Kurt Brown founded of the Aspen Writers' Conference, and Writers' Conferences & Centers (a national association of directors).His poems have appeared in many literary periodicals, and he is the editor of several anthologies including Blues for Bill, for the late William Matthews, from University of Akron Press and his newest (with Harold Schechter), Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems from Alfred A. Knopf, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series. He is the author of six chapbooks and five full-length collections of poetry, including Return of the Prodigals, More Things in Heaven and Earth, Fables from the Ark, and two new collections, Future Ship and No Other Paradise, due out in 2007 and 2008 respectively from Red Hen Press. A collection of the poems of Flemish poet Herman de Coninck entitled The Plural of Happiness, which he and his wife translated, was released in the Field Translation Series in 2006.
Two Blonds With Hammers
A friend sends a joke to me via the internet, bearing the subject-line above.
I admire the way he titles his joke, though the joke itself isn’t that funny.
I can imagine anything I want: the erotics of tools and carpentry; muscled
arms and thighs slick with labor; soft flesh contrasted with hard steel;
anomalous women doing men’s work. I love how the set-up is better than
the delivery, how “Two Blonds with Hammers” already has me smiling,
though I might be a male chauvinist, someone who thinks women belong
in kitchens and not perched precariously on ladders against the high walls
of a house. But what if the joke had begun with the words: “Two fullbacks
with knitting needles.” Wouldn’t I smile just as much, and wouldn’t it be
just as funny, just as pleasure-giving as these two blonds, hammering away
in my imagination now, their lithe bodies stretching outward to place nails
in clapboard siding, their bright hair shining in the sun? And is it wrong
to think of their supple necks, their tawny backs sewn with freckles like
nailheads glittering across the side of a building? Is my love for them
merely a way of turning them into objects, or is it a way of honoring
them, letting them breathe deeply in their rough overhauls, picturing them
stopping, now and then, to oversee what they have done? One of them
takes a swig of cold water from a bottle dangling from her belt, and I feel
the water trickle past her lips, down her chin, into the valley of the shadow
of pleasure between her breasts, where it warms up and mingles with her
sweat, and I begin to feel thirsty too. What if they had been square-shouldered,
stocky, with pale oval faces and damp stringy hair of no particular color—
would that be funny as well, and would it be right to smile at them in the same
way, or would that be cruel and inappropriate, laughter without even an edge
of irony or the unexpected to redeem it, even a little? But all this thinking is
ruining the joke, robbing life of some of its vitality and surprise, making
grim work of the imagination which wants, after all, nothing but pleasure
and cares little for the intellect, for social theory or morality in any guise.
Two blonds with hammers is a pleasure to contemplate. Isn’t that enough?
Now one of them takes a deep breath and wipes the sweat from her brow.
She looks even lovelier when she’s tired. She doesn’t even know I’m here.