Carol Muske-Dukes

February 24, 2017 Muske-Dukes Carol


(Paris, Hair, 1971)


Once through an ancient stage door, past a sign

“L’audition”, I’m ushered by hip Mercury, cocked


torch lighting his winged brow. My number’s the one

he hands me, though I don’t know how: to act or


if I can belt “Easy to Be Hard”. Which I do.

How can people be so heartless? I ask the


high notes. The day before I’d quoted de

Beauvoir with equal fire as a Metro creep


touched my leg, whining at me off-key. I shouted

my textbook French, which he instantly corrected.


Now an anonymous voice from a darkened row: asking

for more & that evening a callback at my Cité U dorm.


Direct to onstage, piping high notes at a Hell’s

Angel, missing back-of-chorus cues, half-rehearsed.

The first bars of “Aquarius” sound & I climb, hand

over hand, from scaffolding below the side balconies


into scripted light. But the Tribe didn’t take to me.

The only time I took my clothes off at the nude scene,


first act’s end, they hid my tie-dyed jeans. I couldn’t be

naked the way they were. I think everything is real.


Nude all interlude, I search, lost, behind the great

moth-eaten sway of cloth, beneath hanging skies.


In my forever-auditioning blond body, begging in each

failed language: “My clothes?”, “Pourquoi, mes amis?”


Funny joke, but these bright fake tryouts at Life, ongoing,

take a toll. Due to be paid up Mercury’s road. Everything


is real to me, even the big joke war over a woman’s body.

What I shout back, exiting, is how it will all be fought —


in a future when She, Great Moon, rises up, floods the Seventh

House, & Jupiter aligns peacefully at last, with his partner, Mars.

Carol Muske-Dukes is a professor at the University of Southern California and a former Poet Laureate of California. She is an author of 9 books of poems – most recent is Blue Rose, which was a 2019 Pulitzer Prize short-list finalist.