"Dick-for-brains," I heard a woman say under her breath, contempt streaking her voice like staphylococcus. It's true the man walking away with shoulders pitched forward was graceless--some of us grow up never learning where to put our hands when talking to a woman,
or whether the jacket ought to be buttoned or unbuttoned & under what circumstances, ergo cit.
I honor his high lyric impulse, finding some language to carry the burden of desire. Item: Say we're standing in the sort of place friends come after work to have a drink. A little soul, not too loud. The world at a comfortable distance. Nobody dragged her in here with her contempt for desire. The pleasures named by dirty words have a sacred place in the world of imagination.
When I was a bartender closing the place, I'd clunk a quarter in the jukebox & punch the buttons for "The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" to mock the crowd of drunks & half-drunks milling
toward the door with six packs underneath their arms & hope draining from their bodies. I'm not so insensible now, having learned
the value of even the lowest kinds of lust.
Men (I speak in defense of my gauche brothers)--some fleeing domestic terrors, some their own dreams; or even memories of mother & father flinging plates at each other across a sunlit kitchen
Saturday mornings before going off to hump noisily in the bedroom--
will say anything for the chance to bury themselves in the mystery of sex.
It can be worth any lie when deep in the night
the bar is closing & all the therapeutic homilies in the world don't add up
to the blue synaptic snap & dazzle of anticipation: a dream in which decency is suspended without consequences, as in Eden. Prelapsarian:
reptiles nestling in warm mud on a riverbank. Item: I am sitting in that bar
with my friend when a young woman walks in in a dress that fits her
the way an auxiliary verb slides back & forth in a balanced sentence--a field of summer flowers, she absorbs & spills delight without stint. I defy you to deny this which is one part
of the world speaking fluently to other parts. I don't care what you say,
the soul music thrumming from the jukebox is superior to any theory
of the self. Contempt for desire is a sin against nature. Consider a fact from ethnography: In India
followers of the god Shiv a are required to spend a part of their lives cross-dressing, acting like morons, singing nonsense, gesticulating lewdly at women-especially this--& farting & trembling while they beg
their food & pray loudly like Christopher Smart in the streets of London
in the eighteenth century & who died in the King's prison for debtors,
still opposing Newton & materialism.
Item: "Dick-for-brains." Men say it of someone who's fucked up something it's assumed we're good at--a poker hand, buying a car, building a shed, punctuating the last sentence of an argument with physical or intellectual violence. It translates dumb fuck, the radical hook
or slice of masculine incompetence. But we admire him, the man who will do anything for love, even fail.
We hate him, for he engenders disgust with ourselves. For he puts everything we've earned to the test. He demands we prove ourselves f against the Devil, who is willing to admit he likes crawling into bed with women & likes thinking about it as much as doing it, though he knows,
because he is the Devil, the ontological difference between doing it & thinking about it. He knows it is here that thinking matters most.
JOSEPH DUEMER'S third collection of poetry, Magical Thinking is the winner of the 2000 OSU/The Journal Award for poetry. He spent 2000-2001 in Vietnam as a Fulbright fellow.