The World's Greatest Lover

The World's Greatest Lover was holding forth at the bar,
with a woman poured over his arm on each side
like swooning raincoats.

He had pretty boys pouting near the potted palms,
and they rolled dice to see who would get
his cuff links and his legendary cock.

So softly that he had to ask me to repeat myself,
I said that he was nothing but a mouthy, well-dressed fraud
and that he knew nothing at all about love.

"Little seal with the red ball on your nose," he said, smiling benignly,
"keep clapping. I like it."

I introduced him to my acquaintance--
a not particularly pretty girl wearing carnival vendor jewelry.
In her bag she carried nothing but a paperback,
twenty dollars,
and her phone, which played "Beat It" when it rang.

A year later, I saw him again,
and he looked like hammered shit.
He stared right through things with a slightly stunned expression,
and did this nervous thing with his jaw,
but blessedly, he had stopped talking altogether.

I walked up to him.
It was easy; he was alone.

I said, poor sad little seal,
I see she taught you well.

for Susan's challenge at Real Toads, which asked for a poem about love. I used one of the illustrations provided.


  1. What a difference a year can make. I love the opening to your poem. It makes me think of a classic, black and white film. Great detail and imagery throughout.

  2. Just in time for Valentine's Day. Nice way to keep a perspective on this overblown day. Heh...

  3. I wonder what paperback she carried?
    You've said a lot , but you haven't said enough Shay.
    And as I always claim, if the crowd clammors for more....
    It's Perfect!!!

  4. Loser is all over this guy like a cheap suit, and finally it catches up to him--the seal reference is clever and cruel, and the sort of thing that instead of hearing you wished you'd thought of first, after the fact. Sharp, painful and real, Shay. I especially love the femme fatale character who is so uber low key and deadly.

  5. A perfect poem for the eve of Valentine's Day, Shay.

  6. What an seems a year brought karma to his door. Wonderful work as always!

  7. I wonder sometimes when reading your work where you pull from, are these people real or imagined. As for the Worlds greatest lover, I think there is one stuffed away in every corner, but the way you have elevated this, the dice, the cuff links, the paperback and beat it ring tone. Truly mythic but reads real. Viva la

  8. I like "woman poured" x 2, the alliterated boys dicing over the 2 "c"s, the new character for your rogue gallery, and the narrator with the tag line. Otherwise, I am not sure I get your instance of love, except you show that there is nothing romantic in these settings. The pic is "Love of the Arts" (its name) which seems here to be artiface of the type acted out on stages, ie pretend. Is this a movie?

  9. Enjoyed the poem very much, Shay. Loved the way the women poured over his arms and her phone played "Beat It" when it rang.

  10. Happy Valentine's Day !!!!
    Lots of love and cuddle : )

  11. Susan, the instance of love appears at the end. He is "hammered"---broken, tattered, in pieces, a completely different man---because he finally fell in love with someone ... for real. The last line implies that they aren't together anymore, and that she has broken his heart. This is all love, as far as I can tell. The guy who blazes through women, manipulating them all (probably because of mother/father issues), always ends up falling the hardest in the end. Then it doesn't work out, and he remembers why he never wanted to love in the first place. This is a funny poem, and the gut response is naturally to hate him and to think he got what he deserves. But I think it's very sad, and I wonder why he was like this in the first place. I always wonder about a person's childhood, background, environment, etc. People aren't usually just naturally callous or cruel; there's often a catalyst.

    I, too, would really like to read a follow-up poem about the speaker's date, her book, what she spent the 20 bucks on, and who she was text messaging while you were watching this guy. ;)

    I LOVE the final couplet. So subtle, but perfect.

  12. Sorry I'm slow. I just caught that your friend, the one you introduced him to, is the one who "taught him well." I was originally picturing an ambiguous "she."

  13. He's been "taught" all right! I love the "little seal" references. Where do you come up with these things?

  14. wowweeeee, don't shy away, Shay! excellent cautionary tale. yikes.

  15. I love that you did not deliver up the expected response to this challenge. You escaped alive from a cliche-ridden trap and showed (did not tell) what the answer is in the depiction of the easy-lover's pain, shredded confidence and dislocation at the end. Love is a sacrifice of self, a devotion to the point of personal destruction.
    It ain't pretty, and it always ends badly.

  16. Shay, oh Shay ... oh Shay! You brought him to life, we celebrated his decline ...

  17. Best. Valentine's. Day. Poem. Ever.

  18. A great twist in the end! I'm in the crowd of wanting more!!

  19. Jasmine, you helped me to see that his own loving--nasty as it could be--was what brought about his demise when he met his match. She was brought on by the narrator, and I'll allow her freewill for accepting the challenge--and doing well, it seems--with the challenge (making a trained seal). So I'll take it a leap further and say that this reverses a norm in a woman abused world--and now that I see that, I like it very much!

  20. I love your revenge poems:~) They are so much fun!

    But must you make lines like this one so challenging to read: "He had pretty boys pouting near the potted palms." Hey, this isn't the best grammar, but you know what mean!

  21. You seriously made me hate this guy and delight in his downfall.

  22. I LOVE it when you write like this...I can get lost in your words. So vivid my creative friend!!


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