Poetry Thursday: Talking It Up
This week's Poetry Thursday task was to incorporate dialogue into a poem, to take the poetry of talking and blend it into a poem. Of course, with speech, you also introduce other dramatic and narrative elements into a poem, which is a nice way to stretch what poetry can include.
My poem for this week is a part of sequence that invents a parallel life for Matthew Barney, imagining if he were three inches taller and had a shot at a professional football career in the 1990s (fulfilling a childhood dream), rather than becoming one of the most important visual artists in the United States. So earlier in the sequence, he becomes famous for playing with the then Los Angeles Raiders, and he parlays that fame into a life of celebrity-hood. Of course, he's not a complete sell-out, and he strikes up a romance with Miranda Richardson. Yes, you may ask whose fantasy this really is about.
Obviously, the romance with Miranda Richardson is a complete fiction, but it’s nice to think about. In the early 1990s, she won attention for a number of films, especially her work in The Crying Game, as an IRA terrorist (Ireland does figure into Barney’s Cremaster Cycle), which led to her role of Viv Eliot in Tom and Viv. And so I could see their paths crossing in L.A. at some point.
The poem takes up an image in one of Barney's films, the Cheetah-woman, that reflects his interest in metamophic tropes: it creates beautiful and ugly and memorable and frightening and horrific and poetic imagery in his work. So I decide to let Miranda undergo her own beautiful transformation in this poem--why not?
Also about Matthew Barney, everyone in the New York art world knows that Barney’s companion is the Icelandic rock star Bjork, but everyone really hip in the New York art world doesn’t mention this fact. Leita, by the way, is not Icelandic for cheetah, but for another word word.
And finally, this poem starts with one of those night-time conversations, that falls away to sleep, and then to dream, and then a little beyond.
Miranda Richardson, or the Cheetah-Woman
Miranda? Miranda, are you awake?
Do you know the Icelandic word for Cheetah?
Yeah, what does an Icelander call a cheetah in Icelandic?
No, I’m sure it’s Icelandic. What else could it be?
We say cheetah, and I was wondering what they say.
So, you don’t know then?
Miranda is falling
asleep, on their bed, beside
bowls of figs, black cherries, grapes,
and olives, and it is Lush
Life, Billy Strayhorn, from earlier
in the evening, that accompanies
Miranda’s falling, now through L.A.,
later New York, then London, the usual
homebound arc, through the questions
of “What’ll I do next,” with
Vivien Haigh-Wood’s biography
on the floor. In the morning, she’ll
wake quite restful, unblemished,
but now, in this falling, along
her temple and across her thighs
and calves, appear spots, white
then blackening, and then hair,
curling from her vagina, spreading,
over her buttocks, over her legs.
Over her closed eyes, a hint of almonding,
a down-turn in the mouth, but nothing
so definite, and then a slight softening,
fattening of her flesh, slight, across her
belly and torso and breasts, and then
her nipples become blond, flatten,
almost indistinct. As with any
man’s, Matthew’s penis hardens,
while he watches malefully
with longing. He doesn’t touch
the cheetah-woman, this strange
British anthromorph, especially while
she’s still falling to her sleep,
after a long day already, after
his silly questions that are a wonder
to her, and a trial, too.
Miranda is in London now,
somewhere between adolescence
and childhood, nowhere near
Iceland or Ireland, and she is
circling in her sleep-dance,
purring in her sleep-fall,
leita, leita, leita.