Thief of My Honour

He says his aim is poetry. One does not aim at poetry with pistols. At poets, perhaps.
          —Stoppard1

                    *

I thought that Poetry was an art, or an attribute, and not a profession
          —Byron2

                    i.

Paint a woman above and a fish below,
ambiguous as those thoughts about me he won’t
let me know, a surreal piece-of-work whose art
conceals a heart his work shows, revealing words
flowing like ink from superficial wounds following, only
to a point, if at all they survive
to be read tomorrow, the royal road of
collective consciousness vindictive doubt splits like a mermaid
into a melusine, a crossroads in a mind
whose dishonesty deceives even him as he goes
about crafting those poems of his that read

                    ii.

like trashy romances, those raging melodramas whose teenage
scenes need to be fleshed out, as if
more meat will make their bones believable, the
conceits of their inconceivable themes better than the
weak carnival of drivel regurgitated as needed, as
weekly episodes on sub-par networks antisocial in their
repurposing of the subversive as edible mush to
nourish intellectually-starved masses, unlathered waste-matter wincing from its
own repeats, oh, how we’ve had more than
enough of this, those skeletons his closet speaks
of in hushed volumes, suppressed whispers of pilfered

                    iii.

innocence muted by his need to be perceived
as cutting edge, as imaginative as he is
original, worthy of his immortal acclaim, quieting the
crying of his private audience with such shamelessness,
those lightning-eyed daughters of invention throwing sighs to
Olympus, hoping for the intercession of heaven in
indicting this thief of my honour, and theirs,
who never bothered to keep from whispering of
his crimes to each other, who schooled me
in scandal, adamant that I should never exit
a room without leaving a sense of my

                    iv.

disapproval, to unshadow their roots, since authors are
trees who send out foliage threaded together with
the seeds of bitter fruit, no better than
fig leaves in disguising what moves them, what
pen they hold in their hands, truth reads
into deceit with eyes which pierce and reprove
reprobates with wit that bites through bullshit the
way acid removes from sight any evidence of
what all of this looked like before its
justice caught up with a con, that profligate,
that poet whose Muses’ inspiration he pilfered as

                    v.

though it came from whores, paint us scorned,
monsters waiting to be transformed by this fiend
into beasts no longer willing to feed his
genius with ideas that keep growing men from
sleeping, slowing to a stall the expansion of
a reputation, reigning in fame before it can
take him from us, no longer interested in
having a husband, we intend to possess the
one whose promises seduced us into being used,
I speak for my sisters when I lay
before you what he won’t say, that these

                    vi.

lines are what he tore from the earlier
version of what he swore was an ode
on your adulation, a piece he dedicated to
all who had praised and pleased him, what
we need is for his audience to receive
the key to this secret, everything he’s written
was conceived by a harem of minor deities,
we who signed away our freedom just to
be near him, sometimes even goddesses fail to
pass the Bechdel Test as they wait for
heroes to greet them atop Parnassus, tossing aside

                    vii.

the lyre to try on our best dresses,
to while away eternal hours with idle gossip,
thus passes away the glory of the mythic
into the katabatic pathos of the tragic, because
of his trick we want to be compensated,
on our behalf I demand what we’ll no
longer humbly request or ever again so freely
give, satisfaction from the man who made off
with our hearts on the back of Pegasus
without so much as a kiss after drinking
dry the fountain of Helicon with lying lips.

__________
1Tom Stoppard, “Act One: Scene Three”, dialogue spoken by Lady Croom to Septimus Hodge, in Arcadia, published at London by Faber and Faber in 2009; page 56.
2Lord Byron, “[To Thomas Moore]”, a letter written from Palazzo Mocenigo, Canal Grande, Venice on June 1st, 1818 in “The Letters and Journals: [Chapter] 7. Venice and Rome: November 1816–June 1818” of Byron’s Letters and Journals: A New Selection: From Leslie A. Marchand’s twelve-volume edition: Edited by Richard Lansdown, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 2015; pages 293–294.