MIKADO, 1960

My mother, who has nothing, loves to see variation
on a theme: a fast song sung as a spongy ballad, white peaches,
black pansies, slack-jawed comedians crooning like mourning doves.
But when Groucho slouches in the geishas cringe: under the pancake
makeup it’s still him, finger of shoe-black under the cheese-wedge nose,
crabbed shuffle for a dance, free hand stabbing the air with no cigar.
They’ve rigged him a big black hairdo, as fits Koko, in silk he hunches,
all the scenes are funny. My mother hoots in disgust, but I don’t mind:
I’m eight, have a cup of coffee, will stay up ‘til midnight. Look at her,
libretto in her lap, hear her carp that he blew it, his one big chance
to impress us, to make it new. It’s not: there are too-long pauses
as jokes sink in, the worn-out wall-eyed stare, even a few dirty glances
at ladies-in-waiting. This night I cherish. This I find heartening:
the dark, the toys on the floor, piles of books and clothes,
her disappointment; her glass of warmish beer.

Cat Doty


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