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The Glamorous Life / Ramses the Great

Michele Madigan Somerville

"Living the dream"

I awoke to a gorgeous gamine straight out of the Renaissance,

a long-necked Maria, beside me in bed, nosing her lustrous osculating

face into mine, her mane a crimped coppery spray

arrayed about pillows, her extremities all

-encompassing, her epidermis impossibly aglow.

She was working me all right, shaking me down for food,

but I didn’t mind. (It won’t be long, Botticelli girl,

‘til you’re old enough to play with fire.

Then you’ll feed yourself in the morning and

make magic using beans and a French

press and thus catalyze our early antemeridian routine!)

For now I, too, am a big baby in the morning. I like lots of milk

in my coffee and the first one best, drunk

in bed. And I like news! And weather! And I like the voice

of an on-air “personality” whose politics I loathe.

I met the handsome oaf once in the flesh. In a bookstore of all places.

He had a light heavyweight countenance.

I’m a sucker for pugs. Sometimes we are not

the sum of our parts. Sometimes the loins

hold the key to the ancient city. He’s the kind of man

you know can kill with a jab, the kind who looks down the front

of your blouse when you’re trying to hold

a conversation, and you fail

to object, even if you are the objecting sort,

even if you are intelligent and saying something

he’s better off knowing because you know

he’s listening, but, then again, what do I know?

I’m a sucker for a man with a voice.

Next enters the Pre-Raphaelite sister—darker, shorter

on propriety. She enters the boudoir

accompanied by Chulito the Splendid

who chases her onto the bed.

What a glamorous life I lead!

Chaque matin, a pair of sprites and boy like a god, a trinity,

scrapping like Huns for the Grand Prix of my attentions as

Zero Dark 30 dissolves into a broad

daylight commands the stage, stretches out—

Rise we must, O fond and adored

spawn, for we know the excitement won’t let up

until the chicken music stops.

I proceed with confidence. I can do it all again. I’ll be the Greek

executioner of short-order alimentation. I’ll preside with élan

over assembly-line ablutions. In my capacity as Diplomat of Hygiene

(with a concentration on fingernails and teeth) I shall command:

“Let me smell your breath!” As Minister of Shodding

assigned to Lost or Strategically Concealed

Footwear, I will issue orders in the tradition of

Established by the hyper-fecund Irish bitches

who came before —my foremothers—

“They didn’t just get up and walk away.”

As Chief Petit Officer in charge of unheeded carping

I shall harp and whinge at the Great Wall of Blah Blah

“Can’t you see we’re not even listening?

As Czar of Swaddling I shall demand: “Where’s your raincoat?”

and lament: “Every time it rains, I’m $20.00 lighter.”

I must serve with a smile and move the troops out.

Today’s surplus of plenty ensures that oatmeal will petrify

and circumnavigating flies will swarm

over warm juice but I can always swat, disinfect and chisel anon.

Operation Civilization commences at 0900 Hours,

at which appointed time my commission requires

that I report for duty at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Having arrived at my post, I will accomplish reconnaissance

with Thucydides whom I shall find in a lineup

alongside Confucius, Aeschylus, Homer, Pindar, Saint

Peter, Moses and Deuteronomy where at street level

a layer of thatched evergreen vinyl tethered to a chain-

link fence obscures the new hemicycle

whose new origin, having been established

beneath an existing dome, accommodates

an oblique axis of approach.

The day is trés lazy Paris; limestone mist lurks

neutral relative to the question of the state of

its matter: liquid? Gas? Potage?

N’importe quoi, it is mighty

clear early precipitation has foreclosed upon the mixing

of cement leaving the construction crew stuck doing what

construction crews appear to spend much of the time doing—

not much. Haloed in a cannabis cloud, they loiter in a cluster

sparking skinnies in the drizzle at the base of a young pear tree.

Their diffusing cloud infuses local fog on ascent

lending an incendiary nose that comprises honeysuckle and piss.

Due to rain there is nothing outside to build but inside

the structure is everything!

Do Union regulations require the hard

hats to remain where they stand on the site? Do they not

know what miracles thrum and manifest just beyond the revolving

doors? Ought I stop to tip them off?

Head on in, fellas, for the ride of your life! The new Degas is

well hung in the ballroom whose walls perpend a floor of glass.

Experts believe it might be an under drawing.

Light pours down upon one of her breasts as

the freshly immaculate baigneuse dries her body with a cloth.

I have it on good authority that heterosexual men

in their testosterone-lousy primes are quite partial

to undraped demoiselles—never more so than when they are toasted.

Let them admire Hiram Powers’s The Greek Slave on 5.

One is quick to imagine on first glance that she is ancient

and white, but she is black for eyes

deceive as history does, whereby lessons are missed

by the heartless and stupid. Her shackled beauty is black.

She is an American slave poured of cream.

Larry Rivers’s July, also on 5, delivers us a softly operatic summer glimpse, a

half-drawn cookout on canvas transpires:

a black bike, a geometric shirt, a verdant yard wherein sun works, somewhere

behind the scene, to throw light upon a table.

Visitors in chairs enjoy shade and its opposite.

The rendering is replete and as incomplete

as leisure itself on a warm afternoon when thoughts of industry

wash out in sunlight.

But there’s work to do and be done and neither

world enough nor time to edify the tool belts from the Local

because today’s enlightenment is to be focused

upon those wriggling pupils in the museum’s foreground

pouring forth fresh from yellow vehicles.

They depart in an orderly fashion and form lines

at the entrance, queuing up alongside the point of entry in the rain.

I am expected to join them among the sarcophagi. It will fall

to me to distribute ebony implements and ensure that each is returned

to the Medaglia d’Oro can once the eight-year-old masters

have completed their works. I expect to be charged

with reminding the uninitiated and forgetful

that touching is prohibited.

I will field inquiries, count heads and herd 30 juveniles

from Ms. Lehman’s class through monumental rooms wherein

together we will behold the Guardian Eye of Horus and

Precinct of Mut as we marvel over

the flexible equilibrium of the Late Egyptian Period

before the Persians and Ptolemies advanced.

The particulars of mummification will not fail

to fascinate, the practice, for instance,

during the reign of Ramses II

whereby the brains of the imperial dead

were drawn out through their nostrils

by means of a hook

in order that organs of the head could be buried in canopic jars

along with other viscera.

The hearts were left intact, within thoracic cavities

because the ancient Egyptians believed

the muscle of the heart to be

the locus not of love

but of intelligence,

which sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Michele Madigan Somerville is the author of WISEGAL and Black Irish. Her third book, Glamourous Life (Rain Mountain) will be released in the fall of 2018.


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