A poem of mine from 2000, containing a latent theory about the Muse. (As
She appears to straight males.)
Even the concept
is painful, embarrasing, and,
to younger patrons, unknown.
What am I
supposed to do? they wonder.
Drink, they decide - being shown
to their seats, beneath too-bright lights
on décor beyond Vegas,
the chanteuse, the ignored
comic. Some older faces
remember arrogance; some shoulders, mink.
When he enters, they get it - but try, first,
to see in each other,
reflected, their bystander face
or office or seminar face
as bland as the moon,
or to signal, conversely, need
heretofore unadmitted to make
the stranger into the brother.
Either way, no luck
but his brassy signature tune
from the smiling and uniformed band.
The thing is, he's fat, which is not
for current local crowds
a familiar archetype -
any more than the wide-brimmed hat
that is angled like his grin,
white silk suit, crimson
handkerchief dabbing his brow,
half-hugs, loud half-words
marking his passage
to his table, or the contrast
to his grey entourage and guards.
Grey, sullen - agreed. Except
for her, in whatever taste-
and sense-assaulting outfit
she's using this evening
to redistribute attention
from the fabulous breasts to the slim
aikidoist's body and uncompromising
stare. To see her walk and sit
is to feel one's life as waste
and wonder if hers is.
She is my muse. She sleeps with him.
His crew makes subliminal bets
about which of the customers
will break first. It's a hard thing
to realize, that this
is privacy, the chamber of decision, and
wannabes, no-goods, moochers, losers,
the kibbitzers of prayer. But the worst
you have to come over here
and kiss his ring.
A businessman gets up, a take-charge guy
who has lost control,
not of his drinking, his market share,
his board, his kids, his wicked backhand, but
the goal. He assumes the position,
a sort of kneeling crouch,
and whispers; receives a gesture.
This weekend a touch
of sun or wife will induce
the contentless epiphany
for which he is now, forever, in the hole.
Then in sequence, a youth, a thinker,
a priest with a kiddie problem or thick
cough, whom the King sends away
frustrated, hence satisfied. For one
of his auxiliary rackets
may pick up the kid, whose horizon then
will be getting clean and sober,
punctual and housed, while the prof
will be tenured and/or bitter
regardless, and the sinner pay,
whether the clerical collar is on or off.
The King says he keeps me around
to keep him honest, or me. My usual response
is "I don't have an addictive
personality." "You crack
me up," he says, and shows it.
I don't mention the girl,
whom he strokes; the gloomy guards -
his Suicide Squad - who must wear
that charcoal livery suggest
there could be consequences.
(Though only political idealists are taken out back.)
At one, a chronic hazard of
these venues breaks in: a mob
refusing the nominal
cover-charge of coherence and wanting
to fight. They say they have something to offer, who
knows what. They blame us
because we don't know, or do, or they don't,
and want us to suffer. They call King Meaning
an elitist. He says he returns their love, and
sneers as poststructuralists and skinheads
machine-gun the house every night.
But by then we're away - the muse and I -
at my place or some deli.
I don't know how she keeps her figure;
she eats like ten sows,
running down her boss, my competitors,
though never flattering me.
So he has no call to be jealous.
Some nights she's in whip and panties
while I lick her little feet.
I might like a different relationship,
but this is what she allows.