For Men Only

by David Kirby

Emily, the deaf-and-blind shih tzu of our dear friend Victoria,

is walking the hardwood floors

of this W. 12th Street apartment at four A.M., her nails tapping out


OF THE WORLD (dit-dit-dot-dot-dit-dit-dit-dit)

FROM: EMILY (dit-dot-dot-dit-dot-dit-dot-dot-dit-dit-dot)


A famous painter's nephew lives across the way, and his sons

have these beer parties

when the folks are away and throw up off the roof,

so on a given summer evening, you might go to sleep to the sound

of the famous painter's grandnephews

throwing up off the roof and you will definitely wake

to Emily's senescent jazz-tap routines,

like those of a doggie Judy Garland in Babes on Broadway

doing an endless series of spastic ball changes and waiting

for her Mickey Rooney to appear

in the form of a schnauzer or airedale, an unlikely event, since--

well, I was going to say that no dog

will love her now, but then there's that whole syndrome

scientists call Davian behavior, the relentless sex drive noticed,

for example, in the Bufo marinus frog,

those three-pounders you see hopping down Miami sidewalks

like little suitcases and the males

of which species have been observed having intercourse

in the middles of busy highways with females

who are not only dead

but have been flattened by the tires of vehicles tearing past

while old Warty has his grim, lusty way

with what was once surely the fair Esmeralda,

an enchanting voluptuary then but now a crusty fly-magnet

on the asphalt, a transformation

overlooked by the amphibian gallant whose behavior was described

in scientific literature, first jocularly,

then permanently, as Davian, so à propos is this term

for boundless lust that takes its name from the limerick

about the hermit named Dave /

who kept a dead whore in his cave / and had to admit / I'm a bit

of a shit / but think of the money, etc.

It gets better--or worse, depending on whether you're looking at it

from the linguistic or the moral viewpoint--for Davian behavior

among birds is called Avian Davian behavior....

Hmmm. To paraphrase what Maréchal Bosquet said about the charge

of the Light Brigade, C'est magnifique,

mais ce n'est pas l'amour. Oh, love, love, what the hell is it anyway?

Victoria loves John, her new husband, but she doesn't love Emily,

this old crazy dog

who wanders the apartment at night like Lady Macbeth,

not incarnadining the multitudinous seas

with Duncan's blood but jaundicing Victoria's carpets and our socks.

Love's got a Paolo-and-Francesca part, a can't-keep-my-hands-off-

my-baby, an if-loving-you-is-wrong-

I-don't-want-to-be-right side, but also a rational aspect,

an emotion-recollected-in-tranquility component,

both of which I recall from the rhythm and blues of my youth

with it's spraddle-legged shouters, yeah, but the calm guys, too,

their voices smooth as cane syrup

as they sing, All you fellows, gather 'round me,

I'm going to give you some good advice!

Sleepless, I am in Chinatown early next morning, gazing at the signs

and realizing I can't tell if I'm about to enter

a Christian Science Reading Room

or a brothel, so I press my face against storefront windows

and finally see people buying pills

and powders across a counter and go in, and the guy scowls at me

and I say I'm tired, I want something for energy,

and he reaches behind himself

and picks up this box and bangs it down on the counter and says,

You take For Men Only,

and I say, What's in it? and he says, You take For Men Only now!

So I start down the street with my bottle of For Men Only

and open it and shake out a capsule

in my hand, and it's long and orange and has green spots

like spinach and it smells the way

the yard does after you mow it, so I take one, and turn into,

I don't know, Garth Brooks....I'm running all over the place,

not feeling amorous so much

as wanting to, say, re-roof the house. I mean, I'm an older guy

who's got it under control,

but pass this stuff out to the male population in general,

and every New York street corner would look like Bat Day

at Yankee Stadium. Farewell to chastity!

If such a thing exists. And farewell to peace of mind, for sure.

The chastest bachelor I know

is my son Will's hermit crab, who lives by himself in a terrarium

and eats nothing but candy, those marshmallow Easter chicks, specifically--

oh, he'll take a little spinach dip,

if there's nothing else, but he'd rather have the candy,

which he eats with a single spindly feeler.

He's as dainty as a maid, this crab, and might even be a maid,

but whatever he is, he brooks no nonsense from the succession

of crab roommates Will has presented him with,

at least one of which must be of the opposite gender, but with all

of whom he has made war, not love.

He'd rather have that candy, and who's to say he's wrong,

for if you can't have everything the way you want, at least

you should be able to have a snack.

Quite frankly, I don't think he's really trying, but then that's his business,

not mine. The people I know

who are lucky at love are pretty good at slinging it themselves,

and this includes both virtuous people and sleazeball lounge-lizard types,

cut-rate Romeos who come on

with the Barry White tapes and that junk about loving somebody

and then setting them free--

I mean, why would you want to be free of someone who loves you to pieces?

I hate to keep paraphrasing the French, but why not, almost everything

sounds better in French,

because it's another language, and though we'll never be able to reproduce

the precise sense of the original,

that's okay, because we're talking about poetry here, not science,

and far from being harmed by lacunae and uncertainties,

poetry is actually helped by them,

so here goes: La beauté sera convulsive ou ne sera pas,

said Andre Breton, and let love too

be convulsive or let it not be at all. Chaps, let us rise above the hermit crabs

and hermits and old blind dogs, for when we invent our truest selves,

the lovers we deserve will appear.

Therefore let us learn another language. Let us set our hair on fire

and charge into battle against a numberless foe.

Let us sail upriver. Les us eat shit, drink blood, choke on pleasure.

I hear America singing; it sounds like Little Richard.

He says, When she winks an eye,

the bread slice turn to toast, and I dream of Jayne Mansfield.

He says, When she smiles, the beefsteak

become well-done, and I dream of Mamie Van Doren, Cyd Charisse.

Across the way, the famous painter's grandnephews

vomit off the roof as Emily dances

through the night, hearing nothing, seeing nothing, though she too

dreams of her lover:

Cerberus, guardian of hell, a dog's dog, three-headed and immortal.

Mozilla, Safari, and Opera have decent support for standards, so they display this website correctly. Internet Explorer doesn't, so it doesn't. All browsers will display the content.