Posted by: cousinbrandon | October 8, 2010

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

Today’s post features a poem by the great Denise Duhamel, who I admire to no end for her honesty and welcoming tone. While I’ve never met her, I was fortunate enough to study under her writing partner, Maureen Seaton, while attending Columbia College in Chicago. (Maureen, incidentally, is not only a great poet, but the epitome of cool.) Maureen and Denise have collaborated on several collections, among them Oyl and Exquisite Politics.

So, why Duhamel today as opposed to one of my own? Well, I just returned from Texas a couple days ago, and after spending all those nights in bed with my lady, this poem came to mind on the flight home. Something about the unconscious, I guess. Something about getting inside her head, wondering if she is thinking about sex with a poet, albeit not a famous one. (Duhamel, by the way, is married to poet Nick Carbo.) And while I truly love the following poem, it’s those final lines that are both hilarious and haunting that bring me back every time. So, with that, Denise Duhamel…

Sex with a Famous Poet

I had sex with a famous poet last night
and when I rolled over and found myself beside him I shuddered
because I was married to someone else,
because I wasn’t supposed to have been drinking,
because I was in fancy hotel room
I didn’t recognize. I would have told you
right off this was a dream, but recently
a friend told me, write about a dream,
lose a reader
and I didn’t want to lose you
right away. I wanted you to hear
that I didn’t even like the poet in the dream, that he has
four kids, the youngest one my age, and I find him
rather unattractive, that I only met him once,
that is, in real life, and that was in a large group
in which I barely spoke up. He disgusted me
with his disparaging remarks about women.
He even used the word “Jap”
which I took as a direct insult to my husband who’s Asian.
When we were first dating, I told him
“You were talking in your sleep last night
and I listened, just to make sure you didn’t
call out anyone else’s name.” My future-husband said
that he couldn’t be held responsible for his subconscious,
which worried me, which made me think his dreams
were full of blond vixens in rabbit-fur bikinis.
but he said no, he dreamt mostly about boulders
and the ocean and volcanoes, dangerous weather
he witnessed but could do nothing to stop.
And I said, “I dream only of you,”
which was romantic and silly and untrue.
But I never thought I’d dream of another man —
my husband and I hadn’t even had a fight,
my head tucked sweetly in his armpit, my arm
around his belly, which lifted up and down
all night, gently like water in a lake.
If I passed that famous poet on the street,
he would walk by, famous in his sunglasses
and blazer with the suede patches at the elbows,
without so much as a glance in my direction.
I know you’re probably curious about who the poet is,
so I should tell you the clues I’ve left aren’t
accurate, that I’ve disguised his identity,
that you shouldn’t guess I bet it’s him…
because you’ll never guess correctly
and even if you do, I won’t tell you that you have.
I wouldn’t want to embarrass a stranger
who is, after all, probably a nice person,
who was probably just having a bad day when I met him,
who is probably growing a little tired of his fame —
which my husband and I perceive as enormous,
but how much fame can an American poet
really have, let’s say, compared to a rock star
or film director of equal talent? Not that much,
and the famous poet knows it, knows that he’s not
truly given his due. Knows that many
of these young poets tugging on his sleeve
are only pretending to have read all his books.
But he smiles anyway, tries to be helpful.
I mean, this poet has to have some redeeming qualities, right?
For instance, he writes a mean iambic.
Otherwise, what was I doing in his arms.

BD

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing CB. That’s a great read.

    If I had to guess who she was talking about….Dave Coulier?

    • Yep, Coulier was my first guess, too. Ironic, no?


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