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The Muses / Sock and Buskin

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

IMAGE: A painting of two people in a shaft of light.

I shall tell you of the best of times,

of the worst of times

Imagine if you will, a play;

a tragicomedy of two waif-like, wraith-like girls,

socked and buskin-booted

before the footlights

Cast them in your mind’s eye stage

Imagine the pathos

of threadbare war-time lunatics, underwear on the outside

Delight in the pantomime

of sickly orphaned children

dressing in mothers' proverbial heels

and staggering like newborn fawns

We’ll call them Melpomene and Thalia

Imagine if you will,

when the scene is set

and normal rules need not apply

These girls with pigtails and school ties

a not-so-distant memory, lost in their infinite playtime

Wendy House world,

giggling like infants playing dress-up

Holding fast to a daily diet of cigarettes, amphetamines

and hairbrush-singing to Duran Duran

And the party doesn’t stop

when the electric meter puts paid to play,

candles and guitars emerge,

learning lines as dusty cupboard understudies

Watch them, tongues protruding

in earnest concentration,

trying on the ill-fitting masks of adulthood

Look in through the stage set window,

past hand-stitched tie-dye curtains

See squadrons of freshly-baked scones,

perpetual pots of tea

and the white bunny painted on the backdrop

of this cosy idyll

Marvel at the weird and wonderful array

of bohemian supporting roles

when they parade on stage,

the powder patently obvious

These dandies and fops,

all dressed up and nowhere to go,

leaving gossip and scandal in their wake

Get drawn into the minutiae microcosm

of this classic character study,

acted ad infinitum

Melpomene and Thalia are played method

Even when the curtain falls

and audience exit

Laugh out loud with glee

as they call in falsetto sing-song

for the cat that never treads the boards

But sit up straight

and feel that gut-slug face-slap

when they destroy your trust

and destroy the set

Do you have a sympathetic lump in your throat?

Do you lay it at the door of childish indulgence

or rock star tropes?

And what of the twist in this tale?

It’s all trips down Nostalgia Lane’s good old days

Happy, frolicking lambs

until it’s time for their slaughter

You no longer know whether to laugh or cry

The cues have gone

and the props disappear

and you’re left with a bad taste

in the back of your mouth

as you learn that Melpomene became the muse of death,

holding a knife

Writing by JULI WATSON

Artwork 'The Two Waifs’ by SIMON MILLS

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