The Wrong Horse
The pleasures of the text are the pleasures of spring.
Halter tops, tanned skin, buttocks
sashaying past an open office door.
You pack your books away.
The self is conceived as a structure of signifiers.
Thirty years at the chalk-face,
a dozen published books,
twenty to life in the M.L.A.
The forms of nature order themselves in codes.
Wine and juice, finger food,
a bound edition of Baudrillard,
a speech from the Head of School.
To repeat excessively is to enter into loss.
You will haunt the Library, play golf,
back the wrong horse
into the descending zero of the sun.
First published in New Zealand Books, Autumn 2007.
Tim says: The lines beginning the second, third and fourth stanzas are quoted or adapted from the works of, respectively, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), and Roland Barthes (1915-1980), all of whom were important precursors of or contributors to academic postmodernism, which flourished in university humanities departments worldwide between the 1960s and 1990s.
The M.L.A. is the Modern Language Association, the US-based professional association for literary critics and theoreticians, renowned for its annual conventions.
I used to work in a University, though I was never a lecturer, but I have observed members of the species at comparatively close quarters. Alison Bechdel’s Professor Sydney Krukowski and her similarly inclined father also helped to plant the seeds for this poem.