“I’M GONNA DIE. Coming Outside.” I wrote these two sentences in long hand in a café in the tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. I am Kathy Acker. MEOW. Oh, this old thing? My bullet wound was cancer. This life, it’s a bullet wound. Reincarnation. We die over and over. For this go round the ferris wheel, I thought I’d be a growly bear. That’s how I imagined it, though a poetic fact can sometimes get lost in transcription. In 1990, my crystal ball needed polishing. Clearly. That’s not a euphemism. I’m not stressing it, at least I was kind of close. Animal, mineral, vegetable. Growly bear. Tiger. It came to me in a vision, in the Pussy Pirate book. “I’M GONNA DIE. Coming Outside.” A growly bear. This is better. LOOK AT ME! I have an awesome tiger haircut, and a cock! MEOW. When I was just a cub, I used to crawl down to the man-made pond, stare at my reflection and laugh and laugh and laugh. If they could see me now! OHIO!!! What a trip!

I polish my crystal ball twice a day now. Maybe next time I’ll come back as a PULITZER PRIZE. I traced that into the linoleum with my pencil claws. I’m dead in the kitchen. Here goes my soul. It’s dribbling out my eye-socket. Up up and away, again. Over and over. The policemen are holding hunting rifles, some are smoking and dropping ashes onto the tiles. Terry Thompson’s feet are prone, his skin purple. I can’t believe they haven’t removed his corpse yet. A photographer flashes over and over, he’s from the ap or reuters. I wonder if we’ll all go to the morgue together. Terry set us free this morning, two am. Most of us crept through the pre-dawn darkness toward a wilderness that doesn’t exist. I stuck around to see what Terry was up to. He put the hunting rifle between his legs, took off his shoes and socks. It was all so Hemmingway-esque. Bang. The body fell to the floor, I pushed the screen door open with my bulk and put his head in mouth, crunching down just a bit. I must have left a mark because they wrote about it in the paper. What they didn’t realize is that I wasn’t trying to eat him. I performed emergency brain surgery, using my tongue to scoop his brains back into his skull. Terry was brilliant. A healer, really. Misunderstood. The cops came in to investigate, saw me with my mouth around Terry’s body, and shot me on the spot. Right through the eye. Yet another hunting rifle.

This moment takes longer than I remember. Dying stops time, for a second. I can hear the television anchorman. He is at a safe distance. My leg jolts in a rigor mortis spasm. His eye twitches. The anchorman is THIS CLOSE to doing a queeny-correspondent-on-the-spot-viral-video-OH-SHIT-IT’S-A-SPIDER-IT’S-A-TIGER routine. An instant youtube sensation. Let’s laugh while he screams. 4 million hits. Every time a clip is liked an angel gets its wings. Hooray Amerika. We are united in our cruel humor.

Kathy takes her place on the ground, prone, the newscaster is holding a microphone, approaches her, stands at a somewhat risky distance to her pencil claws. The Kathy/Tiger corpse is still, and then, BANG, a claw darts out in another spasm. the newscaster loses it, screaming to the cameraman.


(closeted as fuck but the door swings open)

Oh my gawd
Oh hell no
Oh shit
It just moved
It just moved its paw
Its not dead
Roger what did i say
We should have done this shot
From the driveway
Not the kitchen
Its gonna eat me
I’m not scared of snakes or the dark or nothing
Just cats
Big cats
Great big pussy
Cats oh shit
Its gonna eat me
It’s gonna bite my fucking head off!!!!
Pussy cat pussy cat fuck fuck fuck.


Relax dude, the floor is covered in his brains, man, the animal is dead as a doornail.


Uh-hem. Can we, uh, cut tape. Let’s do that again, thank god this isn’t live. Roger, destroy that tape. Let’s try that again. Is my hair okay? Give me that hanky. Make up. MAKE UP! Ok, Roger. Ready? Let’s do this thing. FUCK!

“There were 13 or at least 10 tigers according to reports. 50 animals in all, valued at over one million dollars. Rest easy, residents of Zanesville. Every wild animal has been shot, killed, tagged and will be carted off to the community college science lab for testing. There isn’t room enough in the morgue.”

