Winter 2012–2013

Legend / Stockholm Syndrome Sonnet

Wayne Koestenbaum

“Legend” is a column by Wayne Koestenbaum in which he suggests one or more possible captions for an image provided by the editors of Cabinet.


Courtesy Oliver Wasow.

These teal-clad twins might be girls: hygienic Florence Hendersons, circa Song of Norway. Or they might be boys, worth a whopping.

Don’t close-read their soul-murdered faces, frozen in a faux-Eggleston shot embodying Faye Dunaway’s late-’70s tropism toward claustrophobia.

• • •

Every survivor of Baron von Gloeden’s Taormina, or Magnus Hirschfeld’s archive, recalls the recondite sound of urine plashing on a concrete floor.

What is the difference between being a twin, being a chiasmus freak, being a compulsive writer of ghazals, and being Delphine Seyrig?

• • •

I’m the guy who always brings up Oedipus: what Earl Grey is to tea, I am to incest.

Lana Turner, in a footnote I’m too narcotized to compose, dictates a Squeezebox approach to buttock intersection.

• • •

Sandra Dee “makes nothing happen,” claimed wiseacre Wystan, a Stepford wife avant la lettre.

After Imitation of Life went boffo, I cozied up to Dee, whose transgendered side posthumously sings.

• • •

Cite only facts that exist outside the frame, like Turandot turning on the gas.

Twins, because they are not exactly twins, exist outside the frame of reasonableness, like a Mary Martin impersonator who considers herself “too evolved” to wear a Karen Carpenter shag.

• • •

Eager little Stockholm-syndrome Jackie Coogans, we beheld a mushroom cloud pluming over Gaza the moment before Marguerite Duras shouted, “Cut!”

Scotch tape, as concept, intersects with Huggies, my favorite brand of baby wipe: both entertain antiquated notions of adherence.

• • •

These observations, hammered into a military shield, betray no anxiety, no gender, no moroseness, no wish to inherit Northrop Frye’s Maimonides-keen mantle.

Neither Leopold nor Loeb, neither Dick Hickock nor Perry Smith, neither Günter Grass nor Greta Garbo, we begged Mother and Father (if only we could summon their shades!) to stop accelerating toward our conception, a crime neither bris nor echolalia could remedy.

Wayne Koestenbaum, a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center, has published fifteen books of poetry, criticism, and fiction, including Humiliation (Picador, 2011), The Anatomy of Harpo Marx (University of California Press, 2012), and Blue Stranger with Mosaic Background (Turtle Point Press, 2012). His next book, My 1980s & Other Essays, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in summer 2013. The first solo exhibition of his paintings took place in fall 2012 at White Columns gallery in New York.