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.