“At the Artists’ Colony” by James Davis May

James Davis May


Look at yourself, Mr. Hands-in-Pockets,
married, early-thirties, mildly educated,
wearing the evening’s sole blue blazer,
watching the nude’s shadow pirouette
along the custard-colored curtain
and circle that other shadow,
a male’s, who strokes between his legs
the shaft of an exaggerated candle,
making the flame shiver on the wick.
You’re upset because you don’t get it.
Upset because it makes you uncomfortable
to not get it. Maybe that’s the point:
to feel uncomfortable, to feel
as though your little ordered world
is being laughed at. Derided. Or do you still think
that art is insight? That would explain
your version of humility: dispraise yourself
before anyone else can, the dinner host
who bemoans each delicious course
because it doesn’t taste as good
as he imagined. Ideals should be yearned for,
not reached. Isn’t that sports rhetoric,
that it counts to try and fail? Go Truth!
Clearly, the doormen at the last installment,
clad in all-black nylon body suits
and minotaur masks, were laughing
when they ushered you into the mini discotheque,
where under the epileptic light
they tried to dance with you
and, when you refused, your wife.
A small audience in the next room,
also laughing, watched through a webcam.
Derided, from the Middle French derider,
to ridicule, to laugh at unkindly. Your little world.
Don’t you like anything, your wife asks
outside in the courtyard. And you show her
the varnished antique bathtub
packed with soil and verdant with mint
and rosemary. She doesn’t say anything,
but that’s just the gallery’s herb garden.
People, believe it or not, actually live here.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015


James Davis May: “Not much to say about this poem other than that it is largely autobiographical and that my wife is long-suffering.” (web)

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