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The Salon of Famous Babies


ISSUE:  Spring 1982
Of course, she knew he loved her, but how he did
nagged at her and pestered, refused to shut up.
No, she wouldn’t mince the words in her mind:
it seemed just ordinary stupid love,
ignorant, or unaware, of itself, of her,
so unobservant, so lacking in detail
it was almost, almost an insult—she
would not have loved a puppy so!

      Well, here
was something that needed doing, and when
she loved now it wasn’t that simple old love,
but serious, teaching love, love that would show him
what loving really was, working, taking pains,
thinking things out.

    It put her in a rage
how little he saw even this, even now!
As well teach ducks to drown as teach him not
to take it all as owed the world’s own son and heir.
Oh, his idea of love was feeling fine
and saying Bless you and Okay to everything,
and nodding Hey in her direction, where maybe
he sensed some pleasant thickening in the glow.
He thought love was checking in to count the house,
and his daydream of glory always the feature,
with maybe in the gawking crowds her face
repeated a thousand tiny times (at least that,
dear god!) in the last row under the rafters.
She saw it in his eyes sometimes—and it cut
to the quick to see him. . . so, so limited,
how in everything he did a little man
inclined lazily in a little bow.

      No, no,
no, loving meant alertness, meant knowing her
bit by bit and (enthusiasm had added
had not prudence disallowed it) through and through!
What saved her patience was pitying him:
that trim, self-sufficient poverty of his,
which never even dreamt what worlds it missed
—a thousand vitalities ablaze each instant
around his head. . .once in a week by thunder struck.
Why, anyone with any wickedness in her might
truss and stuff him, and go her way whistling.
Lucky for him, she was no empty shell like those,
she had feeling still, had kept her soul intact
and always would—if only he were man enough to stand up to her and fight back.

      Nonetheless,
she felt her powers come: she knew—it had to go
without saying—that she was his superior.
Let him elevate that noble brow of his
in the salon of the famous babies, she knew —-just didn’t she—who was the lion’s hairdresser!
Oh, it might have been restful there beside him
—so slow, so unwitting—she’d have napped a bit,
but the injustice kept picking into her heart,
and she muttered How dare he! How dare he!
a thousand times, until she thought it once
—the thought transformed her forever—Why, he dares!
Amazed, she understood something awful,
that he was careless, dull, unattending from
a vast strength he had in secret: he knew
he couldn’t be hurt.

   So, it is a man’s world,
she thought. Grand and mysterious, the summit
of his self-confidence rose from her very feet.
Everything had been a preparation—this
would be her crowning work: to climb to its top
and look around—oh, she would blink at nothing—
and see whatever was out there to see.
She would take the world’s measure and, if it came
to not much, infer the mountain didn’t either.
She was prepared for that, prepared to render
objective and final judgment on it all,
and then say if the climb was worth it or not
(on the whole, she’d guess, not), but would decide later
whether to publish her report.

    In any case
and certainly, she would not be defeated.

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