Inspired Pleasure

Diary of a Poet Who Happens to be a Dancer

    9:30 PM Mon 27 Feb 78
            Love the drive between my place and A’s – taking 

not New Hampshire Ave but Riggs Road. Blind turns and nonsequential
lights give me that old country feeling. We had just seen The Parradine
Case. Interesting. Good jumping off place for other ideas. I like the form.
Could I manage novelistically the “outsides revealing insides” that film so
confidently assumes? Day started badly with non-working electric blanket
and slowly building headache – probably from finishing reading Helpmate
– what
a chronicle of lacerations.

    Tues. Feb 28 1:15 PM
            Left message with agent – why no check? I was 

thinking of going to England in two weeks, according to my old timeline.
Doesn’t seem possible now.


A woman alone is open and gaping, a
Button hole without a button hook.
She carries her muff held stiffly
Out before her like an offering
Flic, flic! The eyes of strangers
Slit the pause like razors.
This railway carriage stinks of creosote, wet fur.
“I prefer the window up, thank you”
“I prefer it down”.
She lights a Sobranie to remind her
Of Devon in the haying; the gentlemen
Lean forward, reading the initials
On her morocco case.

    9:50PM – Plush Palace – Wed 1 Mar 78
            J in to say goodbye – going to Alabama for a

few days to set things up for moving there. I did wonder if it was
the last time I would ever see him – but from the way he clutched
my hand and kissed the air (illegal to kiss customers here) that can’t
be true. But remember the way Devon carried on about me and then
disappeared for years? Men are strange. So who the hell knows.
3 sets down. Dancing superbly if I do say so myself.  Ticking like a clock.

   Friday Mar 3 – Plush Palace – 9:15 PM
I am forcing myself to write this. J came in tonight,
very drunk and crying. (Sold the Shelby. They gave him some kind of
middle of the road muscle car in return.) Would he carry on like this
about me? Now that he has the money to go to Alabama he doesn’t
want to. What made me think he would actually complete something
just because he acted so definite?  I am hampered by my physical
passion for him – he is so gorgeous. Those dents in his thighs alone
are worth everything.  But I can’t start mothering him – it would be the
end of the Life as We Know It.
Finished A Tyler’s Tin Can Tree – I see why she
likes it least. Characters blurred. Reading Wm Trevor’s Elizabeth Alone
– too many curlicues.

    6:55PM – Plush Palace – Mon 6 Mar 78
            Eventually everyone in this job gets bad knees – 

something to do with dancing in six-inch heels.   I would be better off if
I just walked around like some of the other girls, but my narcissism
demands I be the best. I can see guys in the audience poking each other
when I come out – “that’s her” and that alone makes it worth it for me.
On the other hand the presence of J seriously diminishes tips – he needs
to go away so I can make some money.
A and I were restless after dinner last night and
went out dancing. Big mistake.  Defensive boring, hostile men who
count like drill sergeants while pretending to “dance”. “Do the hustle!”
Much expense – no pleasure – after three brandy and sodas I was
content to rack out on A’s bed at 3 AM. I need to up my writing to 10 p
a day – I do NOT need to party.
Amazing letter from Devon about how lovely
and precious and gifted I am but he can’t see me because he’s too
deep in his own life. He’s still searching for the perfect lover and has
no clues. Well, I guess that’s honest. Should be flattered he’s trying
to preserve our relationship at all.  London is beginning to ebb away –
looks like I’ll only get a few hundred dollars. There’s a downer.  So
why aren’t I writing? 
Reading Crucial Conversations by May Sarton.
You’d swear it was written by an eighteen year old with no experience
of life whatever. However, its very brashness gives me the courage
to jump back into my own book.

    12:55 PM
            Very tired. Shouldn’t keep working with this intensity 

but my new discovery of shaky financial position means I have to.
When I “have to” do anything it makes me feel soiled.  Wild idea of getting
pregnant by J.  He’s pretty enough. But what would that fix? Only my
biological clock and my finances – permanently. Fixed in a downward
direction if you get my drift.  Finished Sarton’s Mermaids, starting
Tyler’s Caleb.

6:30PM – Plush Palace – Tues 7 Mar 78     
A triumphant day. Like some manic-depressive,
I am in my high cycle. Probably from reading Elizabeth Bowen –
The Cat Jumps. Amazed at how much I like it – much better than
Death of the Heart. She leaves me feeling a writer can do anything.
I see my book now as thirteen short, sharp, clear scenes.  Why can’t
I do it any way I want? Tonight  I have To The North to look forward to.

