The Shuffle

By Roddy Lumsden b. 1966 Roddy Lumsden
Skipping out from the major international cocktail party
with my becleavaged blight, a jeroboam in her tight fist,
I broke open my copy of Sarcasm for Beginners, i.e., men.

Never had I seen so many pairs of to-the-elbow gloves.
Never did I see a puttoed ceiling groan so with thin talk
as the great, the grim and the gone pressed terrible flesh,

so many penguins offering tastesome wisps and skimps
from doilied salvers: cherry-shaded caviar, cheese puffs,
dark sugared berries, dainty octopods, gently vinegared,

with not enough tentacles to count the capes and stoles,
fine bespoke pashminas, silk snoods, at least one vicuña
suit, tainted with gold thread. I’d seen down a Blenheim,

two Lime Rickeys and was eyeing a gamine mixologist
who was straining out Savoy Royales when my raddled
nemesis limped over to announce she had encountered

my latest screed, all four foot eleven of her tortoiseishly
quivering, a nubbin of cream cheese on her whiskery lip
and her good eye withering my borrowed companionette

as she leaned on air. I am not a man who has not known
the turmoil women offer, the gift you accept of their wit,
the way you’d slip a hand into a gloveful of cockroaches,

comply with a last-minute call to join a seal cull. Tanya,
I pouted, I am awed and honored you opened a window
in your schedule even to glance at my inconsequential

outpourings. At which point she clattered out a scoffing
gibe so sour you couldn’t blend it with a chemistry set
from Hamley’s and, seizing my escort by her neat wrist,

we tore out onto Jermyn Street, along which I performed
a sort of shuffle, one eye on the book and one on m’lady’s
competition-standard backside as she led us to the Ritz.

Source: Poetry (May 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2010
 Roddy  Lumsden


Roddy Lumsden was born in St. Andrews, Scotland; he describes his upbringing as small-town and working-class. His earliest exposure to literature came from his mother and older brother, who would read aloud to him when he was a child. Later, when he attended school, his writing was influenced by the works of W.S. Graham, Philip Larkin, Thom Gunn, T.S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath, and by song lyrics.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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