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IN THE ANECDOTE, which I'm later given, Don Juan poses as a eunuch to a harem, and even he is exhausted by the consequences. Or, as with the story of the marriage bed of Sardanapalus, generous violent splendor captured entirely after the fact only comes off nicely on paper. Pretty twisted bodies. The painter of these sagas modeled for the role of a dead peasant on that raft where every one is likely to go on being stateless for some time to come. The wreck of the frigate Méduse. He, however, is looking very fit.
If there is refuge in circumstance.
Romance, I suspected. All these portraits are pageants. What would he find in that final letter? Or how rigidly would he stand when reading it aloud in an autumnal grove? A roll I couldn't care less to play, until the final sequence, when friendless, and ramrod stiff, I am dressed by a dozen valets, as the chairs are carried in for the dance, which any minute, begins the next act of the carnival.
Four manners of clowns, and aliases for the two different women: the one to whom he is secretly engaged, and the other he intends to marry.
LATER THE SAME DAY, though more pale, gaunt, I’d returned to the scene. The models—real gentlemen—lined together like suspects. They gave short, brisk waves and shouted blithe catchphrases as they disrobed down to the sock garters. One in particular, I recall. His head dipped forward, lids dark, lips heavy. I began the study in ink. I was looking through thick, fake lashes, courtesy of another Miss, a more sophisticated version of Yours Truly. Something was wrong, and wrong again. Things kept coming out people. So you gather, I gave it another thought.
And from there the scene progresses, a standard affair. Plump tears hit the page and everything runs everywhere, streaking. I turn my page on its side, though to basically the same effect. All around, the studio is dark, except for the spot of light where the subject, twisting lightly, offers a shrug and a soft smile. So I’d taken a loss, so and so.
Years after I bumped into him on the street. He was shrunk within a dark coat, and had changed his eyes and mouth.
AMONG REMEMBRANCES, some are fonder than others. I opened my eyes and found myself stretched in a deep basin of yellow moss. I knew instantly I was on Mars. I did not question this once.
I approached a great glass dome wherein many grotesque hatchlings cavorted. Scrawny bodies, long necks, six limbs. In the curve of the glass, I caught my own reflection. I had suffered many evolutions in the Martian air. My wings had atrophied, for instance.
I was stricken as I watched the swarm in their incubation chamber. So many years had it been since I was part of a band of fledglings on a helioport. How the time flies!
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