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David Kirby

David Kirby

David Kirby is the author of numerous books, including The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems, a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. His biography, Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was hailed by the Times Literary Supplement of London as a “hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense." His latest book of poetry is Talking About Movies With Jesus. He is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University.

I Have An Amenity For You

      "Hold on a second," I say to Barbara, because someone's knocking
on the hotel door, and it's a woman with a fruit basket, so I say,
     "Yeah?" and she says, "I have an amenity for you," and I say,
"Thanks!" and Barbara says, "Who's that?" and I say, "It's a woman
     who has an amenity for me," and she says, "Tell her I say you

     can't have it." What is Barbara thinking? Just a month before,
we'd been walking down a street in London and trying not
     to bump into a woman stumbling backwards out of a car hire
agency who's asking someone I can't see if he thinks he's
     "the only cunt who has problems." I assume this is a rhetorical

     question. We've all got problems, lady. The three great religions
ask the same questions--where do we come from,
     what do we do now, where do we go from here—and so do
the great works of art, though often in ways riddled with
     paradox, surprise, counterintuition. Take, for example,

     Cranach's "The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine" and note
how fine the saint's clothes are and how white her bosom,
     overlooking for the moment that a low-cut evening gown
is not exactly what you expect a saint to wear, especially
     on a battlefield, though, of course, she's not a saint yet,

     not having been martyred, though she will be soon and will
turn in her silks and tiara and ermine trim for something
     more appropriate and saintly, like torn cambric or whatever
you see saints in, and note as well what a dandy her killer
     is, how spotless his jerkin and hose and slippers, how

     brilliant and fetchingly asymmetrical the red and yellow
and blue stripes that run down one side of his body
     but not both and up one sleeve as well. Oh, he's ugly
like nobody's business and has a huge schwanz as well,
     if the evidence of his overstuffed codpiece is to be

     believed, and in fact he appears to be pulling out his sword
as slowly and lewdly as a rapist might produce his penis,
     as though to say, "See what I got here, see what you're
gonna get, what do you think?" No, no, your eye's
     definitely on the killer here, as though to remind you

     that, in every martyrdom, the martyrer is at least as
important as the martyree. No murderer, no victim,
     no dead saint for young women everywhere to pray to,
just like no Judas, no crucifixion, no redemption
     for you and me, bud. What is an amenity, though?

     The dictionary says, "something that contributes to
physical or material comfort." Oh, okay. No wonder
     Barb didn't want me to have it! At least not from
someone else. So what do we do now? Well, we solace
     and soothe others and make their lives better than they

     would be were we never to have been born
or at least not worse. We care for them, feed, clothe,
     educate, teach them to walk and swim, paint and write.
We must love one another. We must make one another laugh or die:
     guy on an airplane is sitting next to a nun

     who's working the crossword puzzle and who asks him,
"Hey, do you know a word for 'woman' that ends in 'u-n-t'?"
     And the guy is so flustered that he can't say anything
and then he says, "Oh, sure: 'aunt'!" and the nun scowls
     at her puzzle and says, "Oh, okay. Do you have an eraser?"

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