Goat Poet

December 8, 2009 § 1 Comment

My sister and my friend Sanna threw a couple of parties this weekend for me to sell my jewelry. It worked out well, if not as well as I’d hoped. There was snow one day, miscommunication the next. What kind of freaked me out, though, was that at both parties people were talking about books—writing them, reading them—and it took me ages to remember that, yes, I’m a writer too.

I’ve been forgetting a lot in my middle age, but this is a little much. It’s like forgetting I’m female. I’ve been lucky enough not to have to work hard at other jobs for most of my life, and now that I do have to, I can’t see how people manage to keep their literary imp alive. Mine’s at the back of the closet, under the laundry that gets left out of the sorting every month, behind the high-heeled mud-purple boots I’ve never worn, the box of old tax records and the rickety pile of unidentified devices.

At least I think it’s there. The cat might have eaten it.

Lately I’ve received two serious compliments on my poems (by professionals, I mean, not just my dear ones), and each time I’m thrilled but confused; I have wax in my ears; I’m in a dream from which I should wake up decades younger. I won’t even get into my fantasies about what my agent is doing with my two novel manuscripts.

Let’s stick to the good news. Money was made and compliments received, on both poems and jewelry. The inches of hair Delilah cut off in Davis’s kitchen is still brown. I got to see new-fallen snow in the country, ate well, was mooned by an 18 year old boy, and treated to rapturous love by the cats on my return. And if you read Chinese astrology sites at 2 a.m. (I can’t speak for other times of day), you’ll find that my animal, the Wood Goat, is supposed to have a stellar 2010. So there.

THE JEWELS

The beloved was naked, and knowing my heart,
had retained only her vibrant jewels,
whose pageantry gave to her a rich and conquering air
such as belonged, on langorous days, to Moorish concubines.

This world radiant of metal and rock
ravishes me, and when its bright
and mocking noise leaps in dance, I madly love
those things in which sound is mixed with light.

She lay thus, abandoned to love,
and from the height of the couch, smiled
carelessly at my ardor that rose, deep and fragrant as the sea,
mounting toward her as toward a pale cliff.

Eyeing me like a tamed tiger,
she posed with a vague and dreamy air,
and candor, being joined to shamelessness,
gave fresh charm to all her metamorphoses.

Polished with oil, undulant like a swan,
arm and leg, thigh and loins
passed before my serene and clairvoyant eyes;
while her belly and breasts, fruits of my vine,

Hovered, more seductive than Fallen Angels,
to trouble the repose in which my soul lay,
and to lure it from the crystal rock where,
calm and solitary, it had been enthroned.

I thought I saw the hips of Antiope
joined by a new design to a boyish torso,
so that her figure thrust forth its pelvis–
how superb the rouge on this brown and tawny complexion!

–The lamp had resigned itself to dying.
The hearth alone illuminated the room,
and each time it heaved forth a flaming sigh,
flooded her amber skin with blood.

–Charles Baudelaire,
translated by Robert Anbian

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§ One Response to Goat Poet

  • Philip Roth, on girls and jewels:

    My father always had two girls just our of high school in their late teens or early twenties helping him behind the counter in the store. Nice sweet Elizabeth girls, well mannered clean cut girls, always Christian, mainly Irish Catholic whose fathers and uncles and brothers worked for Singer Sewing Machine or for the biscuit company or down at the port.

    He figured nice Christian girls would make the customers feel more at home. If asked to, the girls would try on the jewelry for the customers. Marvel it for them and if we were lucky the women would wind up buying. As our father told us, when a pretty young woman wears a piece of jewelry other woman think that when they wear the piece of jewelry they’ll look like that too.

    The guys off the docks at the port who came in looking for engagement rings and wedding rings for their girlfriends would sometimes have the temerity to take the salesgirl’s hand in order to examine the stone up close.

    – ‘Everyman’ (Everyman’s Jewelry Store – Elizabeth, New Jersey)

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