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Poetry and Pain

Laux So where have I been? Tethered to my consulting job at ICANN and suffering from my worst carpel tunnel slash upper-back-nerve malfunction of the last year. So I've been unable to paw out Cher diatribes the last two weeks. And now I need to start cleaning the house for my parents' next-week visit. So I'll be MIA for another week after this.

My thoughts and prayers to my Japanese friends and family who have their own friends and family in Japan right now living under the shadow of nuclear meltdown after last week's earthquake and tsunami.

"They say atomic power could never hurt a flower. Holy smoke."
                        -- Cher, 1979,
Prisoner album

My Sarah Lawrence College-mate Ann from Scarsdale, New York, sent me this new poem about Cher by poet Dorianne Laux. I love it when my obsessions collide: poetry and Cher. This poem starts out favorable, eulogizing the iconic-looking Cher of the 70s who was as "tall as a glass of iced tea" and gets to wear hokum outfits and has a "throaty panache," a voice of "gravel and clover." But then Laux laments the cosmetic changes of the 80s and 90s.

I like how the poem ends, with an scene that I'm interpreting as an image of Sonny & Cher singing V.A.M.P. on that upright piano.


Cher Thebookofmen

I wanted to be Cher, tall
as a glass of iced tea,
her bony shoulders draped
with a curtain of dark hair
that plunged straight down,
the cut tips brushing
her nonexistent butt.
I wanted to wear a lantern
for a hat, a cabbage, a piñata
and walk in thigh-high boots
with six-inch heels that buttoned
up the back. I wanted her
rouged cheek bones and her
throaty panache, her voice
of gravel and clover, the hokum
of her clothes: black fishnet
and pink pom-poms, fringed bells
and her thin strip of a waist
with the bullet-hole navel.
Cher standing with her skinny arm
slung around Sonny's thick neck,
posing in front of the Eiffel Tower,
The Leaning Tower of Pisa,
The Great Wall of China,
The Crumbling Pyramids, smiling
for the camera with her crooked
teeth, hit-and-miss beauty, the sun
bouncing off the bump on her nose.
Give me back the old Cher,
the gangly, imperfect girl
before the shaving knife
took her, before they shoved
pillows in her tits, injected
the lumpy gel into her lips.
Take me back to the woman
I wanted to be, stalwart
and silly, smart as her lion
tamer's whip, my body a torch
stretched the length of the polished
piano, legs bent at the knee, hair
cascading down over Sonny's blunt
fingers as he pummeled the keys,
singing in a sloppy alto
the oldest, saddest songs.

"Cher" by Dorianne Laux, from The Book of Men. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Buy the book

Read more poems by Dorianne Laux




Wow that poem was actually beautifully written and kind of sad! :(


Well, at least the poem only mentions the lips and the tits -- it could've been worse. Otherwise, it's pretty cool. I love the comparison of Cher's crazy headdresses to "lanterns" and "cabbage".

I definitely get the VAMP image from "stretched" until "keys," and then the image I get for the last two lines is Cher's solo spots, where she mostly sang "sad, old songs".

Cher Scholar are right about the last two lines...that's brilliant!


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