I think continually of men dressed as Catherine the Great,
Betty Boop or Greta Garbo, queens of film and state
who hitched their wagons to a star and switched the sex of Fate.
I think of fervid men in furs, the Humphries and the Dannies,
those lads who walked the walk in highest heels and padded fannies
and promenaded on the stage with debutantes and grannies –
the young, the old, the gayly bold who sashayed with panache
through droll burlesque or discotheques and made a spangled splash
in rainbow-hued ensembles that, while loud, would never clash.
They shaved and plucked, then nipped and tucked, ignoring boring foes
whose morals lagged while knuckles dragged around their unclipped toes.
These Joans – both Crawford and of Arc – and Marilyn Monroes
were kicked for kicks and picked upon, but got back up again;
and whether they were women inside men, or simply men
who liked to paint their nails and put on lipstick now and then,
I think continually of those whose vampy, cutting wit
and campy fame enflamed, then tamed, the bigot and the twit,
who were hammered till they stammered by their glamour and their grit
until a world a size too small became the perfect fit.
This poem by Ed Shacklee, with its reference to Stephen Spender’s ‘I think continually of those who were truly great‘, was published in the current issue of Lighten Up Online.
Ed Shacklee lives on a boat in the Potomac River. His first collection, “The Blind Loon: A Bestiary,” was published by Able Muse Press.
And for those who like odd information and representations of animals, The Blind Loon: A Bestiary Facebook group is worth joining.
Photo: “Men in Drag” by jacki-dee is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.