Thursday, May 21, 2020

"Enter Araminta"

It was Monday, “open mike” night at Bob’s Bowery Bar, and as usual Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith acted as compère. Bob paid him in free basement-brewed bocks for the night, and, come to think of it, this was the closest Gerry had ever come in his life to holding an actual job, unless you counted the book of “philosophical observations” he had been working on for well over two decades (his latest title: Word Is Just a Four-Letter Word}.

“Thank you, ‘Hobo Brucie’,” Gerry spoke into the mike, “for that really stirring rendition of –” Gerry glanced at the sheet of paper in his hand, “’A Flatcar Is My Only Home’, that was really, uh, strangely moving…”

A smattering of applause from the usual Monday night mob.

“Next up we have a newcomer to our little stage, a Miss (I hope I’m pronouncing this correctly) Araminta Sauvage!”

A small young woman dressed entirely in black hopped down from a stool at the bar and walked over to the microphone, neither slowly nor quickly.

“Hi, there,” said Gerry. “Did I pronounce your name correctly?”

“I’ve heard worse,” she said.

“Here, let me just adjust the microphone for you, dear.”

Gerry was not very handy generally speaking, but after a few years of these shindigs he had gotten fairly proficient at adjusting the microphone stand, and so after only a minute or two he finally got the microphone down to the level of the young lady’s lips, which were a very dark red, offset by her paper pale skin, dark eye makeup and dark hair and a jauntily cocked black beret.

“Would you be requiring musical accompaniment?” asked Gerry, gesturing to Tony Winston, who sat at the upright piano with a cigarette in his mouth and a bock in his hand (he too was paid in bocks, for performing the duties of ‘musical director’). “If there’s a song Tony doesn’t know, he’ll fake it, right, Tony?”

“You got it, brother,” said Tony. He played with his combo (the Winstonians) at the Prince Hal Room over at the Hotel St Crispian six nights a week, and this is what he did on his seventh night. Hey, it was free beer, right?

The young woman turned to Tony.

“Can you play something dark?”

“Can I?” said Tony. “How’s this?”

With his left hand he knocked out a ripple of deep dark notes.

“How’s that?” he asked.

“Good,” said the young woman.

“Okay,” said Gerry, leaning down into the microphone, “let’s give it up, ladies and gentlemen, for Miss Araminta Sauvage!”

Another ripple of applause, a few drunken hoots, Gerry made one more slight adjustment to the mike and stepped aside with a bow.

Tony knocked out a few dark chords and another ripple of coal dark notes summoning mental visions of deserted wet city streets at night, and the young woman spoke into the microphone.
Because my soul is black
I am always on the attack.
Because my flesh is weak
my soul is hard as teak.
Because my life is unreal
my mind is made of steel.
Because my womb is a tomb
I give birth to death.
Can you dig it, daddy-o?
Let me kiss you to death.
Let me ride that big bronco
in that last big rodeo
at midnight when the bleachers
are all as empty as my heart
when all the thrice damned preachers
cry to gods who laugh at them,
yea, even Krishna and fat Buddha
and even my man the Nazz
gives them the razzmatazz.
And looky here, 
I know this don’t all rhyme,
but book it, man,
‘cause I ain’t got time
for none of that jazz!
Hey, daddy-o,
don’t cramp my free style!
Hey, mama dear,
crack a smile
for your gone, gone daughter
who won’t do what she oughta
even though she knows
someday she’ll be a weird old lady
feeding pigeons in the park,
at this moment now
in this bar so smoky and dark
reeking of piss and cheap beer
she sings this song of freedom,
even though
no one hears
and no one cares,
but she doesn’t care
no, she just don’t care,
because she dares to dare,
and that is why –
And now, whereas before she had been speaking, albeit in a sort of recitativo, she now began to sing, her words oddly matching the dark chords Tony was striking..
I sing this merry air,
because I dare to dare,
I sing,
I sing this dark air,
I just don’t care.
She stepped back from the microphone, her face expressionless, Tony struck one last discordant but purely fitting chord, for a space of half a minute there was only silence in the bar, not even a single tubercular cough, and then in a great sudden wave came a deluge of applause and cheers and shouts of bravissima. 

“Wow,” said Scaramanga, the leftist poet, “we gotta invite that girl to our table!”

“A dame at our table?” said Howard Paul Studebaker, the western poet.

“Why not a dame?” said Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, the Negro poet. “You got something against dames, Howard?”

“We ain’t never had a dame at our table, that’s all I meant,” said Howard.

“That don’t mean we can’t never have a dame at our table,” said Frank X Fagan, the nature poet.

“Especially a good lookin’ little filly like that one,” said Seamas McSeamas, the Irish poet.

“By gum, why not?” said Howard, who even though he was from Hackensack slipped into a western accent when he was deep in his cups. “Let’s invite her over, dag nab it!”

“Maybe she won’t want to come over,” said Hector Phillips Stone, the doomed romantic poet. “Didn’t you guys hear what she was saying? She hates people. And with good reason, too, I might add.”


The poets all turned in the direction of the person who had spoken.

It was the lady poet, Araminta Sauvage, smoking a cigarette in a black holder.

“Hey,” all six of the poets said, almost in unison.

“You fellas mind if I sit with you?” said the dark young woman.

Suddenly all of the poets stood up, each of them offering her a seat.

And so, for the first time ever, a woman joined the poets’ table at Bob’s Bowery Bar, and none of their lives was ever the same again, not the poets’, not the lady poet’s, not anyone’s. 

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by my esteemed colleague rhoda penmarq.}

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