**Any sentence followed by an * means it is either quoted from one of their poems or paraphrased and doesn't belong to me. Following the story is the list of poems I referenced from Dickinson, Frost, and Whitman. Happy Reading/Writing.**
A Poetic Pick-Up
So, two poets walk into a bar. They don't know each other yet, but they will soon, because they're both looking at the same girl.
The girl sits quietly at a booth, her mind too distracted by the bees in the flowerpot to notice their sudden attention.
Both men approach the bar. Step one in picking up women: buy them a drink. Implied step one in picking up women: find out what they like first (but both men had their own ideas about that).
“One 'Sea Breeze' to the lady in brown,” the first orders. He drums his fingers on the bar top, turning his head to the left as the other poet takes the empty seat. Never good with silence, the first man speaks again, “Ah, women, women are like the sea! Beckoning us to them, so we can take our turn.” He spoke boastfully.
The other one smirks at the absurdity of such a simile.
“No, sir, women are the unknown. We dance round in a ring and suppose, but like a secret, she sits in the middle and knows*,” he replies, then raises a finger to the bartender, “a 'Stinger' for that same lady.”
“I see we have very different opinions ... ”
“Frost,” he offered.
“Whitman,” the other returned with a nod, “I guess we shall see who really knows women best by the end of the night, my man!”
There was a cockiness, an 'I never lose' air, to Whitman's voice that Frost found hard to ignore. So, he agreed with a nod of his own; he knew watching this man's large ego shatter when he left with the girl would add a welcome high point to an otherwise unremarkable day.
Whitman looked to the lady, deciding that there would never be any more perfection than there was then in that one woman. With the twirl of my tongue*, he thought, I encompass worlds*, just like I will encompass her.
“I shall go first, my dear Frost! You can take notes if you'd like.” He smiled cheekily and squared his shoulders. Jutting his chin out, he made his approach, 'Sea Breeze' in hand.
In truth, Whitman was confident. Nothing excited him more than communing with his equals and getting to spread his knowledge to those like Frost who obviously didn't have the experience and wisdom that he had but could if he paid attention. Focusing on the petite, dark haired beauty in front of him, he set the drink in front of her and prepared his first line.
But she had anticipated this meeting, having over heard the man's loud jovial voice over the jukebox track. As soon as she noticed the nauseating fruity concoction touch her table, she decided to play a game of her own.
"I am Nobody! Who are you?*” She spoke first, struggling to hide her smirk.
Surprised, he faltered, but only slightly, quickly formulating a suitable response.
"Walt Whitman, an American! One of the roughs! A kosmos!* A-"
"You are like a frog,” she interjected to make him stop, “singing to your admiring bog*."
“Yes, I am a frog; I am the earth, the moon, the dirt under your boot soles, and so are you! You and I together are everything!” Whitman continued, undeterred by her negativity, or perhaps not picking up on it at all, only wanting to make her see herself as he did.
“Hmm,” she smiled slyly. “If you are everything, tell me, if you had to choose, would you rather be a Dog ... or be a Cat?*”
“I answer that I cannot answer ... you must find out for yourself.”
“Or instead of a frog, maybe a butterfly? Which one would you rather be?” She countered, eyebrows drawn back expectantly. And just as he took a weary breath to begin, she threw a question at him again, “Come on, now. Tell me why?” She was being childish and she knew it, but sometimes it was the only way to bring such a large being down to size.
Whitman, confused and feeling an odd and unfamiliar sensation of failure, didn't know how to respond to such childish questions. Which would he be if he had to choose? Well, all of them, of course! And at the same time none of them. He wanted nothing more than to be the dirt under her boot soles so he could be with her always. But being mushy wasn't going to beat Frost, so he went with bravado instead.
“Ah, madame, I am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless ... and can never be shaken away*. I exist as I am; that is enough*.” His confidence returned by his own pep talk, and he decided to leave, for now, on that high. “If you'll excuse me madam, I must go bathe and admire myself*, as should you, for I will return shortly.” And Whitman took his leave, giving a nod to Frost on his stool, a subtle batter up playing at his lips. Who could resist a man who has everything and is willing to give it so freely?
The woman, while entertained and slightly off-put by the odd encounter, pushed the pink drink aside and didn't dwell on it long; a small fly buzzing in the corner of her window had caught her attention. She had yet to notice the new man that was now standing directly beside her in her obsession over the small bug.
“What do you keep looking at that damn thing for,” Frost questioned, poorly hiding his annoyance. In one swift and uninvited movement, he sat the 'Stinger' and himself in her booth.
“What if a fly’s buzz is the last thing I hear before I die?” She offered without looking away, her thoughts concocting a beautifully haunting scene of this fly in a funeral home.
“Well it’d be easy with a fly, to bargain for your life ... ” Frost contemplated aloud, “Just tell it you have stopped dying now forever, I think they would believe the lie.”
She caught the ironic tone in his voice and appreciated it, if not also scoffing at the absurdity of bargaining with a fly. Now a bee, the bringer of spring life, she could see.
“I am Emily—before you ask—Dickinson,” She gave without question.
“Robert Frost, but you probably won't remember tomorrow.”
“And why do you say that, Mr. Frost?” She was off-put by the insult, but he didn't seem to notice.
“Because I am pine and you are an apple orchard, and your apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under my pines*,” Frost replied. His tactics were all cynical and fire. Honesty had always served him best. For some reason, his rudeness always intrigued females.
And Emily enjoyed his analogy; it made her think of trees on a crisp fall morning.
“But do not the birds love all trees equally?”
“Maybe, but one would be hard pressed to find the two together,” Frost furthered, doing his best to feign disappointment.
“Hope is the thing with feathers*, which will gladly fly to every tree,” Emily offered hopeful.
Frost sensed his victory. Tell a woman you are something they cannot have, and they will want it all the more.
Now to go gloat to Whitman who was surreptitiously watching from the bar.
“Hope won't refill our glasses,” Frost said, while taking the 'Stinger' from her hands and drinking it, “I'll be right back.” He left abruptly.
“And how was your go, Frost?” Whitman asked as Frost sat at the empty stool next to him, signaling the bartender again. Whitman already had another 'Sea Breeze' waiting.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence*: two men pursued the same lady in a bar, and I ... I won,” came Frost's cocky reply.
Whitman's laugh was loud and long. Not to be out done he answered, “Which of the young men does she like the best?* Ah the homeliest of them won't be beautiful to her.*” He winked, trying to soften the lighthearted taunt.
Both Whitman and Frost knew neither would win this battle from their barstools. They both turned and looked to the booth in tandem. Whitman rose as if it were a race to the small table before noticing the now vacant table.
Only one man was truly surprised.
“I and this mystery, here we stand!*” exclaimed Whitman.
“It is no mystery,” Frost answered with a pat on the back that was just a little too hard to be comforting, “Women, like the sea as you said, break more than just along the shore.”
© 2014 travelswithpenandpaper.com
Poems for reference:
Leaves of Grass 1855 edition
The Road Not Taken
The Secret Sits couplet
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
"Hope" is the thing with feathers
I heard a Fly buzz--when I died