Estrellita’s Last Quartet

Carmelita (AKA Natalie) Suzanne Estrellita died last Friday.  She was 60 years old.

The transgender rhymer  was a world-class wit who realized, per Oscar Wilde, “those who see any difference between soul and body have neither.” Like Wilde, Estrellita got off some of her best shots in conversation, but many of them made it into lyrics she published in “First of the Month/Year”:  “anguish as a second language”…”loss is more”…”Am are I?”…”knee-jerk heart”…”jerk de soleil”….”you don’t know me from ishmael/I don’t know you from dick…”

Estrellita was part of the “First” fam for over a decade.  (Our old friend Eric Lott steered her to our crew. A little on down the line when she found out “First’s” Charles O’Brien had had a leg amputated, she wrote a loving, daring tribute to O’Brien, “Footloose.”)  I only hung tight with her once in person but it was an echt Estrellita trip. On her way back from seeing Mavis Staples sing in a Connecticut church, she rolled through New York City where she stayed a couple nights in the Chelsea Hotel, which she couldn’t afford. She had to panhandle to pay the bill and skipped dinner the night before we hooked up at New York Noodletown on the Bowery. She was hungry and it was my (poor) world:  we had a cheap but very cheery lunch.

Estrellita rambled all over the U.S.A. back in the day, but when we met up she traveled widely…in Charlottesville. I wasn’t about a mover either so we became phone-buds. Our convos always came back to music. Estrellita’s maximum heroes may have been Leonard Cohen—her self-chosen middle name is a nod to his famous song—and Bob Dylan.  (The last piece of writing she sent me was a dead-on-it meditation on “The Basement Tapes” which will be published here next month in a swatch of Sixties-related posts.)  But she picked up on numberless voices in America’s vernacular musics. Estrellita was a rock ‘n’ roller and a holy roller who could be “murderously C & W” too.

Estrellita left a message letting me know her time was almost up the week she died, but we didn’t have a last call together. If we had I bet we’d have been in harmony when it came to a couple of Iris DeMent’s rootsy musical settings for Anna Akhmatova’s poems (on DeMent’s recent CD, “The Trackless Woods”). I’m reminded just now of one that starts: “The souls of all my dears have flown to the stars…”

Since Estrellita split, I’ve been re-reading her own lyrics.  What follows are a few that seem to have taken on new resonance this cold Friday. Here’s my dear’s last quartet for “First.” B.D.

 

Next Time

Next time I’m going to be friendly
Next time I’m going to wear tights
Next time God pulls up beside me
I’m going to be doing what girls do at lights

Next time I’m going to be Mary
Next time my friends will be girls
Next time I’m waiting for a family who wants me
Before I jump off into this world

Next time I’m going to be saner
Next time I won’t be one for the books
I don’t mind if I’m a little bit plainer
Just so I don’t get so many dirty looks

Next time I’m going to stand taller
Next time I’m going to dance
Next time I’m going to have all the babies
Who this time missed their chance

Next time I’ll have anatomy
That thinks the way I do
Next time I’ll understand gravity
Enough to wear high-heeled shoes

Next time I’m going to be beautiful
Even when I shower
Next time I’m going to take the rain
And make it into flowers

And if next time I have a
Satiny ribbon in my hair
I want to look like the kind of person
Who would’ve put it there

 

Messopotamia

I’m the 12 foot whore of Bethlehem
gonna leave no stone unturned
gonna stand right by my savior
if I have to watch him get burned

I’m the biggest tramp in Nazareth
I’ll suck your dick for a dime
or if you have a Blakeian imagination
I’ll let you suck mine

I’m the ugliest thing on Main Street
and honey they’ve built some ugly shit
but I’m the only storefront east of Chicago
with an Olympian clit

for a couple bucks you could save me
from having to finish this song
because frankly I’ve got an awful feeling
something is about to go wrong

white orchid
licking its lips
estrogen red moon
personal eclipse

I’m a fucking hermaphrodite
and Mary’s all bent
’cause only I know
where Jesus really went

 

Do the Monster

don’t mind the Bible
I specialize in Original Sin
I believe the red words are Jesus’s
just don’t make me do the Monster again

I can do the Rhumba
but I prefer Berlin
I don’t mind the Twist sometimes
but don’t make me do the Monster again

she got it in the ghetto
I got it from a private eye
she got to stay a girl forever
but that dick made me a guy

Monster got a big appetite
voracious is too small
he abominally blocks up my passageways
from anywhere to the door at the end of the hall

she got it in the boudoir
I got it in the john
she got to be a working Donna
that prick made me a Don

I can flap the Charleston
I can fake the Swim
you can Fox Trot all over creation
but don’t make me do the Monster again

 

I’m Smoking for Two

sweating on a cot
where there is no light
gonna sleep like
a poet tonight

empty head no
relief in sight
gonna sleep like
e a poe tonight

nightmares that’d give
death a fright
gonna sleep with the angels of
lyric tonight

sometimes trouble
can’t be put right
but I’m glad I can worry enough
to sleep like a poet tonight

no one lives with me
to talk I write
I take myself dancing, smoke a few bones
and we both sleep like poets tonight

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