The man in the first row says, Gimme a girl
who smokes red cigarettes while asking us
occupational questions
. So I ash into his hat brim
& say, What do you do, sir? Do you like being profiled

by the entertainment police? The man hands me 

his bowler and says, Gimme Liza in a backless vest 

perched on top of a chair
. So I draw him a picture 

of a glam mantis gone to seed & bookmark 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Here, I say,
will this satisfy your lust for Prague? A woman in back 

says, Sorry, we meant Magritte. So I spackle my face 

with sky-colored greasepaint. The third row says, 

But we’re suckers for the phrase “candy apple red.” 

Fuck it, I say. They glitter with sweat & applause. 

Now, says the emcee, I will strap you into a torpedo 

bra and staple you with flaming sheets of Prufrock

Okay, I say, after the auto-da-fé will paper ephemera
be collected in my memory? My audience goes, Oh,
no, no, no, oh, no, but you will wake up & wonder,
“Where is that steamer trunk of my best vocabulary?”
and we will pretend not to know
. I say, Audience,
O Audience! Why do you seek to destroy me?
The man in the first row says, This has become tiresome. 
Give us the girl who smokes red cigarettes again.

Okay, I say, pass me the ashtray. That “ashtray,” 
he harrumphs, happens to be my wife. The emcee says, 
Give us a French doll with removable britches! 
So I put on the Black Bottom & crisscross my lavender
stockings. Look at me, I say. My articulated parts move! 

A silence. The woman in back says, It’s just that
you make us all very uncomfortable.