Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

[Two Poems]

Kurt Brown

Two Blondes with Hammers

A friend sends a joke to me via the internet, bearing the subject-line above.
I admire the way he titles his joke, though the joke itself isn’t that funny.
I can imagine anything I want: the erotics of tools and carpentry; muscled
arms and thighs slick with labor; soft flesh contrasted with hard steel;
anomalous women doing men’s work. I love how the set-up is better than
the delivery, how “Two Blondes with Hammers” already has me smiling,
though I might be a male chauvinist, someone who thinks women belong
in kitchens and not perched precariously on ladders against the high walls
of a house. But what if the joke had begun with the words: “Two fullbacks
with knitting needles.” Wouldn’t I smile just as much, and wouldn’t it be
just as funny, just as pleasure-giving as these two blondes, hammering away
in my imagination now, their lithe bodies stretching outward to place nails
in clapboard siding, their bright hair shining in the sun? And is it wrong
to think of their supple necks, their tawny backs sewn with freckles like
nailheads glittering across the side of a building? Is my love for them
merely a way of turning them into objects, or is it a way of honoring
them, letting them breathe deeply in their rough overalls, picturing them
stopping, now and then, to oversee what they have done? One of them
takes a swig of cold water from a bottle dangling from her belt, and I feel
the water trickle past her lips, down her chin, into the valley of the shadow
of pleasure between her breasts, where it warms up and mingles with her
sweat, and I begin to feel thirsty too. What if they had been square-shouldered,
stocky, with pale oval faces and damp stringy hair of no particular color—
would that be funny as well, and would it be right to smile at them in the same
way, or would that be cruel and inappropriate, laughter without even an edge
of irony or the unexpected to redeem it, even a little? But all this thinking is
ruining the joke, robbing life of some of its vitality and surprise, making
grim work of the imagination which wants, after all, nothing but pleasure
and cares little for the intellect, for social theory or morality in any guise.
Two blondes with hammers is a pleasure to contemplate. Isn’t that enough?
Now one of them takes a deep breath and wipes the sweat from her brow.
She looks even lovelier when she’s tired. She doesn’t even know I’m here.

A Moment

I keep returning to that moment, one
Day at your kitchen table with the sun
Slanting in through the glass above your sink.
You stood before me, brushing your long hair,
Stroke after stroke in the astonished air
While you talked of nothing, and I sipped my drink.

Then suddenly you bent your head, and threw
Your hair forward in a bright fan to show
Your beauty in a simple act, at once
Casual and contrived, while I sat there
Like some stone figure in a stone chair—
Such blatant beauty required a response.

But I did nothing, though my heart halted
In my chest, a small, numb, exalted
Animal, until you tossed that golden wrack
Of hair to settle once again upon
Your shoulders and you smiled your wan
Smile and I recalled myself, and smiled back.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury