“It’s complicated” posted this time last year proposed a point-blank assessment of The Relationship Drama, especially as recounted by heterosexual women (as this encompasses most of my experience). It’s the “He loves me, he loves me not, why doesn’t he love me?” tune. The poet/narrator declares, none of this is complicated. Either it moves forward, or it doesn’t.
I noted in the accompanying write-up to the post:
“My younger sister prophesied that one day I – à la Carrie Bradshaw – would be sitting at my laptop in my apartment typing up many a misadventure. This evening almost fulfills her premonition, bar the fact that I type this in my little rented room.”
Not this time ’round. My current note-taker in the field is crazier, quirkier, more abrasive. She is yet to be named and she is yet to make her observations public, but watch this space.
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Read all twenty-five poems gathered by Emily “for edification and amusement” in Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
The standard interpretation of this chapter is that the pursuit of wanton desires results in people’s downfall. The femme fatale is an adulterous woman, whose “house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7: 27) The seductive woman is the danger; the wayled is the compliant man.
I watched the minister grow more red-faced as he brought his emphasis – a rail against internet porn – to a crescendo, and at that moment for some reason I saw a tiny bird hopping on desert sands. Alone, naive and in want of comfort was the little bird. A pretty lady, alluring and soft-voiced, takes the little bird into her heart. But this is the downfall, and for their transgressions they are punished. She is stoned to death by the tribe and Little Knowing is hanged.
The radio station holds
a ‘phone-in about How to
Seduce Every Sign of the Zodiac.
Every star-sign, says the guest expert,
has a romance silhouette.
Taurus to Scorpio sound good.
Pass on the Virgos
Anything to do with signs and symbolism pulls at my imagination. Just today I was thinking about the symbolic resonances of my first, middle and sur- names. The fascination is with how humans try to make sense of the world through words, images and parallel realms of meaning.
I seldom read astrological predictions, but identify in myself qualities that could be listed as quintessentially Cancerian: homemaker, moon-ruled, tidal (i.e. excusably moody), quite happy to hide away in my shell or under a metaphorical rock, a little sensitive and, as required, more than ready to whip my crabby pincers into action. Zodiac signs, especially in romantic pairings, may be hooey. Yet, it might be worth knowing that in love Virgos are regarded as pernickety, over analytical with a leaning towards rescuing, while Cancerians are supposedly sensitive, moody and armoured by their shells. Taureans and Scorpios must also have their faults, but for the sake of a poem, we shall let them pass.
Books: Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys Shining in Brightness
Actually it’s very simple.
Either it’s in motion
or it is not.
This bears the signs
That bears the signs
Words to-ing and fro-ing
the mask of nonsense.
A liberating revelation in my younger youth was the concept of He’s Just Not That Into You (HJNTIY). The rule-of-thumb is if someone in whom you are interested is not pursuing you, they’re really not that interested in return. In the book (and movie) and common understanding, the pursuit is framed as man pursues woman. I have found it a useful concept for relationships of all sorts, including job offers and even dealing with estate or travel agents. Brutal, un-nuanced and woefully marginalising of women’s agency, HJNTIY is however a great counter approach for those with too much headspace for pining, mooning and generally idealised, but unrequited, romanticism. This imaginative energy can then be better applied to creativity – playing halting Romantic Lieder on the piano, dancing Argentine tango and writing bad poetry.
It has been ten years since the book proposing HJNTIY (and its Sex in the City dialogue cameo) entered popular discourse. This probably dates me. I still consider myself more a younger sister who looked up to the SITC quartet than a peer of the Girls generation. (In fact, my younger sister prophesied that one day I – à la Carrie Bradshaw – would be sitting at my laptop in my apartment typing up many a misadventure. This evening almost fulfills her premonition, bar the fact that I type this in my little rented room.)
Many of my lovely, often truly heartbroken friends as well as my aforementioned sister have been subjected to my less than sympathetic dismissals. It’s not complicated. Either it’s happening or it’s not. Next topic. On the other hand, I have had many a patient friend listen to my timed and dated litanies – there was this, then that, then this other thing. And, he left his cigarettes behind!
“As a smoker, I can say that truly means nothing. I’m always forgetting my cigarettes and lighters in places.”
Little Knowing, a lonely desert bird,
was small and light of wing.
Along the road he saw a woman.
She smelled of cinnamon.
“My bed,” she said, “smells of more –
of myrrh and desert aloes.
It is richly covered, soft – and ours –
in colourful Egyptian linen.”
Little knowing saw the tent
to which he now was bidden:
a desert plain in bloom and blush,
a-sighing after winter’s hold,
in lighter joy ‘fore summer’s ambush.
The lady then held out her hand.
“Little Knowing,” she whispered, “come – ”
He hopped into her painted palm.
Her veils fanned him with her scent.
Her eyes cupped his restless wings
and said, “Little Knowing, be not afraid.
Tonight we drink deep of love.”
Next morning Little Knowing shared
his bursting heart with all.
“My love,” he sang in sweetest tune,
“has brought me joy. Let all rejoice!”
This called the people to the tent
and there, the woman now found out
was dragged to meet deservéd death
and Little Knowing – stupid, foolish bird
to be seduced by scent and desert blooms,
those kindly eyes and gentle words –
was placed correctly in the noose.
Little Knowing – stupid, foolish bird –
darted into that snare
and such it did cost him life.
The moral of this tale is thus,
young man and maid forget it not:
your lusts will take you far from god
and with them reap all death, damnation, loss.
I don’t want to write too much about this poem at this stage. I sincerely hope that it does not offend, but I do hope it stirs some mulling. You may find a reading of Proverbs 7 will add a layer to engaging with today’s piece. In tone the above is actually similar to this poem about success, which I wrote in August.