CUT. I guess we should get on that story, the one about the assholes who tried to steal a carcass. Roger. Did we get the shot? THE SHOT? Roger? Roger? Earth to Roger.

Long Beat.


Don’t call my brother an asshole.


Joe is Roger’s brother. This is Joe. He’s hot. I would like to fuck him with my tiger cock.


(a confession)

Ricky, Bobby, Johnny and Duck drove the truck. The bodies were lined up, right there, along the highway. We thought we’d make venison. I don’t know why we did it. I still have my ankle bracelet on from the last time I got caught up in their bullshit. But there was a lot of whiskey involved. I’ll do anything for a sip. They call me the party animal.

I tried to pick the tiger up myself and threw my back out. I thought it’d be stuffed like a beanie baby, a bean bag, you know. His fingernails were giant pieces of pencil lead. The guys laughed and got me laughing and I just about pissed my jeans. It was dark out and our breath made clouds in the flashlight streams. Duck and Ricky moved the tiger’s arms like it was a giant puppet, TIGER, MEOOOOOW, swung it around like that, one guy on the front one guy on the back. Heavy as a refrigerator, trying to swing it up into the back of the truck. The body kept hitting the bumper with a thud. Boom. Boom. The damp air held the sound like a lover. The brown cat eyes rolled around googly, catching glint from our torches. The other two guys stumbled over to grab handfuls of hide, the ribs slippery underneath protecting organs that didn’t play no more. I guess we should have moved quicker, cuz all of sudden Duck drops his side of the tiger and starts running for the woods. That’s when I seen the red and blue lights and Johnny shouts, OH SHIT. The cops came, they snagged me first on account of my bad back, and the ankle bracelet makes it hard to run. It makes a clinking noise when it shakes. My brother Roger used to call me Jacob Marley…THOSE CHAINS, THOSE CHAINS.

Now I’m in this cage. I’ll probably do 18 months. It goes by quick. I like to masturbate. I pretend I’m a gorilla and the warden is an old man who visits me at the zoo. One day some shit’ll go down. That’s what I always think. There’s a park bench with his name on it. Edward Albee told me so. I read about it in Zanesville High. AP honors – the whole nine yards. I was gonna be an actor before I realized I’d need money to do that. It’s cheaper to work here, keep a motorcycle, drink for fun, do dumb shit like this, write poems. My favorite sound in the world is a cage being closed. Just call me monkey. I wonder what that venison would have tasted like. Tiger jerky. We could have made a fortune. I’d sell it on e-bay, use the cash for acting lessons. Then I’d go to hb studios and do the real “Zoo Story.” Off-broadway. Maybe find a boyfriend too, though I always do in the clink, so it’s not so bad. Enough so that my arms grow hairy, my chest sprouts, and sometimes I bang it with both fists. When I cum, the warden looks up from his paper in disgust. Sometimes they pass a mop through the bars and make me clean it up myself. I like the smell, like bleach. It feels like the cell is clean when I do that, even though it just gets sticky. It feels wet on my bare feet. I wonder when my TERRY will set ME FREE? Or will I get shot? Or maybe an acting award? An obie? The boyfriends never talk to me on the outside. I see them at the food lion and they look right through me. Sometimes their skin flushes, I guess that’s a compliment. HEY WARDEN WHAT’S FOR FUCKING DINNER?


Terry Thompson is unreliable. Like this bistro table. He wobbles when he walks, his voice tremoloes when he talks. He is rough around the edges, as we like to say around here. Gruff. Sometimes his mouth is painted a deep purple like the top of a wine jug. Kool-aid man. This is usually on Sunday. He never goes to church. He’s not a man I care too much for, and now I don’t really have to, but I needed to be here, today, at his wake, because he gave me my little boy back. You see my son’s autistic…


Mondays and Wednesdays provide a steady stream of field trips at the Muskingum County Animal Farm. Terry coordinates visits with the local school districts, a flat rate, paid up-front. Teachers write permission forms to be filled out, asking parents for a few of ten bucks, about the price of two happy meals, but the experience is worth it. Children are allowed an up close view to exotic animals they have only seen before in books. The trip is the equivalent to going to Jurassic Park for these kids. These fields might as well be the jungle. These are children raised on concrete playgrounds, fed on happy meals and piss, like we all are.

