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Deviant Ballade by Julie Steiner

Deviant Ballade

I died out there! you say. You mean I froze
onstage. Yes, hostile audiences daunt.
When heckling hits you like a fire hose,
the trick is to deflect it on a slant.
Self-deprecate. If anybody throws
tomatoes, wear one, clown-like, on your nose.
Dignity? The wise prefer détente.
Some things it’s just ridiculous to want.

That’s sick! you laugh. You mean My laughter shows
I’m not contaminated. Jeer and taunt
and carry on like all the other crows.
You’re carrion the moment that you don’t.
Give no one any hint you’re “one of those”
whose hearts are so delicious to expose.
Forgo the comfort of a confidant.
Some things it’s just ridiculous to want:

A shred of sympathy, however gaunt.
A flyspeck of respect. Untrodden toes.
Freedom from the fear and guilt that haunt
you always, thanks to things you never chose.
The sort of specialness that you could flaunt.
The sort of suffering you might disclose.
To be yourself, not Mr. Nonchalant.
Some things it’s just ridiculous to want.

Print slips for fortune cookies. Bold the font.
Such wisdom might be Buddha’s. Or Thoreau’s.
(In fact, concerning eros, it’s Rousseau’s.)
Some things it’s just ridiculous to want.

by Julie Steiner, first published in The Quarterday Review.

Editor’s Note: Stage fright and drama go hand in hand, and must be handled with flair, as this poem so deftly suggests. Poet’s Note: The repetend is a line from the poem “Jean-Jacques Rousseau” in the series “Noted Sadomasochists,” found in Rose Kelleher’s collection Bundle o’ Tinder (Waywiser Press, 2008).


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