American Muse: Mary Jo Bang


“ABC Plus E: Cosmic Aloneness Is the Bride of Existence”

A pack of  young flirts was patrolling the party,
They were cultural outsiders, consumed with    …    what?
Their own notion of  beauty as reflected in the shine-more mirror
Of  a man’s pants? Or nothing
But midnight and no one is counting.

They were practitioners, they admitted to the barman,
Of  psychological materialism, explaining they had read both
Sartre and Beauvoir and believed in the cerebellum,
The thalamus and the lower brain and that between
The lower and the upper parts there must be room for them,
Nant [ nothingness ] aside.

Indeed, the evening was a spectacular bacchanalia,
The girls lugging their blind-drunk partners around the floor.
One sitting it out with a volume of  The Collected Camus.
That one was “imperious” (the word is Beauvoir’s)
“The club was plunged into almost total darkness,
With violinists wandering about
‘Playing soulful Russian music’ into the guests’ ears.”
“‘If only it were possible to tell the truth,’
Exclaimed Camus at one point.”

There was vodka and champagne, both in quantities
Extremely beautiful and nice for getting tight. And dancing
Cheek to cheek, between the exchange of  furtive kisses
And giggles every time one of  the chaps said, “Don’t
Leave me, I love you, I’ll always love you.”
Which they took as irrefutable evidence
Of a general greed for human warmth,
I.e., for touch, even among the agonized
Post-adolescent dreamers who morphed on the dance floor
That night into naughty boys, echoing the girls’ questions
Of   “how shall we live,” “what shall we do,”
Words without end, without weight.

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