While I was still living in Cleveland these many years ago I wrote a series of monologues titled “Bordello” largely because Dr. Randolph Randall, then Chair of English, had all of us who taught Freshman Composition and Literature teaching such socially-conscious novels and stories as Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, and so forth, and I felt that no one was telling the story of the men involved. So my psychological character studies came to be, and they were published in my book Pocoangelini, A Fantography and Other Poems in 1971. Here is an example, the first poem in the series:
Hank Fedder is my name. My wife is Maud
Fedder Ø she's a good woman, the neighbors
say. And she is, I guess. She's sure no bawd,
and that's God's truth. Goodness just about pours
out of her. Depends on what you call "good,"
of course. She's good in the house, out of doors,
at market, in her clubs Ø just anyplace.
Except in bed. There, she rubs my face
in the "dirt" she calls my "male mind." She makes
me sick of myself, of what I need to
do. She cuts my guts out, and then she takes
what's left of me, sets it in the window
like a dummy, calls it "Hubby," "Dad," bakes
cakes for it, and sends it off to work. Oh,
yes, she's good all right. She makes a fine spouse.
On her bridge night I come to this whorehouse
to salvage what's left of my need, of my
insides. It never works. I leave here done
to death with sickness, the sickness that I
have now, truly, just as she claims. She's won
her point. I'm not the man she married by
a long shot Ø no man at all. And my son,
our son...he knows it, hates the "hubby" of
that best of mothers he will always love.
Many years later my collaborator, the printmaker George O'Connell, with whom I have been working for more than 20 years, decided he'd like to make a portfolio of poemprints of Bordello, which he did. It was published in a very limited edition of five copies on the day that the Rathbone Gallery of Sage Junior College of Albany, New York, mounted an exhibition of the prints. Sage is a sister school of Russell Sage College, a well-known women's institution. The show ran for a month, and it was reviewed in local papers.
A gay artist friend of mine, Roger Crossgrove, whom I had met in Saratoga Springs at Yaddo during the summer of 1959 (the year I graduated from the University of Connecticut) and who later taught at UConn for many years, in 1996 sent me an announcement of a show of his, consisting of photographs of nude males, which was to be mounted at the new gallery of the Thomas Dodd Research Center that had for years housed my archive of literary materials. George O'Connell, at my suggestion, sent slides of our Bordello portfolio to be considered as an exhibition there. George was informed by mail that the University and the Storrs community were not prepared for such an exhibition. He sent me a copy of the letter.
I was amazed, to say the very least. I wrote the chair of the exhibition committee and told him what I thought of a major university graduate library exercising prior self-censorship of works of art that were, in any case, harmless. This is the letter I wrote:
The Virginia Quarterly Review "The Mutable Past," a memoir collected in FANTASEERS, A BOOK OF MEMORIES by Lewis Turco of growing up in the 1950s in Meriden, Connecticut, (Scotsdale AZ: Star Cloud Press, 2005).
The Tower Journal Two short stories, "The Demon in the Tree" and "The Substitute Wife," in the spring 2009 issue of Tower Journal.
The Tower Journal Memoir, “Pookah, The Greatest Cat in the History of the World,” Spring-Summer 2010.
The Michigan Quarterly Review This is the first terzanelle ever published, in "The Michigan Quarterly Review" in 1965. It has been gathered in THE COLLECTED LYRICS OF LEWIS TURCO/WESLI COURT, 1953-2004 (www.StarCloudPress.com).
The Gawain Poet An essay on the putative medieval author of "Gawain and the Green Knight" in the summer 2010 issue of Per Contra.