Madame Tiresias

Madame Tiresias

“Then he started his period.
One week in bed. Two doctors in.
Three painkillers four times a day.”
—Carol Ann Duffy, “from Mrs. Tiresias,”
The World’s Wife

Well, my dears—all I can say
Is that I always—in the back of
My mind—thought my husband
Was rather “gay”—as they say

Not “gay”—the happy frivolous
Old-fashioned—“ca sera sera” way
With that charming—nonchalant
“Come what may”—Flippancy

Even tho—there were hints
Along the way—like his fondness
For my Angora sweaters—and
His love of—Ed Wood Jr. movies

He talked to himself—like a woman
As though something—was constantly
Changing inside him—rearranging
The face—which stared at me

He was always—a self-important twit
Walking his dog—with his stick and
Open-necked shirt—his jacket of
Harris tweed—patched at the sleeves

Far from being—a ham-fisted male
He was actually better—at blow-drying
His hair than me—with his shopping and
Periods opening—new Pontifications

Telling women out there—tidying his hair
That he knew how they—felt even better
Than they—since his asexual transformation
Gave him insights—worthy of gay Jupiter!!!

No wonder I was indignant—like Juno
My husband Tiresias—bragging about having
The best of both worlds—cruising about
The gymnasiums and dark porticoes

While at the same time—enjoying the fruits
Of those ruttish daughters—of the Sun and
Penetrating the—sacred gynaceum where
Not a single prick—of Eros was permitted

Was I not the authentic—Mrs. Tiresias?
While my husband—incorrigibly a male whore
Suddenly gifted—and transfixed with Venusian
Physical beauty—more sexy alluring than me?

My husband seem blinded—by Juno herself
Or was it me plagued—by doubts & migraines
About myself instead of him—the faint stirrings
Of Sapphic desire—and even Lesbian lust?

Of course—my rather vain husband Tiresias
Always was a little bit—like Narcissus
In love with himself—like all males are
The usual tragic trope—of Masculinity

Go down the List—satirically of course
Orpheus, Sisyphus—and Midas being
Obsessed and—self-obsessed with their
Own vanity—proving to be their undoing

But now Madame Tiresias—my husband
Grew insufferable—taking on the ugly pose
Of Little Red Riding Hood’s—frail disguised
Grandmother—but actually a terrible Wolf

An even worse Wolf—than the Fairy Tale one
Re-writing the myth—as only a misogynist
Ted Hughes could do—repulsive Gamekeeper
Posing as—Lady Chatterley’s Nightmare Lover

Hughes was good at it—being poet laureate
It was easy for him—to be Ovid’s Pygmalion
Because he hated—Sylvia Plath so very much
She haunted him—long into Birthday Letters

My husband Tiresias—became Propoetidesian
The object of his own revulsion—denying the
Divinity of Venus—turning into a hardened
Prostitute—embellishing the classic Harpy

His womanly uterus—turning into a spider
His face, voice, gestures—hair into its web
His perfume a floating horror—his glance
Leaving a spider-bite—he couldn’t control it

He became cold—like snow or ivory
I thought he/she—wouldn’t touch me
But he did—thinking girly things and
Kvetching all night—about his kisses

He began to moan—getting hot & wild
Arching, coiling—writhing like a child
And during his climax—oozing like a
Canned peach—slipping into the sheets

But even worse—his tacky portrayal of
The “Big O” himself—Orpheus the vain
Fallible insecure—modern career-poet
Whose perfect mastery—charmed nothing

Naturally as Eurydice—I preferred Hades
That place of “Eternal Repose”—that final
Full stop in Darkness—Dis where words
Finally & completely—came to an End

Tiresias was becoming—rather tiring
The world of language—and transsexuals
Had become less—lyrically desirable
The Dead more talented—wise in silence

Circe the Sorceress—along with Eurydice
Madame Sosostris—and Margaret Thatcher
We all played Bridge—down in Hotel Hades
Reading the beads—of stogy Porky Pigs

“When the heart—of a pig has hardened”
Circe said—her acerbic cookery satire advice
“Then dice it small, my dears”—she should
Know dining on—Odysseus’ porcine crew

No one was more susceptible—to love
Than Circe nude—slipping off her dress
Wading breast-deep in the sea—waving
And calling—swimming on her back

And only Circe—man-eating cook having
Lost her girlish Romanticism—could evoke
That lost & lamented Eroticism—hardening
Of heart—plus sharpening of knives

But worse than menstruation—was Medusa
How my husband—was made hideous by
Athena in a fit of jealous rage—when he
Hustled a Poseidon sailor—and got beat up

Tiresias no longer—brooded over bisexuality
When he got rolled and robbed—becoming
Bitter and full of—ironic ambiguity about sex
And the seduction—of handsome young men

He had to have—cosmetic surgery done
His black & blue bedroom eyes—his fractured
Once-lovely Lord Byron jaw—jutting confidently
Into the dives—and back alleys of male desire

Rough trade and tricking—dangerous sports
He was flagrant—but not getting any younger
Now the sorrowing cliché—of a once lovely diva
“Was I not once—fragrant, young & alluring?”

As usual my poor husband—fell into the trap
Of those beguiled women—prayed upon by
Joseph Cotton—as Uncle Charlie Oakley in
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)—then done in

I realized that—there was something Dionysian
About my former husband—Madame Tiresias
He shared the power of—Circe, Eurydice, Medusa
But he lacked their solid—no nonsense psyche

He was like—Mrs. Midas and Mrs. Sisyphus
Similar to Mrs. Icarus—all the Ovidian women
But he would truly—could never be like them
His only hope was to—become Persephone

I was like Demeter—he my Chester Kallman
Shamelessly willing to be—possessed by Hades
Whether young Greek soldiers—butch Brooklyn
Sailors or rough trade—wanting to be mastered

And like Auden’s tender—Motherly love
Waiting for her daughter—to return from Hell
I waited for my husband—to walk over fields
In bare feet—bringing me a bouquet of roses

My daughter, my girl—my dearest husband
Transformed by the—return of Spring again
Renewed by the remoteness—of Underworld
Attractions—into a New Lover just for me

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