  Plush Palace – 11:PM Fri Mar 10 – 78
Wednesday I broke up with Jervaze. Thursday he
called me.  I got the impression that in the South it’s when you break
up that things really start to get interesting. Apparently if I wanted wild
declarations I should have done this long ago. Fortunately, I can handle this
on the phone.  It’s that glorious body dipped in platinum dust that I can’t
say no to.
Finished Bowen’ s World of Love and To the North.  
I can’t believe she was ever popular – I like her too much. She suits me
exactly. What a stylist. OK, forget plot, character, those little appurtenances.
She makes them seem so unimportant. Imagine recasting Courtney in this
light. I guess her style is too forties, but would that be necessarily a bad thing?
  A called. She and I are crutches to one another, but I like her better than any
man I have ever met.  Watched Monty Python, steak dinner, then she helped
me paint my new four-poster bed. (Gilt, of course. Gives me a new title –
The Gilty Bed.) Watched La Femme Infidele sur le television while consuming
an appropriate wine.

    Plush Palace – 11:PM Sat Mar 11 – 78
            I was in too good a mood today. Bought a new costume from Maureen just when I AM JUST ABOUT TO LEAVE FOR THREE WEEKS, but it is yellow velvet and fake sapphires with armbands and everything – a beauty. Good work on novel, ate hamburgers (and eclairs) with A, wrote a good letter to Devon

in answer to his weird one to me.  Struggling with Eva Trout and The Ponder
Nix on both.  Fortunately, also have a June Thomson murder mystery
for a chaser.
A and I assembled my bed – canopy and everything, it
looks smashing with its hangings of brown lace. Then she called Mason in
Calif to see why he isn’t sending  her stuff – he said he’s seeking another
estimate – they had a rational discussion but she was obviously very shaken
when she hung up.  I teased her that he is wearing her clothes and probably
looks good in them.

    Plush Palace – Wed/Thu Mar 15 – 78
            No London in my future. I’ve accepted it. I need 

affordable breaks from this life – two weeks in Maine, one week in Boston,
etc. A and I going to Maine tomorrow.  A spent the weekend comforting Opal
who is upset about the failure of her marriage – it’s the old story – when it’s the woman’s turn to be babied man withdraws, making frightened, threatening
Finished Sarton’s Kinds of Love. I can see why
some people like it. It kind of has a “National Geographic” feel to it – here’s
a guide to the “foreigners”. But it is not a good novel – it’s Faith Baldwin
through and through. Reading Sarton is like attending writing class – she
never loses the miasma of the eager student and she has a lot of interesting
ideas. But, remarkably for a poet, she is deficient on the mystery end. Perhaps
she doesn’t understand that a novel is another kind of poem. Lots of Ructions
here tonight: Gina and Jerrilee fighting and I have to play peacemaker (because
there’s nowhere to go from the dressing room other than the alley or the ladies
room and no guarantee rabid fans will stay away.) I haven’t packed – will be up
till 4.

    2PM – Shadowe Island Sat Mar 18 – 78
            Every time I come back to this beautiful island I wonder 

why I ever leave. Dogs are in paradise. Mom and Dad relaxed, involved,
charming. A all defensive about the “failure” of her life with Mason so I am
off the hook – temporarily.
I’m reading The House In Paris – restores my high
estimation of Bowen. The trouble with this island is that the rest of existence
vanishes totally when I am here.  I am eating too much but the food is so
fabulous it would seem immoral to resist – roast lamb, new potatoes, spinach
quiche, sour cream gravy, stuffed mushrooms, strawberry trifle.  We stayed
up late reading Ruth Rendell’s mystery stories aloud, then I fell asleep and I
had the most delicious erotic dream about J – much better than the real thing.
Felt what it would be like to be a deep-throated cello vibrating endlessly.

    Mon Mar 20 7:00 PM -78
            Why is it around my parents my self-confidence takes 

a nosedive? Every fingernail becomes deciduous.  I had better call  Plush
Palace and get put on next week’s schedule. Finished House and began
Heat of the Day. My mother asks questions that reveal her to be jealous
of all the reading I do. Her delicate hint – she would feel “lazy” doing so
much reading because there must be something that she would be
neglecting. I tell her I, on the other hand, if I were not reading, would feel
guilty. (As well as deprived.)  Thus we must differ. The great thing about Eliz B
– she writes like no one else.  To criticize her would be like saying the
plumed flycatcher has a little too much plume.
Managed to prevent Mom from inviting “young people”
to a “weenie roast on the shore” for me and A. We are here to HIDE. She
was very nice about it. Do imagine I could live here. Listening right now to
Haydn’s Clock Symphony. Now that would be a great title for a short story
about an unattached woman in her late twenties…
A and I have wonderful conversations in our twin beds
like a pair of teenagers home on holiday from school, listening to the distant
waves crash on the dark shore. I realize we could still be feeling like this
even when we are a pair of decrepit old maids – which is probably why
families like to stay together. You are timeless for each other. She asked
me which of my boyfriends had known me best. I think Toss Sheffield –
certainly better than my own husband.  But this is not a flattering conclusion
since he seems to have run wildly in the opposite direction.


