Joseph Edwin Haeger

Book Review: The Elvis Machine by Kim Vodicka

Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews The Elvis Machine by Kim Vodicka. (CLASH Books

 

I grew up going to church every Sunday. I did the church camp thing. I did the Sunday School thing. I was in a disciple group and went to youth group every Wednesday night. This was the culture I grew up in, and let me tell you one thing about it: sex makes them uncomfortable. I feel like Songs of Solomon is conveniently passed over during Sunday service and the whole congregation more or less represses any topics of sexual exploration—especially when it comes to talking to youth about it; unless, of course, it’s to tell them not to do it.

This caused me to spend quite a few years clutching my pearls as I worked out my own hang-ups about sex and everything that goes along with it—but listening to Dan Savage every week certainly helped me get over it. That’s all to say, Kim Vodicka’s raw and powerful book of poetry The Elvis Machine puts sex front and center and there was a part of me who wondered about how my younger self would have reacted. Poorly, I’d wager, but it seems like Vodicka is always one step ahead. Any negative thing someone could lob at her for her chosen lifestyle is already rendered useless by her acceptance of herself as a whole.

Vodicka comes out on the offensive, completely owning her choices without shame and, in doing so, she’s taking back the power. Her honesty about her desires gives her the upper hand, and it leaves critics with nothing to say. It’s a confidence I’m continually drawn to and I always wonder how someone gets there. I want to be there with that complete “fuck you” attitude.

 

From “Blue Flowers”

 

I want you to keep me in your cum cow harem.

I want you to diddle my little blue flower.

I want you to watch me suck eight dicks at once.

I want you to regard me as a complete human being.

I want you to respect me.

            I sucked eight dicks at once and still respected myself.

 

 

What is so powerful about “Blue Flowers” is that Vodicka is demanding respect from all of us regardless of her past, present, or future. She’s speaking directly to us, and it doesn’t matter what our perspective or take on her is—she’s telling us exactly how we need to treat her. She’s not a human being despite engaging in as much fellatio as she wants, but because she’s a human being and that’s enough to deserve respect.

Later on, Vodicka places love over lust—even when that means having sex with each and every man she wants to. I guess even my phrasing of this tries to diminish what she’s saying, but that’s not my intention. I appreciate Vodicka taking the power of words and harnessing them into something that is far truer to her perspective and experience. Having sex with whomever she wishes to doesn’t take away the fact that the act is still coming from a place of love. This is one of those moments that felt antithetical to the way I was raised, and she cracks it open and shows me a whole new way of looking at it. This also makes me wonder how people in our puritanical society respond to this approach to sex and I find it alluring how simply being honest can feel so rebellious.

 

From “Heaven’s Gate”

 

Will you be my Princess Charming?

 

Fuck discretion.

I’ll never be discreet
because I’m not shamed of you.

I’ll howl our love
to the sun and the moon.

Just to spite the boy who cried wolf
because he cried us, too.

 

The Elvis Machine is crude and raw. It gets in your face and burrows under your skin, and that’s the point. We’re taught that chastity is something to seek, but Vodicka cuts right through all the bullshit and shows us that line of thinking is nothing more than a fabricated lie we’ve been taught to protect this odd semblance of innocence. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being chaste, in the same way it’s okay to being keyed into your sexuality and all the desires that go along with it. So, in the end, this book is a call to be honest with yourself and embrace whoever you’re most comfortable being.

 

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Joseph Edwin Haeger is the author of Learn to Swim, a memoir published by University of Hell Press.

 

Joseph Edwin Haeger

Joseph Edwin Haeger is the author of Learn to Swim (University of Hell Press, 2015). His writing has appeared in The Pacific NW Inlander, RiverLit, Hippocampus Magazine, and others. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife and son.

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