Friday, August 31, 2012

Berghain Shrines and Purity Rings

The following is a prose poetry narrative inspired by both Purity Ring‘s debut album, Shrines, and a trip I took to Berlin’s infamous electronic music nightclub, Berghain.
It seemed apt for Berlin that Berghain was more or less in the middle of the city, yet in the middle of nowhere. The labyrinth of residential streets and parking lots were occasionally splattered with graffiti, as if indicating the way. Spotted by the likes of the silently laughing Mein Lieber Prost face or a number from Mr. Six or the serendipitously appropriate Escape white rabbit outlined in thick bubbled red; art that would glow for the right eyes, reaffirming that, no, I was not lost. The buildings and paved streets faded away so that grass and dirt and puddles and trees could sprout into a junkyard wasteland. Stumpy and towering forms of either garbage or art sprung out of the ground, not asking the passerby to decide which was which.

The chain-link fences led me to a long line in front of a building that sat growling before Ursa Minor and buffalos dancing on cliff tops in the sky. The mass of people snaked out of the building like a giant centipede formed of a million little parts, wrapping around the building, scaling its walls. Crawlers looking for a way to burst inward. At the door, a portly old man dressed in shadow sat on a pile of bones. Almost like a biker roaming a dusty post-apocalyptic world, he had a gray beard, sunglasses, a leather jacket, tattoos on his face. The other sentry guards would look to him so that he could pass his silent psychic judgment, sieving out members of the line with seemingly no criteria. It had nothing to do with faces or clothes, gender or age, but hands sewn into bedspreads, souls woven into foliage. When he stares at you, he stares deep into your being, and he knows. He was looking for the shrines. He was trying to keep the crawlers out.

Photo by Nick Emmel
Immediately past the doors, the scent of the air was familiar. The smell and dead voices covering bones and quiet tones filled with vessels of earth boomed from the floor upstairs and led me through the almost empty, black-bottom floor. And on the stairs I passed a girl with hair like a tangle of golden straw, her body adorned in white feathers. She was tall, but everything was little. Her fingers, ribs, heart, legs, belly. The scent in the air was her scent. It was the scent of her eyes that was so familiar. She was beautiful, she had light in her skin, but it wasn’t her beauty that I wanted to talk to, it was because she was peering over and had forgotten what feet were. She struggled up the stairs as if she were about to pass out. It was something strange and out of character for me, because I always hated talking to strangers. We had nothing in common except that we were in the same place at the same time. Yet, splitting threads of thunder pulled me close to ask if she was okay. She nodded and laid down fish to keep her hands from falling. So, I continued on, because I wasn’t like that fire, fire, fire whose speech is so tenderly coaxing.

Photo By Bart & Sanne Van Poll

Photo by Merlijn Hoek
I had always hated music whose sole purpose was to encourage dance and nothing else, but when I reached the top of the stairs, the lofticries and blood bubble rumble made more sense than anything else in the world at that moment. It sounded like the slow spreading waves and reverberating oscillation of a purity ring struck against my knee like a tuning fork. The noises sprinkled throughout fuzzed opened holes back to their home dimensions that stray at unquantifiable alien bytes per second, turning sound into colors that flooded the room in a black lit sheen. Your mind focuses on the flow of the two people pounding on pads and pedals and keys, but the static gets into your neurons from your wide opened eyes and translates itself into involuntary motion. You join the rest of the room a sweaty mass of bead weighted chests with trembling thighs, weepy breasts, and weepy sighs, whispering: “Listen closely to the floor.”
Across the floor I saw her, dancing in slow motion and somehow both there and not. I told my friend that I was going to do something stupid and walked over in a prostrated call of swirling ghosts that fluoresced out in neons of yellow, green, and pink, to guide her spirits and leap rocky cliffs. She asked me, “Are you the boy that talked to me on the stairs?” The scent of her tongue was intoxicating and spilled some of its graces through its pores into my mouth. Ears ring and teeth click and ears ring and teeth click and ears ears. So I dusted off her necklace and bought her a bottle of water to help her find her feet again and clean the blood from her sandal. And after hydrogen molecules had made out with oxygen molecules, it seeped through our sockets and earholes into our precious fractured skulls, giving us the energy to rise once more. And ears ring and teeth click and ears ring and teeth click and ears ring and teeth click and ears ring and teeth click and ears ears ring.
We found ourselves fumbling past the curtains into the black rooms. Tucked into cubbies all around were monstrous masses of two beings flowing into each other in an ugly mess of colliding flesh and facial features and body parts. We were making something different. I pushed her back against the wall and she spread open her shirt as I spread a circle of salt around her. A pure rush of sea water flowed from her thighs. With my bare hands, I split open her sternum to let us both fold. Rolling it back and only for one instant, we grew old in a long winter. I pulled her little ribs around me to begin building a shrine inside her chest. Building a cult inside of her. She sank into the edges around me; into the lakes and quarries that brink.

Photo by Merlijn Hoek
That night we were building shrines to filling life with blood. To something actually happening to you. I thought about how I almost had gone home early, but an enthusiastic stranger at Schokoladen told me that I couldn’t leave Berlin without going to Berghain. I thought about how any little thing could’ve changed the moment I ascended those stairs and I could’ve missed her. That night we built shrines to worship all the small seemingly unimportant things that align in order to bring two people together. To gathering up your harm and gods with grateful arms. To avoiding mid-life crises. To knowing that this would be one of the things to run through your mind as the synapses in your brain fired randomly while your spirit left your body.
As my flesh and nails were laid upon the hillsides, we hovered over ourselves, watching us drip onto each other’s sides. We were no longer in the disgusting black abyss, but in a hotel room. We were sitting on a rock in a grassy playground on the other side of the city, listening to “Place Pigalle” as she told me about the city she lived in, Paris. We were kissing hard and walking through the dark under the whooshing trees. We were in the flower garden of a house of literature as she told me about her fervent love for salmon and we ate it curried with rice. She was the black-rimmed glasses that were obnoxiously and ironically big. She was lists of French films. She was a polaroid camera. And the purple photo that fell into a hotel drawer was of two people who were finally each just as much of a romantic as the other. The Spanish soccer team beat the French soccer team; sushi wagers and future plans. Our accents flittered in multiple languages, flirting with the noises found in the static of our blood. The static of our blood that carried a current of sound so that with our headphone fingers in each other’s ears, we could hear those electro beats of a bright bound Mediterranean sea surrounded fury to which our bodies would return.
We were emerging from the building into the dusk of morning light. The sun was rising and the line outside still wound off into the oblivion. The moon was full and she took up my nervous guts to a shed in the junkyard outside. She plucked all the long grass that grew from her and hid it in me. She shucked all the light from her skin and hid it in me. And over pixelated picture screens we continued to hide objects within each other, to add to our shrines. By that little shed where she took up my guts, I found a hidden piece of graffiti by the artist Alias. It was a red smiley painted on hands held over a little boy’s face. It was sprayed above a real chair that was plastic wrapped to the column in midair. I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t tried to use her heavy feathers to lift her drooping heart. The only way adequate enough to describe the feeling is through nonsense.

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