Our childhoods were different. My
Parents didn’t believe in medicine
Yours worshipped Wall Street. You
Took ex-lax to reduce for wrestling, LSD
To see God, smoked Queen Anne’s Lace for lack
Of something better –
Rejected poetry that I wrote. I
Rewrote Melville, shiked to
The observatory – you
Tucked the bedsheets in so tight
I had to sleep with someone else.
You combed your hair to imitate Dick Diver
And were soon out of school. Looks like
I’ll be stuck in here forever.
For me it’s Leap Year every year
That seems to mean I do things backwards
Proposing to the boys and coming upside down.
I forget why I tried so hard to please you.
Save me a seat in the tobacco-brown Mercedes
Do you think you could forgive me now?

    Wed Mar 22 78 – 4:15 PM
            Waiting for cocktails, I discover a flaw in the divine Miss 

E B. She doesn’t like to admit that she is of the same clay as her characters.
Those creatures based on the Mosleys she repudiated utterly as if creatures
from another planet. I’ve got news for her. Creatures from another planet are
not that interesting.
Last night was one of the most traumatic family
eveningsI have ever experienced – I think my eyes are still puffy. I heard we
would be having Island People to dinner – he used to be a university president/professor so presumably would be good company – they met
because somebody was the bridesmaid of somebody else’s bridesmaid so
there is a connection.  It started with me wearing a green silk shirt, my denim
gauchos and hardly any makeup (yes I wore eyeshadow) and being told by
Mom that my “get-up” was “more suitable for a bar.”  (All of a sudden she’s
an expert on bars.) Harvey and Edna turned out to have “heard of my job” –
I gather in some commiseration session on Incredibly Unsatisfactory Children – however they refuse to accept that there is any difference between being an
exotic dancer and being a stripper (hello! I don’t strip) and somehow Harvey
segued from castigating “exotic dancers who try to feel superior to strippers” to criticisms of “ total sexual freedom”  which apparently means that “everybody
should jump on everybody.”  
I tried to dignify this mess by explaining that it is actually
the reverse – in the “old days” under the “ancien regime sexuelle”  a dancer
could expect to be “jumped on” by “anybody” because of her job (like poor old
Degas’ ladies) but that actual freedom for women would mean a world in
which one could be a barely clothed dancer (I would think anyone would
admit nudity is at least an equally valid way of expressing the art of muscle,
line and form as heavily costumed artificial approximations) without it
becoming some sexual signal that one has “lost caste” and therefore privacy
and choice. I recommended Susan Brownmiller’s book to this painfully ignorant
male (God knows what he taught – he had never heard of Brownmiller –
seems to have her confused with Ti-Grace Atkinson assuming she must
write books no self-respecting intellectual would read (maybe he was the
type of university president who just brings in wads of cash).
He challenged my premise that the ultimate societal
freedom would be for unattached females to not to be under the threat of
rape every minute.  Harvey insisted – with a perfect straight face that women
rape men every bit as much as the reverse – “psychologically of course”
which he says is just as terrible – and in fact probably even more so since
we all know the “physical thing is no big deal” and often does people a “favor”.
I must say this does not reflect very well on his wife Edna but she was smiling
smugly so I think she may have just been too obtuse to follow any of the
I really could not cope with this free-for-all avalanche
of idiocy especially when my parents played their trump card – if bars where
women sit in front of a drink and watch barely clothed men cavorting don’t exist, therefore this is an antifeminist exercise and my claim to be a feminist is a
sham. I think it was at that point that I burst into tears. Which of course was
totally demeaning. I sorely missed Avril’s assistance – she refused to jump in
but made peacemaking noises like “you both have a point” (untrue – their
“points” are a disgrace). Ugly Harvey apologized – what a monster! but there
could be no satisfaction in it for me at that point. Avril went walking with me
until they left.
Alas, waiting till they were gone did not end the discussion.
Mom and Dad pounced on us to drive home their point that the male animal
is a violent dangerous creature barely contained by the civilizing
influence of the female. (Guess they can’t get behind Harvey’s “female
rapist” idea.) Of course they are going to rape any female who lets down
her guard for a second and it will all be her fault. (Didn’t R make this case?
I’m ashamed to share a world with these people.) Any kind of a sexual
display (I guess the beach would certainly qualify) is a declaration of
“Jump in boys! It’s free today!” At least they recognized Harvey’s
behavior as extreme (“Two drinks and he’s lost” was Dad’s comment.) 
Basically as long as I work at “that bar” I’m the
“lost cause” and if any decent male finds out about it our relationship
will be over in a trice. This kind of thing makes me wonder why I bother
to visit them. Fortunately, I’m escaping soon, but the whole ferry
reservation problem means one loses the right to fight irretrievably
with one’s hosts on this island.  Dad’s big mistake was giving me an
example of a good marriage as Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett! 
Did I blow my top! He probably thought I’d listen to him if he produced a
literary example. He wasn’t aware that not only were they not married
but Mr. Hammett was married to someone else and cheated on poor
Hellman whenever he could manage to stay stiff long enough. (I really
didn’t want to “get in” to the alcoholism problem. Lillian tried to make
him seem like a “mentor” but honestly she was just his keeper and bail

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