The crowd prances by;
some walk the tight rope;
others smile like French clowns.
One man’s frown deserves a call to 911;
one girl’s body is hot enough to combust.
Great displays of displeasure or delight
catch one’s eye. There is enough
hair on the women to confuse them with puma.
Some of the men, hairless, look like
patients in hospice. Others, handsome,
cultivate the look of ex-cons.
The ink spots on their bodies
do not so much decorate as distract,
like graffiti. It’s not mutilation but,
like vandalism, should be against the law.
Some of the people are said to drink
their own piss. Others like to masturbate
on the opposite sex.
(SHE’s just entered, still in hat and coat.)
You’re not nearly as tall as I had imagined.
Larry’s always liked big things: St. Bernard, Cathedrals, winter grapefruit. Do you have a big thing?
How did you get in?
Take these doors. When we first moved in, a single entrance stood here leading out to the patio. Larry took a sledge hammer and just knocked it all out. He’s very destructive, you know. I always keep a key in my bag. Larry was very good with his hands. He put these French doors in all by himself. Do you like them? I always liked his fingers. You really should get yourself a purse.
They’re very handy. You don’t love him, I suppose?
Then I really do feel sorry for you.
The Dutch settlers now are
largely forgotten. The Van Burens
and Roosevelts seem almost
quaint, just a memory like Anastasia and
the Tsar; there aren’t even any photos.
One thinks of churning butter or, perhaps
of FDR’s stuffed birds.
It was a long time ago when the Dutch
controlled the Hudson; even
longer when they built their first fort.
But who cares? We dream of holidays
in the South Pacific: topless girls
and venereal disease.
It was her nose that caught my attention, but not as a prim thing with a small IQ to match. It was something grand like a tropical toucan. As the poet’s jar engulfed by rugged Tennessee, this nose was more a presence than an object. Her green eyes though were not jungle wild; they took me to places like the Warsaw ghetto. I think today of her as a thing of art.
We met in Paolo’s car on the way to Rio, a local favorite. She sat in front and I right in back. I had already met her nose. I couldn’t help myself and reached up to touch the nape of her neck. When we stopped and got out of the car, she whispered, “I like the hand on the neck.”
What a thing. The only time in my life I have loved someone’s nose. We fucked all the time but she didn’t want anyone to know. I was only 23 but felt freed from the unknown. Had it been another time and place, we might have had a go, but we let things flounder.
Picasso had almost got her right with his cave-dwelling ladies. She had the same angular breasts and a grand Baroque ass. She was cross-eyed, too, and carried that nose with its high-arched bone. She’d had a searching mind, a sly smile, a wicked, charming laugh – almost a cackle.
She used to bang her head against the wall. She could be cold and hyper-critical, snobby and dismissive. She once punched me in the stomach and made me double over.
We lost touch. When I saw her sometime later, she was down fifty pounds. She kept her nose and her sexy laugh but her thighs and marvelous ass were gone. She was sleek and sickly like T.S. Eliot. She was a ghost. She’d once had Eliot’s appetite for things; now she bore his sorrows. She belonged to Modigliani. She was brittle and, I could see a mile away, no longer interested in me. I went to our friend from São Luís, who shrugged: “Some toucan prefer Venezuela.”
Cheer up. There’s nothing wrong
that a little life can’t cure. Look at sunflowers,
think of John Coltrane, not boll weevils.
Remember the Alamo, not the Holocaust.
The American dream continues, evolving,
ever-expanding. The Dutch came and went.
It’s all been left in good hands.
We stand now blindfolded, ready to walk
the plank. The pirates are not simpletons.
They’re brothers and sisters; they’re gung-ho;
they just want justice. Let the purge begin.
We’ll declare ourselves obsolete. Their
leaders read the comics; their rallying cry
is familiar: quack, quack, quack. Nothing is
more hopeful than ducks on a mission.
All in all, it’s a display of
good cheer; like hooved
animals at mid-summer, huddled
under a tree, its trunk wrapped to protect
the bark. If you get too close,
they’ll charge. You can smell their
shit from 75 feet away. The males
have been gelded. The females play with
each other. It’s a display of stricken
harmony. Castrations are scheduled every
afternoon. The butchers await.
They might be goats. They insist they are not
sheep. There are kids running around.
Whatever they are called, they weep black gunk.
Pellets cling to their back sides.
The does’ tits are pink. The bullies await
their fate. It’s late in the summer. Soon
it will be cooler.
(SHE sits among stacks of books piled on the floor beside her.)
Literature: it’s all bound up in blood and guts and semen and cunts and dicks and gods and meaning. Don’t you think so?
That’s so deep, so deep, like Plato and Aristotle and Aristophanes and Sappho. It’s the Greeks: they’re real big, and then the French and the epics, the poets. They’re all gay and if you like literature, that means you’re gay, too, like me and Thelma. It’s too deep for appreciation. This is passion.
I’m Medea. Kill the kids, rip out their guts, this is it, baby. Bash their heads in, fuck their brains out, eat their shit. Why are we the only ones who love literature?
David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. Also, he’s freakin’ awesome.