Category Archives: Poetry

The Temptation of the Continental Poodle

                   (after a drawing by General Idea)

Wayne Koestenbaum

no dog has ever been friendly to me

or I don’t know how to decode dog kindness

dog invasiveness might be amicable

the dog notices me by seeming to do violence to me

I misinterpret the signal of the dog’s regard

curlicues of animal hair reiterate human hair

the man dreams of the poodle

I keep calling him a man but he is a god

or a devil

a troublemaker in elementary school

an artist in labor

will you make inroads on the poodle’s sanctity

or will you leave the poodle to its inviolate serenity

like an ice-cream concoction served at Serendipity

an advertisement for poetic license

the saint’s infernal horns almost touch the poodle’s buttock-curlicues

does my nervous system’s unrest duplicate the drawing

the famous man said I was full of shit

I shook his hand in response to the insult

his face, tiny as an ultimatum, had become even more miniature

facial miniaturization underwrote his vocation as filmmaker

the air froze around his miniaturization

return to the drawing

be tempted by the drawn man’s

reposeful elbow like Déjeneur sur l’herbe but with a dog companion

is bestiality illegal in the U.S.

the star mentioned that my review of her performance had not been favorable

her silver turban a Cinecittá emblem

her son a Bertolucci Luna apparition

aureole of boy curls an affront and a miniaturization

seek a shame effect because it will sell or redeem

perdition avoided if you claim shame

love to have my pole drawn he said

wish I’d gotten a tantric massage I said at the art fair

Manet made a fortune from public urinal art

I took the poodle literally as a symbol of conflagration

or a thought bubble manifested by the reclining savior

the poodle a materialization of the recumbent figure’s cogitations

the satyr, like Henry James’s Fleda Vetch, had designs

or is Fleda notable for her absence of cunning

must eroticism contain cunning

fuck my face he said with the impromptu air of a court musician

more mild-mannered than I’d expected

not a dom daddy

just a Pez container sans alibi

that’s a polite way of saying I’m smitten I replied with no reference to my toupee intended

the poodle’s curlicues are discourse

they authorize any fantasy

stylized repetition frees them from the responsibility of being original

you can repeat your smittenness like a pole dance in the trauma unit

can I get extra-credit in the trauma class by stylizing my smittenness

tinting it pink and green to match the Formica countertop of the diner

where you drew the poodle and the saint on a napkin

and then turned the napkin over and wrote an elegy for grandfathered eroticism

you retroactively give license to earlier lubricities

and you don’t penalize them for being born after the date when liberation was announced

I like the drawing because it tells me how to think about my life

it tells me to subtract dog and satyr from the picture

and thereby create negative-space pudding

eat negative-space pudding on the subway

he said I saw you on Fire Island

I replied I haven’t been to Fire Island in twenty years

he insisted he’d seen me on Fire Island

thus insistence is the miniaturization of the curlicue according to

either Kant or Arendt or Misha Dichter

or Telemachus or Alpo

or Tanaquil Le Clercq or Mickey Hargitay or Lassie or Fatty Arbuckle

or Jean Harlow or Frances Farmer or Barbara Loden

or Jean Dubuffet or Eartha Kitt or Tommy Tune or Transylvania Airlines

the gargantuan power of an engine determines the flow of capital

who is the engine

is the poodle the engine is the satyr the engine

is pink the agenda or is green

I once decreed that agential was not a word but now I am being agential

is the satyr agential is the poodle agential is the curlicue agential

is the general idea of the poodle agential

is the general idea of the satyr agential minus one like music minus one

or minus capitalism or minus Silvia Federici’s book Patriarchy of the Wage

are the poodle’s curlicues patriarchy of the wage

or are curlicues the undoing of wage patriarchy

anti-work curlicues

A4 paper is the usual size of the daydream

the satyr’s elbow hits the page’s right-hand wall

the time I couldn’t remember the Contes d’Hoffmann melody in the night

mentioned already and why is repetition a crime against decorum

I keep violating logic

I keep drawing from the deep well of malfacture

mal facture

like fleurs du mal facture

a climacteric rictus

when you have an orgasm your face freezes

an unemployable grimace

is orgasmic rictus an exit from patriarchy of the wage

can we stop emphasizing tops and bottoms

I forgot to ask what the temptation is

poodle tempts satyr

or satyr tempts poodle

poodle wants cross-species sex

flaccid satyr is indifferent to poodle

so horny poodle dreams up satyr for entertainment while walking

poodle defecates on satyr’s head perchance

a possibility within the satyr’s pleasure toolkit

Spank Me Red was his handle

do kink aliases erupt from evading plot

doodles represent distraction

if your pelt is a distraction

a strategy of embroidery that stains the living and prevents forward motion

poodle strolls on no seen surface

satyr rests on no seen ledge or field

no visible means of support for satyr or poodle

floating-world poodle and floating-world satyr

our status as floaters (hovering above wage patriarchy)

creates vertigo and acrophobia

am I entitled to write a porno based on this drawing

is the drawing already a porno

is a porno a philosophical direction to pursue

is drawing a philosophical practice

what prompts me to call an art activity a philosophical practice

maybe it was an accident, this drawing

but it became your friend

and accompanied you on your travels

to Astoria and Fishkill and Cairo

they pronounce Cairo “Kay Roe”

because they want to distinguish themselves from Egypt

a desire of which I don’t approve

I could find you by accident at the baths

would that be embarrassing or would that be a philosophical practice


Wayne Koestenbaum—poet, critic, fiction-writer, artist, performer—has published twenty-two books, including Ultramarine, The Cheerful Scapegoat, Figure It Out, Camp Marmalade, My 1980s & Other Essays, The Anatomy of Harpo Marx, Humiliation, Hotel Theory, Circus, Andy Warhol, Jackie Under My Skin, and The Queen’s Throat (nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award).  He is a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and comparative literature at the CUNY Graduate Center.  “The Temptation of the Continental Poodle” was originally written for at an event at The Drawing Center, at the invitation of Claire Gilman and Alex Kitnick.

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