Spring 2013

Legend / Bouvier Carnage

Transfixing the porch-girl gaze

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.

The corpse on the lawn interrupts our garden party. We porch girls confess disgruntlement: peevishness, a Doppler effect…

Wittgensteinian thought-experiment: What spectacle transfixes the porch-girl gaze? What catastrophe makes us knit our brows in a consternation that bespeaks an era before the atom bomb?

After the birth of nuclear warfare, we expressed consternation more directly, without Bouvier mediation. The name Bouvier, a private symbol, means not yet married to the future president. Don’t accuse me of malfeasance or libel.

Dreamed I saw a new Sacha Baron Cohen movie about a Christian zealot; afterward I gave a lecture about Sacha’s mother, who was, I argued, a “magician.”

After orgasm we fallaciously believe that our groins have furthered the universe’s destruction: agèd swingers, Tiny Tim…

S’agir de, my favorite idiom, sounds like “agitation,” though its meaning is benign.

Dreamed I did drawings—on chalkboard?—of fallopian tubes, obsessively, to express (I used these very words) my “phantasmal body,” and to assist some internal psychosurgery I was undergoing, a shamanistic metamorphosis.

The corpse on the lawn might be a delirious dog, a rabies victim, or a friend (a Hart Crane look-alike) who jumped from our Narragansett porch and shattered his skull.

He killed himself because of self-pity and a wish for pneumonia.

Pneumonia never arrived; yearning for inflamed alveoli, he chose self-slaughter instead as the Isolde envelope in which to dwell.

That day we read no more.

That day I auditioned for The Bad Seed.

That day I bombed the studio where they were remaking The Sound of Music.

In a dream, someone told me, “It’s obvious that you’re spiritually evolved—I can tell from your frown.”

Is peevishness my avenue to trance?

We come from a family of children with hearts torn out and consumed at banquet.

Of the four available genders I choose the middle two.

Vince gave me the idea for a poem called “Kirk Douglas’s Ass.” I asked Vince to provide the first line. He offered: “It was wet.” I like his line, but I must write my own poem, however flawed.

O Rapunzel, O Sally Field, O Mélisande, the motor behind this sentence is neo-surrealist frottage, my bathing cap a Francesca da Rimini hand-me-down.

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 August 2013. The first solo exhibition of his paintings took place in fall 2012 at White Columns in New York.

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