Wednesday 17 August 2011

MAE WEST: Come up and see me sometime...


“If you can’t go straight, you’ve got to go around”

She was a fast moving woman
who liked to take it slow,
it was not the men in her life
but the life in her men.

When she landed in London
they asked Ms West “How do you like Big Ben?”
She said she was disappointed
he was just a clock.

Her problem was never how much sex she had
but how much she could get away with -
submitting hot scripts loaded with lines she knew would be cut
she’d save the real script until shooting or first night and then
watch the studio managers, theatre bosses go white with fear
but change their minds quick when the queues grew and tickets sold out.

She was the first woman to dance the shimmy live on stage
a provocative move she picked up in late night clubs, speakeasys and ghettos
cohorting with poor white trash and coloured folk.
And when Duke or Louis played - they really played
she wouldn’t allow Hollywood bosses to pay white guys to mime
their tunes to camera.

Her lifes work was a revolt against censorship
whipping up a frenzy in red neck bible belts
challenging moralising bigots.
She wrote scandalous scripts
a black man kissing a white woman
and also a gay kiss.

She spent her life on the road and touring
whilst writing plays, books and live shows,
She was born in the 1890’s
and didn’t get to the silver screen and Hollywood
or become a real household name
until she was over 40 years old.

She once booked a cast of down and out homeless bums
she gave them shelter and paid work
whilst creating an authentic Harlem ghetto on stage
and it was a sell-out show.

She dated fit boxers and sportsmen,
perhaps because they could keep up with her stamina.
She had a voracious sexual appetite
fuelling gossip she must be hermaphrodite
but she was one hundred per cent woman.

She enjoyed sex, 
but like an athlete in training
she abstained when she was working.
She believed in sexual freedom
but never screamed off the rooftops
rather whispered to one man at a time.

And goodness has nothing to do with it,
there are no good girls gone wrong
just bad girls found out.

She reduced Cary Grant to a whimper,
when her male co-star reached to hold her hand
she said through smoldering eyes
“It aint heavy I can carry it for myself.”

They used to call me Saliva
as in spit
the stuff you use to polish a thing
when you are all out of elbow grease,

Well, whoever said
there is a book inside everybody
was inside a body
at the time.

peel me a grape
you can be had

The only difference
between you and me, honey
is you can afford to give it away.

Throw discretion to the wind
and your hips to the north,
south, east and west.

There’s not a dry seat in the house
for the legendary
Mae West.

© 2011. Salena Godden.

Poem first published: