My Youth Machine-rolled, Smoked to Its Stub Tales of my youth are a big hit at parties. The arrest—cops cleaving me to their sedan. Caught red-handed, skin of newsprint bearing the image of a living Mao laid tenderly on a metal pole. Then the cell, its plain cavity. The beefy women in uniform watching me bathe through a slit. I forget to mention the bulb that buzzed above the narrow cell cot shredding my brain into a bell jar of worms, the best of them lacking all conviction. Or a ceiling stain the shape of a slow sob. Outside the prison gates, headlines waited like friends who knew me as a child: “Comrade _______ Valiantly Defies Fascist Police…” and so on. The quicksand of celebrity, how important I must be. The next 8 years a fugue of factory jobs, the Chairman’s words, a chain of smokes in my pocket. Decades later, Mao’s personal physician reported the Chairman had enjoyed after a dip in the Yangtse to bathe in the vaginal fluids of virgins. He shared with Marlon Brando a grotesque eating disorder, and a taste for servile foreign women. I had always liked Marlon, too; his sensitive mouth.
© Leanne Averbach