The baby animals are dosed with a mild sedative. Nothing too altering, but enough to keep them docile and dew-eyed. One autistic fourth grader speaks for the first time in several years as he holds a tiger cub in his lap. He strokes the animal and cries, I love you, I love you. His mother is a chaperone. She writes Terry a letter disclosing that she had forgotten the sound of her own child’s voice until that day. He tapes this letter to his refrigerator. There is a brown spot stain on the letter now. It is a skull fragment.


My son has that spirit in the sky crimson and clover type of voice. Shiny like a brass trumpet but tremoloed or early electronic sounding. Something at once old-timey and from outer space. Not steampunk, mind you. More like an angel.


I teach psychology and sociology and criminology and the fine art seminar and the poetry seminar and finally remedial reading at Moskingum CC. This whole thing has an air of Greek myth, or sociopathology. Did you hear one of the animals ate Terry’s head, or tried to, after he’d fallen to the linoleum in the kitchen?


He’s talking about me.


Most of the beasts had used the opportunity to get as far away from the ranch as possible, seeking out new territories and hopeful for a wilderness that just doesn’t exist anymore. They had been microchipped. And everyone has a cellphone now. There’s no escaping the gaze.


Hey newscaster, you take a picture with your iphone.
A picture of me with a bullet through my eye.
It is elegantly cropped.
You upload it to your profile, seeking assurance of its beauty.
The picture gets seven LIKES. This is satisfactory.
Three friends comment with these phrases:


You read this thread and laugh out loud while you check your profile in the tgifridays.

A nest of baby robins has been found in the rain track outside the restaurant. A cleaning person is batting at it with a straw broom. A child watches from its booster seat. One of the birds falls from the gutter and lands on the concrete. It waddles on jelly legs into some shrubbery, where a radio speaker has been hidden.

Bruce Springsteen’s
“Born To Run”
blares from the restaurants’ speakers.


Why don’t you go fuck yourself again with that tiger balm? I heard it has soothing power. WHY AM I NOT A PULITZER PRIZE YET? WHY AM I STILL HERE IN THIS HAIRY BODY WITHOUT AGENCY? IS THIS SOME KIND OF TEST?



The conversation you could have with your lover disappears, and a buffalo burger is consumed in silence. You each edge further from the other like magnetic force in reverse and slowed down to imperceptibility. Your hiccup is an earthquake. You check your grindr account. Another missed opportunity.


The last living rhino in Vietnam was killed today by poachers. Unhappy face emoticon.


The weather turned on the protesters in Zuccotti Park. Thousands of dollars in equipment is destroyed by a sudden rainstorm. Now they use the desktop casings as table legs and place hot meals on a piece of plywood for the occupiers. The homeless who used to sleep in the park are gone. They all are in jail now, 50 zoo animals. I saw a young man holding this sign: Gentrify the homeless! It got seven likes. They get one meal a day and no phone call. Rights are read willy-nilly. Who cares when your brain is scrambled eggs? They are lazy. I can’t pay my student loans.


I beat my chest chimpanzee style and stick my tongue out, too. Hand me a cigar and a slogan. I’m not homeless. I am occupied. The homeless were pre-occupied. Now they are caged. AT HB STUDIOS I PRETEND I AM JAMES DEAN. Endlessly talented and pre-Stonewall queer. Can someone take this bracelet off my ankle? I want to drive my roadster at top speed, dreaming of topping Sal Minneo.


Oh, Joe. You look better with my glasses off. The light here is softer than I remembered. I can hear the two children crying from their window in the backyard. What were you thinking with your wild jerky? The animals are splayed out like on a scale at a butcher’s counter. From the window it looks like an overturned toybox. The brothers watch guts spill slowly from the tiger’s side, one of my pride. Their mother is playing a church service over the radio and the music mingles with their racing minds. One brother smells incense. The other, older one, smells cum. Joey if you’re hurtin’ so am I.


