In this last gasp gospel, Dia is dying.
(Diagnosis: existential anxiety & late-stage capitalism.)
Writing by Dia VanGunten
Art by Katy Somerville
“Think of it this way,
You could either be successful or be us.”
I began Mayday – a worker’s uprising issue – with a punk gospel on the Valerie June tune “Working Women Blues. ” I discussed invisible labor – the so called “useless” contributions of caretakers or the massive efforts of the disabled or unemployed… “women’s work,” sex work, elder care, community care, parenthood, animal rescue. Art.
A poet who fusses over a poem after a long day for low pay.
A publisher who babies a book, knowing that it’ll only sell 100 copies (when their cut is 100 bucks.)
It’s labor that we do for love and some of us lovers are gonna die young.
Those that don’t may require memory care or senior living which is absolutely beyond anything that we’ve made or ever will make.
(For a year in a memory care unit, my grandma pays what a billionaire might pay for a single trip to the bottom of the ocean.)
It’s not okay and it simply isn’t working.
Capitalism is bad math.
Starving artists, they say. The ‘entertainment.”
They maintain we bring this upon ourselves by carousing and drugging and (f)arting around.
They “consume” our energy and live vicariously, while they devalue us at every turn. They say “I coulda done that” (But ya didn’t.) They boo at writers on strike. They use racist terms for professional football players who get paid to play a dangerous sport.
They won’t leave Britney alone!
Yet they tune into the game, binge netflix, read novels and watch movies.
Look, all I’m saying is if you wanna sit close to the fire, bring a morsel for the storyteller.
Things are getting harder for artists. This year, Beppi and I will release a book. We’ll each make one dollar per copy and we’ll be “lucky” if we sell 500 copies. That’s $500 for our small press publisher, by the way, so this is an industry issue. I recently shared a meme by writer, Damian Rucci, about a guy who is living in his car, but baby, he’s a poet.
I also shared some bad news – but it wasn’t news to us.
My in-box was flooded with messages from editors / publishers / “gatekeepers” and they all had a story to tell about how they’re making magic out of nothing…but the toll is paid by our bodies, that’s my point, and it’s a spear that’s digging into my ribs. I’d go to the doctor for this wound – my eyes while I’m at it – but I’m among 28 million uninsured Americans.
Invisible labor gets the absolute entirety of my being, but lately I’m out of focus. For starters, it’s literal light blindness (overwork plus an inability to heal, due to more of the same.) I’m giving it everything that I’ve got, yet unanswered emails are a stone in my stomach. I am failing – loose ends and dropped balls – which feels like dying. There’s also a failure of self care and basic survival. I should be insured! Last night I woke sharply, with the certainty that this is my last decade on earth. I have to work as hard as I can because times a’wastin! I never could talk myself down from it. Goddammit, that pisses me off. Don’t be fooled by my existentialist nature, grim memes and a decade spent on the undead (Pink Zombie Rose.)
I love this planet and the people that inhabit it and I want to stay here and play for as long as the fun lasts, whichever one of us goes first, which isn’t long because we’re both a bit sketch. Me and you, man, and this planet too, capitalism is killing us. It’s killing everyone I love.
This morning I wrote another mag editor. She’s on the brink of homelessness – and has been.
I put 3 kissy emojis in the subject line, because it was meant to be a cheerio letter, but it opened, “I hope the hellscape finds you well.” I ended the missive by insisting she hang in there because we still have lots of mischief to unleash – in the ten years I have left to live.
The reply to my letter is a mini gospel ….
I pass it on to you Cream Sceners, members of “our little band.”
Good issue, guys. I have so much gratitude. Katy, you are everything good in this world. Thanks for riding the circus train. To everyone who has tried to pitch in with Cream Scene, I’m sorry. I freeze up. It would be so much easier to accept help if we could pay what you’re worth.
About Dia VanGunten
Dia VanGunten explores overlaps between genres, between poetry and prose, between the real and the magical. She is the creator of the rhizomatic series Pink Zombie Rose.
Major Arcana, a PZR collection of stories & comics, is illustrated by Beppi. To be released by Q, a graphic imprint of Querencia Press.
Dia is the founder of Cream Scene Carnival and the OG carnie.
About Katy Somerville
Katy Somerville was beamed into existence on a Monday night in the mid-eighties by stars, glitter, and a glorious Italian woman from a long line of very strong women. In the present timeline, she likes to drink coffee, pat any animal that will engage with her, make collages, and spend time laughing and finding moments of joy wherever she can with her partner and her goofy, lanky dog.
Katy is Cream Scene co-editor & Art Director