Dancing With Myself: The Dark Lady

Has it ever occurred to anyone that the aesthetic dictum supposedly scribed by Arthur Rimbaud— “a systematic derangement of the senses”— actually fits, in a much more cohesive, circumscribed way, to Keats’ Odes? For all the ditties of no tone, breezes blowing light, conflation of sleeping and waking states, it seems to me that Mr. Rimbaud’s comparatively jejune forays into synesthesia cannot hold much of a candle to Keats’ disciplined psycho-affective maneuvering. As per the psycho-affective maneuvering in Dancing with Myself— it seems to me that much of the action hinges on a number of revelations— of the Dark Lady who animates the poems, and of the synesthetic rigors she imposes on a protagonist, who is revealed to be ever so slightly masochistic. The Dark Lady of the cycle is, we assume, one of the two Chicago Muses introduced in Sister Lovers. One flaw of the base/superstructure dynamic in When You Bit… is that Sister Lovers does not do the job of introducing us to two discrete characters in the two Muses. We see a lot of drinking, drugging, and fucking, but the base, foundational level of character construction goes un-assayed. By Dancing With Myself, one of the two Chicago Muses morphs into the Dark Lady we see here:

You’re more of a Dark Lady
than I have ever hoped for,
especially because when you
betray me, it’s with someone
I love: me.
                   You’re more of
everything, actually, & you’re
also a pain in the ass. That’s
why I haven’t let you off the
hook. I’ll wind up in my own
hands again tonight, sans
metaphors, like your full
moon in my face, but you’ll
never know there’s a man in you.

The self-betrayal of the protagonist, in relation to the Dark Lady, is both sexual and psychological. There is a part of him which feels violated by her, even as the visceral attraction is also extreme. The “full/moon in my face” creates a subtext of physical transgression— perhaps anal sex— and that the Dark Lady (as in Shakespeare’s sonnets) finds the protagonist (as he presents himself) rather corny and weathered. The anal sex subtext is also hinged to the Dark Lady’s lunacy, moodiness (“full moon”) and to the fact that she undervalues the protagonist’s manhood/masculinity (“you’ll/never know there’s a man in you”). The situation in Sister Lovers, which opens the book— a confusing ménage involving the protagonist with two women, which leaves him exhausted— we now see was probably arranged by this Dark Lady (who, we also see, somehow maneuvered the other Chicago Muse into place), who made this arrangement just to create her own dark context, and initiate the protagonist into the mysteries (“full moons”) of her boudoir. It gives her the air of master over the protagonist, which he chooses to accept, “liking her dirt” (Deodorant Redolence). Yet, to the extent that he is not, as Sidney and Shakespeare were, fully emasculated in the sonnet sequence by a dominant female, what he prizes is that he and his Dark Lady have similar minds; as in Kinky Verbs, “we start saying/the same things,” and it is established that this Dark Lady, unlike Shakespeare’s, may have some creative force or aptitude in her repertoire of tricks as well. Synesthesia works here oddly, and with a certain guttural logic: what (excuse my vulgarisms) it means to get fucked in the ass, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This Dark Lady plays the trick of teaching the protagonist lessons about how sexual relationships can resonate over long periods of time, especially as regards who is mastering/controlling who, who is getting fucked and who isn’t. She is teaching him to think about his body, more than is usually his wont to do, and how it connects to the way he feels, about himself and others, and (most importantly) to what it can do in the world. In this sense, she is a far more evolved specimen than Sidney or Shakespeare could’ve conceived; even as we may not envy the protagonist his entanglement.