David Kirby

Pink is the Navy Blue of India
March 13, 2012 Kirby David

Pink is the Navy Blue of India


Flea market guy tells me the pornos are five dollars

each or three for ten and then leans in conspiratorially

to say “get you a bunch,” which is sound advice from

his perspective, I’m so sure, though I could watch them

all and still not know more than I do now. Friend tells me

he likes this woman we see in a bar, and when I point out

that she’s wearing a ring, he says when women wear rings,


it just means they “do it”—of course, we’d have to ask

their handsome husbands about that, wouldn’t we! Also,

was sex better in olden days? In the movies, people from

roughly the Dark Ages through Victorian times are always

wearing clothes when they do it, and the guys seem

to be having all the fun, if by “fun” you mean a fumbling

upskirts ram job that looks more like mixed martial arts


than making love, which, I realize, can take different

forms, depending on the preferences, time available,

and chemical states of the doer as well as the doee or,

in the most desirable version, the two co-doers,

who would thereby be co-doees as well. Still, repression’s

got a lot going for it: from the repressed mind

comes beautiful stories, whereas from the liberated mind comes


web sites that show women having sex with vegetables.

Want an example of a beautiful story? Take Tristan

and Isolde: Isolde of Ireland is betrothed to King

Mark of Cornwall, who sends his nephew, Tristan,

to Ireland to escort Isolde back to Cornwall. Big mistake!

They do it, King Mark finds out, everything

goes to hell in a handbasket. So what makes it a beautiful story?


Not because it ends happily, which it so doesn’t,

but because everyone fulfills his or her nature, stays

in character, does what’s right for them and nobody else.

“It is unbelievable that Tristan should ever be in a position

to marry Isolde,” writes Swiss critic Denis de Rougemont

in his monumental study Love in the Western

World, for “she typifies the woman a man does not marry . . .


once she became his wife she would no longer be what

she is, and he would no longer love her. Just think of

a Madame Tristan!” Wait, let me try. No, you’re right,

Denis—can’t be done! But until things go all pear-shaped

for the lovers, there’s a huge payoff:  between

the beginning of the story, where everybody’s just

walking around and shaking hands with one another,


and the end, which is filled with the usual shouting

and finger-pointing, not to mention poison draughts

and black-sailed death ships and blood-dripping

broadswords, there’s the yummy part, where, in Denis

de Rougemont’s words, Tristan and Isolde are

are “exiled into ecstasy.” See, that would be excellent,

right, reader? You’d be exiled from your usual pleasures,


like dollar-off dry cleaning every Thursday and so-called

organic vegetables that are not grown by any method

verifiable by science but that you eat anyway. But you

wouldn’t care. You’d be all ecstatic! Fashion maven Diana

Vreeland says, “Elegance is refusal.” She also said, “Pink

is the navy blue of India,” and I don’t know what

that means, either. But it sounds good, right?  Sounds like a secret.

David Kirby teaches at Florida State University, where he is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English. His latest books are a poetry collection, Help Me, Information, and a textbook modestly entitled The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them. Kirby is also the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement described as “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” He is currently on the editorial board of Alice James Books.