Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

A Crazy American Girl


File:Kooning woman v.jpg

Pumped for a rhyming line into air

A football falling through registration,

Here I come: That’s Kathy’s Clown,

A song by Don and Phil in her

Consciousness. And mine. A beverage

Passes between lips, they’re her lips;

I am that beverage. Her Royal Crown

Classes break on the hour

Bar, O falcon of the lecture!

Fall, footballs, through the leaves!

We clown in airs of each other’s consciousness:

I bring hers stealthy cigarettes,

Between-halves tears; she brings mine

Contemporary milk of the lectures.


Woman V: Willem de Kooning, 1951-52 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)
Woman III: Willem de Kooning, 1951-53 (private collection of Steven A. Cohen)
(A BTP Back to School Special)


Anonymous said...

I am a crazy English Woman so I am thinking, I am liking your words written, you. 'We clown in airs of each other’s consciousness' that line in particular.
Thank you for your kind comment left at my place.My 'Babies' thank you too.

TC said...


That's a lovely blog, yours. Poetry all over the place!

My thanks to you and your Babies too.

Scott Keeney said...

Seconding the love, especially for that line, "We clown in airs of each other’s consciousness."

Lingering over it this morning.

mike said...

Great poem, Tom, and nice celebration of Cathy's Clown by the Everly Bros. Love the pun of '...Phil in her/Consciousness. And mine...'

Reminds me of your line years back about Don & Phil:

All their songs are like dreams.

Andrew said...


The line that I can't get over it the last: "she brings mine / Contemporary milk of the lectures." There it is in action, the clowning of each other's consciousness!

Jon said...

yup... it's back to school time for sure... can't wait to see all the students looking so lost the next few days...

thanks for this poem... kind of reminds me of one by ted hughes called "Chlorophyl"... hmmmm... let's see if i can find it:

She sent him a blade of grass, but no word.

Inside it
The witchy doll, soaked in Dior.

Inside it
The gravestone. Inside it
A sample of her own ashes. Inside it
Her only daughter's
Otherwise non-existent smile.

Inside it, the keys
Of a sycamore.
Inside those, falling

The keys

Of a sycamore. Inside those,
Falling and turning in air the


Of a sycamore.

TC said...

Scott, Mike, Andrew,

Many thanks. You have unwittingly conspired along with SarahA in making me feel this post might have been something more than a ridiculous bit of silliness.


With your interesting reference to the Hughes' poem you have opened the lid of what we might for amusement's sake term a Pandora's boxcar of lurid speculative biographical fragrance.

This blog post on the subject is itself astonishing:

Which Dior was it?

"But there is still a mystery to be solved: which Dior suffused that blade of grass? What was the singular fragrance that greeted Ted when he opened that envelope in Devon? What was the scent of the woman whose entry into Ted's life heralded the final series of crises in the Hughes/Plath marriage, the final chapter in Sylvia's life, the birth of a daughter by Ted and Assia, and the tragic death of both the daughter and Assia, seven years later?"

(These "experts" appear to sense literary history much as the world was sensed in that wonderful howler of a film, Tom Tykwer's "Perfume".)

By the by, I think I should assert here that "A Crazy American Girl" is NOT about either Sylvia or her darkly aromatic rival (who was, gasp, not American).

Perhaps I should say that this poem was written in England in the 1960s. Ted and Sylvia and the feral stalker were around, but happily for me, I was keeping my nose out of their affairs. The poem probably derived more from homesickness than anything else--of course the Don and Phil and Royal Crown references hint of that.

Zephirine said...

There's a whole cyberspace world of perfume fanatics, you'd be amazed. I've only peered into it from time to time. That is an interesting article, (and I think definitely Miss Dior!)

Your crazy girl made me think of Tom Petty too, She was an American girl/Raised on promises... no doubt he grew up listening to Don and Phil.

TC said...


Thank you for the insider knowledge!

Perhaps if Sylvia had bathed in Miss Dior herself, literary history might have suffered a double growth-stunt.

I met Hughes a few times, he seemed more a craggy hawk-person than a besotted-by-scent guy. But what would I have known about such things, being from Chicago, where this time of year the salient aroma always wafted up from the slaughterhouses.

I grew up on the Everlys. The summer "Bye-Bye Love" and Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" came out I had a 1954 Oldsmobile at my disposal. Now that was Crazy American Girl driving music.

Don had been born in Kentucky and then the family moved north, Phil, the younger of the brothers, was my age and was born not far from where I was. So identifying was easy, I've felt like a clown all my life and in high school 95% of the girls were named either Kathy or Cathy.

The songs still sound marvelous, there's nothing like that any more.

I die each time I hear that sound

And for Crazy American Girls like this one who made her debut singing the national anthem at rodeos, there was also the gender reversal version:

Cathy makes the Deadwood boys nervous

There's even a John Lennon cover of the song, never released, but enough already. (The vocal arrangement of "Please Please Me" comes straight out of "Cathy's Clown". But then Brian Wilson was also copping those early Beach Boys harmonies from the same brilliant source.)

TC said...

Let's try that rodeo gal again