16 May 2006

Aphra Behn

he--was a ball of wax, this
man, this Willum
shiny, rosen-cheeked, an
Important Person from that
establishment of higher
education in New Jersey
across the river: miles away

sitting, purring Southerner, reading over
soon to be greenbacked comments on
medieval texts--yet in page proof--
marked with hasty hand

eyes like grey beads--his--she
wanted to have them on
a string, that pure, that
grey color, free them
from that rosy wax, that
drawling soft-purr voice

but she turned back, to
process the copyrights of the latest
green tome, arrange for the
royalties to be paid

his striped shirt quivered
when he huffed,
diminutive bumblebee-man
fat tyrant

he took quiet-tiny steps--when he
leaned close she could taste the
sugar on his breath

his briefcase, burnished shiny,
had an animal look to it--
she wanted to scratch it, leave long
nailmarks, bare her talons, her
small talents, her injuring fingers

Yes, (on the telephone) yes, I
have sent you your author's
copies, they're in the mail,
now, good-bye, Mrs.
Greenbaum (your history of
Shakespearean humor was not
as amusing as I'd hoped)
you should
be receiving them soon

her contract--10% on copies
1-1999, 15% on copies 2000 to
infinity, the cover design to be done by
her brother-in-law, the
New Yorker cartoonist

how soon before we are

the praying-mantis wife of the
president stalked the halls--
--would she gobble our heroine--no, she
was too big a mouthful, too
stubborn to be devoured

Mrs. Gordon's wedgewood eyes were on
stalks--carefully dyslexic when it came to
royalty statements--her hair scraped
back effortlessly--yet--how her
clothes hung on her,
those scraps raised to elegance,
her body: thin, bone fine,
white bread slightly browned

and the head woman, the top
editor who kept snakes in her
office, her pale porcine

--and would he go to Choate, or
Milton, as his father had,
was the question she overheard

as she searched for the
Behn file--did it drop
behind the cabinet, careen
into some crevice--
perhaps it was sucked
out the window, and
like hundreds of leaves,
squared flowers, snowflakes,
exploded over Madison Avenue,
shattered white

bone hardened,
no sir, we cannot do
a history of frogs, and
for this, sincerely, the
editorial assistant,
sincerely makes her regrets,
most sincerely

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