Winter 2013-2014

Legend / Oldsters Necking

The key is the housedress

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.

Stickler is a word I used in a recent painting.

“Reprobate stickler,” I wrote, enigmatically, in white oil pastel on ultramarine Flashe vinyl paint.

What does stickler mean?

It means I don’t let go of an idea.

Even if it’s not an idea, I don’t let go of it.

I paralyze the idea, before the idea can paralyze me.

I bloom on the idea’s threshold, the place where Keats in “Fall of Hyperion” throws his gay self down—at the gelid feet of a goddess he can’t attain.

Numbed by proximate divinity, I sit on the couch beside blowsy neckers.

Nothing in the woman’s blue housedress invites idealization, but I will idealize its plunge.

Nothing in the man’s dogged arm invites idealization, but I will idealize its grizzle.

No thought yet of Beyoncé—Beyoncé not born, Beyoncé not on the fringe of consciousness.

I was once accused of kissing wetly.

A student said, “You gave me a big fat wet kiss on the mouth,” as if moisture were culpable.

In fact, my kisses are usually dry.

I dislike dog slobber.

Stay away from mouths; their dribble is Richard III’s hunchback as seen by the playwright’s stigmatizing eye.

Grey-slacked Casaubon, dry-brained, I investigate the housedress.

Glam couples neck while I await my work’s demise, the key no one will discover.

The key is the housedress.

Take the housedress seriously as the key to all mythologies.

Thank you doctor for carefully examining my genitals.

Thank you doctor for complimenting my anatomy and showing me the location of liver and heart and lungs and bowels.

I hadn’t known my bowels started so high up in my body.

In fact, my bowels begin miles above my genitals.

I am a person doomed to the blue housedress or doomed to interpret it.

Use “doom” as cudgel against what oppressor?

Not relevant to the housedress to mention Felix Gonzalez-Torres or David Wojnarowicz.

Hairy arm of man kissing woman in housedress is a manifesto for what dismal situation?

No one wants to be the ignored scholar at a make-out party.

I don’t have the energy to describe the time I sat motionless in Lake Isle of Innisfree isolation—entranced yet catatonic—while my male friend “made out” with a woman.

Zeus kisses Leda, while Yeats waits his turn.

Imagine that Yeats has a faggy son.

Yeats sympathizes with his son’s fagginess.

No one else on Parnassus has a faggy son.

Pity Yeats his ridiculous precision, his labor over two lines of poetry, his belief in the afterlife,

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