The piano comes in, almost not there.
“Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine,” she says.
You have to be with me there, a boy in Mississippi in 1975, 10 years behind the rest of the country, surrounded by florid pigfaced men screaming DEATH HELL DAMNATION SIN. Only two years before I was at Bible Baptist Christian School listening to preaching in the morning and at noon and a prayer before you went home.
“Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” she said, again, as if to make sure I heard.
What she said went through me like lightning, like a spasm of pain, like coming, like standing on the edge of a building naked to the sky. Patti was speaking from a world where Jesus was not the be-all and end-all of existence. Where Accepting Jesus As Your Personal Savior was not automatic and Hell was not feared, nor was the sick raving Father mollified and coddled by people running to the altar every Sunday.
A wild card up my sleeves
Thick heart of stone
MY SINS MY OWN
THEY BELONG TO ME
It split me in two and my pulsing heart was in there. My pulsing black heart was in there singing with her and I saw it. For her there was no terror of the sick Father Nobodaddy of Blake’s perception. She didn’t heap her sins on Christ’s shoulders. She took responsibility for them and not only that, she reveled in them, they were her possession, she wore them around her neck and her fingers and her waist and on a chain where they rested against her breasts, inside the man’s shirt underneath the tie,
on the cover with her chin lifted up saying I FEAR NOTHING IN HEAVEN, HELL OR EARTH and my black heart pounding in heretical fierce joy, the fierce joy of rebellion which is as the sin of witchcraft flowing through me too, and I afraid of this fierce joy and this new black heart beating and this pure act of witchcraft I was committing by even listening to her sing this perfect and beautiful blasphemy. Terrified and entranced I was transfixed
“I move in this here atmosphere
where anything’s allowed…”
and in a breath I knew that this here atmosphere was within me too, that the secret blasphemy of the black heart of fierce joy was my calling and my true self was there and the world was not Mississippi, the endless red dirt and churches with sickly hymns and the red faced red eyed men with choking ties and burnt-off hair praising God with one breath and cursing everyone with the other, that Mississippi was not a world at all and I DID NOT BELONG THERE and My True Black Hearted Self was Revealed to me for the first time and I stood there swaying in Terror and Dazzling Joy as Patti told her tale of woman to woman transfigurative Holy Fuck Lust to the rising roar of electric guitar and it comes crashing:
TOWER BELLS CHIME
IN TIME THEY CHIME
FOR SOMEBODY’S SINS…
BUT NOT MINE
and then I knew who I was, at last. I was one of Them, I had found my wolf pack crazy tribe and they were calling me and finally my werewolf black heart ripped out of my chest and I Knew. Jesus Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine. And I couldn’t fool myself any longer no matter how much I tried after that, because underneath the skin I could feel my black heart beating the werewolf tune. That was how I found myself that time.