A former Miss Indiana, Michelle tells me
how she appeared at the Indianapolis 500
with Miss Budweiser and how insulting that was,
since Miss Indiana has to compete
with other girls in the categories
of talent, poise, and so on,
whereas Miss Budweiser was, to Michelle,
little more than a monster rack of jugs
and not even, if perfunctory visual inspection
is to be trusted, the ones Nature gave her.
Oh, the disparity between the true
and the false, the authentic and the un-!
As a Baton Rouge boy,
I’d go to horror movies in the fifties,
and theater managers combating the threat
of television would resort to such strategies
as the presence of “uniformed nurses”
in case of stroke or hysteria brought on
by screen-sized images of The Amazing Crab Man
or The Blob or the Aztec Mummy.
Busty and peroxided, those nurses
appealed feverishly to me, whose erotic ideal
was not the coquettish Marilyn Monroe
but the brassier, more aggressive Jayne Mansfield.
I don’t think they were uniformed nurses, though.
I think they were uninformed nurses.
Or prostitutes, maybe:
they were hard-faced and chewed a lot of gum.
Did I care? No, because in those days
I was also crazy about Count Floyd,
the caped vampire who introduces late-night thrillers
on WBRZ but who, during the day, is the station’s weatherman;
once, when the technician has trouble rolling
The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant,
the Count stalls for time by howling and flapping his cape,
only he knocks over his Carpathian castle wall
with its false fireplace and painted-on sconces,
and there stands the weather map:
high pressure system over the Midwest,
cold front pushing on into the Southern states….
Exactly how do you become Miss Budweiser?
Who are the Mr. Budweisers who choose you,
and who chooses them? Is there a Mrs. Budweiser,
an honest Hausfrau who was a Miss Budweiser once
and frolicked with the mechanics while the drivers
drove lap after high-speed lap?
Now she clucks at Miss Budweiser when she comes in late,
tells her not to make the same mistakes she did,
reminds her to eat well and get enough sleep—
how diligent she must be, how mindful!
I love the whip-hand part of me,
the Mrs. Budweiser who says kiss the children,
buy the wife flowers, write every day,
stay one chapter ahead of the students, avoid fried foods.
She is, if not my best self, the self that makes the best possible.
My Mrs. Budweiser is looking out her kitchen window;
she’s just put some fresh cans of lager in the fridge
for her hubby, a real man—no Count Floyd, he.
She pops a pan of beer bread in the oven
and then looks out the window: uh-oh!
My Miss Budweiser is supposed to be
edging the sidewalk, but instead she’s flirting
with the air-conditioner repair guy.
The strap of her pretty sundress slides down one arm,
and she looks at it and then up, as if to say to him,
“Could you get that for me?” Mrs. Budweiser scowls
and starts to tap on the glass,
but then she smiles and shakes her head,
and I know just how she feels: I love you, too,
Miss Budweiser, for you are my own child.