“Pretender” (after Madonna Ciccone)

I may have a thousand hands
but that doesn't make me a Bodhisattva -
in fact, the only things my hands are good for
are mundane things, practical tasks,
not spiritual enlightenment. 

I use my thousand hands to play
five hundred games of solitaire against myself
and whenever I win the cards cascade
like a waterfall of poker chips 
built by a fake Buddha.

You see, I'm just pretending to have a thousand hands. 

When I'm alone, I amuse myself by
shaking my own imaginary hands,
slapping myself on the back one thousand times,
squeezing my one thousand fabricated zits,
picking my nose by shoving five hundred
index fingers inside each of my gigantic nostrils.

In short, I am a pretender. 

You should have stopped listening
or walked out while you had the chance. 
You should have listened to Madonna.
You should have told me where to go
but it's too late now.

As witnesses to my pretence you too are pretending
to breathe, acting as if you are alive,
wanting to believe that this is poetry
and not some pathetic charade. 

I own one thousand llamas
but each of them answers to the name "Scaramouche".
This might lead you to believe that each of these
one thousand llamas is in fact an illusion, a chimera.
But don't be fooled - 
they don't call me a llama wrangler for nothing. 

Just like Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
I'm pretending to be a cowboy,
willing myself to believe that I am in fact gay.

I have one thousand gay friends.
Some of my best llamas are gay. 
We are all gay, only some of us are pretending 
to be ambivalent.

Scaramouche is the name of my favourite llama.
Scaramouche may well be a Bodhisattva. 
Maybe in his next incarnation, 
Scaramouche will be reborn as a pretend llama,
pretending to be gay. 

Or perhaps I'm just making that up. 

When I think of Madonna, I think of
a thousand virgins who are not actually virgins. 
In fact, they are only acting like virgins.
In other words, pretending to be touched
for the very first time. 

If you ask me, all virgins are fakes. 
Or maybe I'm just pretending not to realise
I said that last statement out loud. 

Either way, we're all as fake as cubic zirconias
in a world that's full of rubies. 
Would you rather be a ruby or a cubic zirconia
pretending to be a diamond? 

I predict that you will find my question
puzzling, if not slightly odd.

Who is this guy? 
Is his name on the program?
I thought this was some kind of tribute to Madonna?

To which I reply: even Madonna is pretending 
to be the Virgin Mary. And who knows,
maybe she's fake too. 

I may have a thousand names 
but they all rhyme with the word "pretender".
I write "request for tender", while at the same time
resisting the temptation to return this pretender 
to sender. I'm a gender-bender. 
I'm bananas in a blender. I despise 
imitation fenders. Does that make sense?

I'm a lover, not a mender. This poem
has been rendered obsolete. 
I'd rather write "request for tenderness".
I'm a beginner, not an ender. 
I like Larry Emdur. He's no pretender.
He's the real deal. I should have told him
while I had the chance. 

Instead, I'm standing here playing solitaire
with your minds. Now I'm playing Old Maid. 
And maybe that's who Madonna's pretending to be. 
Old Madge, in a leotard, playing patience
with the future. And she's losing every time. 

She should have called "barley" while she had 
the chance. But she didn't, and that's why 
I'm standing here pretending to be a poet tonight. 

Pretty good, huh? Not bad for a thousand-handed,
llama-wrangling, solitaire-playing virgin from
an island in the stream of consciousness.

I may have no idea what's really happening here
but at least I'm not pretending that it matters.
It doesn't. Well, actually, it does. 

But let's pretend I never said that. In fact,
let's pretend I never got up here at all. 

First performed live at Liner Notes Volume 3,
Bar Open, Wednesday 20 February 2008.


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