bloomer perhaps and much to do, even if squalid

Not for him pimp arrest and all that jargon and slickness
That the cats who read too much Iceberg Slim would throw at you.
He bet most of them hadn't even read the books
Nah, start with Donald Goines man, Whoreson Jones
Bringing a prospect into the game was the endpoint
It was hard work, nothing like that show, Hookers at the Point

In the barbershop, he was holding court,
Just about turned it into a serpent's lair
I'd recognized him from the open house
As I sat two seats down in my chair

My barber had slowed to a crawl in crafting my low fade
It turns out that we were all transfixed listening to this man's escapades

I wondered if he remembered me and would treat me as a spoiler
Who'd seen him at a relative low point liquidating his real estate
If he did, he didn't skip a beat, and continued narrating his pot boiler
Again he would repeat: "It's all in the game, it's about how you communicate"
Deliberate, this man, there was a detachment to his diction
There wasn't a torrent of words as he spun his fictions
He made sure as he rapped to enun-ci-ate ev-e-ry syl-la-ble
I couldn't figure out what manner of cut he was getting, this smooth criminal

She'd been sitting in the corner reading back issues of Vibe
I hadn't paid attention but now realized that, to every man, she lowered her eyes.

He coughed, looked over at her and nodded.

She stood up, dropped her drape and started walking.

The legs: vertiginous
The hips: tremendous
The outfit: ridiculous

She walked.
That was all.

The subtext: lascivious
His intent: pernicious

She walked.
I was appalled.

He just wanted to show off his possession
To make a point with this barbershop exhibition

He nodded again.

She slowed and just paraded back and forth
Those few steps between the full length mirror and the front door

An unholy, impromptu airing of the possibilities of the flesh
Such was the shock, there was a collective intake of breath

Meanwhile he ignored the display, he was of a different bent
The promise of sex meant nothing to him, he continued to wax eloquent
About the new girl, the one out of Walnut Creek high school
Who just got her diploma, "I'mma teach her the rules"

She walked.
It could have been a tightrope or a catwalk

"18 and over, and she couldn't wait to come be an earner"

It was uncomfortable, those five minutes of sin
The walk and its soundtrack: the sound of this man droning

Hardly normal, this marshalling of the naked appeal to lust
How would I explain this scene? It amounted to a betrayal of trust

I suppose from the outside you might say
That she was just taking a stroll and stretching
But if you were in the room you knew full well
This was nothing less than slut shaming

I looked around, everyone was silent and amazed
Needless to say, there's a real violence to the male gaze

"Real prospects, man you should see her", he smiled
Then, on second thought, he pointed, "But nothing like..."

She kept on walking.

"Bottom."

She kept walking.

"Right there, my bottom."

She walked.
Turned as she reached the mirror.

Under the cape in the barber's chair
I couldn't help but continue to stare
Still, I couldn't stand this strange ritual
Unnerving, the plain reduction of an individual
Servitude of sorts, call it by its name, exploitation
There was no denying the upshot of this transgression

Yet she wore this woman's work with a mask of normalcy
Floating above it all, she only aimed to please
The blankness in her eyes only strengthened my unease

She walked.

Preening as he was, like an obsequious merchant
Displaying his fleshy wares in the barbershop bazaar
This was premium quality content, the matter at hand
Except that the goods presented weren't rugs or steak knives
The sale of a human soul, a dubious transaction to all eyes
Ashamed, in those few minutes, at the undoubted humiliation
Troubled, to see not resignation but the vacancy of her stare
It appeared to just be work, a thorough subjugation

She walked.

I guess we were the marks, the square johns
Who would never understand the sex worker's situation
Not that the phrase ever crossed his lips
It was rather a panoply of pimps and hoes
A grim masquerade, this march at the carnival
I couldn't bear the tension of that sordid interval

The minutes passed. She kept on walking
While this gremlin kept on talking
Spinning his web of aggrandizing spite
His heart was a full quiver of ice
Arrows of deceit, cunning and sleaze
Our collective souls abased to our hands and knees

She kept on walking.

Pacing, her motion ever more languorous
The simplicity of the act, yet this felt dangerous

All of a sudden he clapped. His haircut was done.
She stopped moving promptly. We remained stunned.

She went to fetch his suit jacket for him
Exquisite silk. She helped him put it on.
Fresh. Wrapped her arm around him as he offered his elbow.
His arm moved lower and tapped her waist just like so
Took a look around as if to inspect his audience
He expertly put on his hat
Then dropped his hand further, and patted her butt

"Bottom power"

The college footballer dropped his phone.
I averted my eyes, thoroughly embarrassed.
Then, an exchange between the two of them
She had never said a word in all this, it was telling
For the first time, she looked into everyone's eyes
Goddamn. I guess this was the temptation he was selling

I felt bad, sick to the stomach at the display of power so feral
Worried, about the corruption of my soul now placed in turmoil
The disturbance continued as they walked out the door
She'd grabbed her drape. Could innocence ever be restored?

There was silence for a few minutes
We were still taking in what what we had witnessed
The clippers hummed unhurriedly on the edge of din
That was the only sound in the aftermath of sin

Eventually: "How about that game?"
My barber unmuted the TV
"The Raiders ain't doing nothing this year..."
No one mentioned anything further
The unwritten code of the streets
"What happens in the barber chair,..."

He handed me the mirror, I inspected the close fade
I added an extra five dollars to what I usually paid

I made my departure from the joint with speed
Full of worry about the woman caught up in this perverse psychology
And those others prey to the admixture of bullying and sociopathy
The mounting alarm also about the unknown graduate from Walnut Creek

After the open house, I'd done some research but now I had his street name
Not that it really mattered, the pathology of Junior Eddie was the same

At this Player's Ball there was no delicacy
To this evocation, to these fifty shades of sadness
Spectators to this cold blooded glimpse of human brutality
I steeled myself for the journey back from the heart of darkness

When I saw The Roots, The Tipping Point tour, as I remember
After the show, they were passing out these funny flyers
That was in Boston's Combat Zone: The Pimps and Hoes Party
But here in Oakland, I was getting a heavy dose of reality

Back in Cambridge, I'd shared the same barber as that Harvard professor
Who skipped around the gates of weighty subjects as he held court
Now I was on the West Coast, living in the hometown of Too Short
The topics were no less troubling, but it was a different breed of street philosopher

I tried to commit the details to memory; I headed straight home
This rough trade in sin was material enough for a poem
The bad seed had left me shaken to the core by this encounter
There was no way today that I'd enjoy the food at the Taste of Africa

greece stamp eaahnikh ahmokpatia

Like a shopkeeper displaying his lengths of cheap cotton to country housewives, Parrinieddu unwound his roll of lies. His nickname of Little Priest was due to the easy eloquence and hypocrisy he exuded.

Leonard Sciascia - The Day of the Owl

roxy flier pimps & hoes party

...

I've never seen this couple again.
When I got home, I racked my brain
For what I could do to intervene
How to protect from this menace to society?
Who could act to relieve my anxiety?
To my shame, I could only pray for healing
For there was no balm that could truly salve.
My antidote: I then wrote the above.

The Bad Seed, a playlist


A soundtrack for this note, let me know if it fits.
See previously: Open House

The statute of limitations has passed and so I can belatedly nominate this piece for The Things Fall Apart Series.

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Writing log. Concept: July 31, 2007, March 6, 2021

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