Demi-monde

In Europe, one hundred years ago,
good folk used to speak of
“the demi-monde” — French for

the half world. 

Class of those unafflicted
by established social codes.

The first resort of starving artists.
Last resort of misfits and such.

Shining examples of how not to be.

The half-world,
where some felt 
fully present for the first time
in their damned lives.

A woman of the demi-monde
was known as a “demimondaine” —
by which the good folk meant

prostitute,
even if she was not —

by which was therefore meant,
fair game.

By which was meant, 
there is some use
for that half of the world.

In Paris
the good folk once called their worst thugs

“les Apaches.”

By which they meant,
this particular part of the demi-monde
is dangerous.

The French 
pronunciation softened
the hard edge of a tribal name
stolen for a savage badge,

by which was meant
face one and you will get
the storied treatment you’d get
if you faced our awful dreams of

Apaches.

Two dance instructors once prowled
the bars and cafes of the demi-monde
to bring back to the good folk
a dance called 
“La Danse Apache.”

A man, a woman, 
playing at pimp and whore,
man striking her down,
woman fighting back,
a tango of sorts ending 
with the woman carried limp
from the stage.  

By which was meant,
here is how “les Apaches”
are.

The dance became all the rage.

By which was meant,
here we honor all our dreams of savagery.

In the USA
during that same time,
professional sports teams
began to be named

Braves, Indians, Redskins.

By which was meant,
here are our mascots, 
here are our fighters,
here are our dangerous men.

They are still called that.

By which is still meant,
here is something we can use.

By which is meant,
we’ve already stolen
slaves, gold, cultures,
entire continents,
a whole half-world —

why stop there? 

There is a German word
from the world of opera
for a song lovers sing
as they die together,
tangled in passion:

“Liebestod.”

By which is meant,
there is nothing now
but this final desperate
clutching.

Turnabout is only fair.

Liebestod is beginning.

There is no savagery
in those syllables — 
or at least, none worse
than all that has come before —

by which is meant,

dance, Liebchen, dance.

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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