There is a zoo and it is free now, if only in spirit. I know why the caged bear shits itself. This is a suicide note.


(writing in a notepad with her pencil claw)

I am dying in a field outside of Zanesville. A river of blood bubbles up from the place where my eye used to be. My heart is telling a story very slowly, in whispers. The whispers sound like bird calls and more animals come, thinking I am friendly. Their guns go up to the sky. On a clear day you can see Columbus. Did you know it is the gay capital of the Midwest?

A baboon stalks the horizon looking for trash to eat. Maybe some old sliced ham with mold on it, smashed egg shells tarnished from the dye of a jcp circular in the Sunday newspaper. He pulls the pieces from a ripped garbage bag and puts them in his mouth. This is called survival.

Joe, that’s the way I describe you. Do you like it? Or does it make you seem too submissive?


The lion looked right at me in the grocery store parking lot. The food lion, from the sign. It was seated like an obedient dog. Fetch, Leo. I got in my escort and called the police from the iphone. Then I took a picture and uploaded it and it got seven likes.


I thought the cops would bring elephant guns but instead they used pepper spray and guess what? It worked. We cried ourselves to death. Four dead in Ohio? More like forty plus. Why would you shoot me, a llama? But you did, and I cried and then I died.


It is Noah’s ark in reverse. I build the ship and then we are shipwrecked. The flood is in my wet brain. The cops take turns with their crosshairs. It is a team building exercise. They ask to have the carcasses stuffed. There’s a guy in town who does it for free as a gesture of good will for the men, he calls them heroes. The force. The animals are mounted on wooden plaques. They make a noise in the back of the truck. It is the sound of objects. They are delivered to each officer, wrapped in butcher paper. The funny thing is, I sold them these elephant guns three years ago, out of my barn, running guns on the black market. I used the cash for more birdseed and meal for the animals. Now I’m dead, the cops use my black market guns to kill my children. Oh the irony.


Danger. Wild animals.


If you see something, shoot something.


(stroking dead Kathy Acker the Bengal Tiger)

If you see something, it is yours. You are a lord of it. It is for you. This is the law of the land. As far as you can see, Simba, this land is your responsibility. You are a king in captivity. You were born with your crown (and your student loan debt). All you have to do is put it on (and wear it to your funeral).


Maybe this is possession. I climbed a hill this morning, before I shot myself, and at the top of this hill I found a pigeon. It was eating a turd. A human turd in the park, The bird was picking out the chunks that hadn’t lost their nutrients. It can’t all be waste, what our bodies throw out. It could be called impatience.

Johnny Appleseed wasn’t tossing seeds, he was shitting them. Everyone has this idea that he was an altruistic young man. Really he just loved apples and had irritable bowel syndrome.

There is no such thing as a middle class. There’s a beginning and an end, but no middle. No autistic tiger left behind. At Community College, I GAVE MY ZOOLOGY TEACHER AN APPLE. My toe catches the trigger, Occupy Zoo Story. BANG.

Terry falls to the floor.

Kathy becomes a pulitzer prize.

Autistic Sonny clutches the pulitzer prize, stroking it.


I love you. I love you.

Queeny Correspondent makes out with Joe the Ape.

Roger uploads the newscast outtake to youtube and likes it seven times.

Autistic Mommy admires her pencil claws.

Autistic Sonny eats a handful of animal crackers. His mouth is mic’d and amplified with delay. The crunching commingles with the first few bars of “Spirit in the Sky.” The rock and roll music rises and rises and rises and rises.



Brian Bauman is a poet, playwright and the artistic director/founder of Perfect Disgrace Theater. His plays include: Atta Boy (HERE Arts Center, Wild Project, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Broad Art Center/UCLA), BUCKSHOT: A Rashomon (CounterPULSE), A Crucible (Wild Project, La Mama Galleria), Elegy for A Midshipman (Dixon Place), and Porridge (Dairy Center for the Arts). He is currently developing Rosebud, an adaptation of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby that tackles gentrification and gay marriage. He earned an M.F.A. in playwriting from the California Institute of the Arts.