Thursday, July 31, 2008

Henry Clay's Mouth

Here’s a poem that is just good for no real reason. It makes me happy when I can get all the way through it without having to reread a couple lines… you’ll see why.

Thomas Lux

Senator, statesman, speaker of the House,
exceptional dancer, slim,
graceful, ugly. Proclaimed, before most, slavery
an evil, broker
of elections (burned Jackson
for Adams), took a pistol ball in the thigh
in a duel, delayed, by forty years,
with his compromises, the Civil War,
gambler ("I have always
paid peculiar homage to the fickle goddess"),
boozehound, ladies' man -- which leads us
to his mouth, which was huge,
a long slash across his face,
with which he ate and prodigiously drank,
with which he modulated his melodic voice,
with which he liked to kiss and kiss and kiss.
He said: "Kissing is like the presidency,
it is not to be sought and not to be declined."
A rival, one who wanted to kiss
whom he was kissing, said: "The ample
dimensions of his kissing apparatus
enabled him to rest one side of it
while the other was on active duty."
It was written, if women had the vote,
he would have been President,
kissing everyone in sight,
dancing on tables ("a grand Terpsichorean
performance ..."), kissing everyone,
sometimes two at once, kissing everyone,
the almost-President
of our people.

There are so many brief clauses here that make sense when spoken or heard aloud, but it’s very difficult to read this cold. The second sentence alone is made up of TWENTY clauses! That’s insane! But somehow, Lux makes it work. Lux always makes it work.

Besides the clauses, this poem contains that trademarked Lux humor (out of nothing). “The ample/ dimensions of his kissing apparatus/ enabled him to rest one side of it/ while the other was on active duty.” Ha! “If women had the vote,/ he would have been President….” Seriously, when I finally untangled this poem and made sense of it, I laughed out loud.

I can say beyond any shadow of doubt that I never in my life expected to either read or laugh at a poem about Henry Clay. Lux is the man!


Lauren said...

Psssst - you have another subscriber! :)

Joe said...

I'm up to two! This is a lot of pressure now... I'll have to be on top of my game...

How sad that stupid Google reader won't even let me subscribe to my own blog!!!