Poet's Choice: Rachel Loden's "Miss October"

"Miss October" began in annoyance and ended somewhere entirely else. Hugh Hefner's E! Entertainment television show "The Girls Next Door" debuted around the time of its writing, and (in clicking channels one night) I was treated to images of a then near-octogenarian Mr. Hefner indefatigably flogging the program in his robe and slippers.

I had not yet seen the recent tweet that alerted me to the sale of "6 vols of PLAYBOY, signed by Hefner w a piece of his PJs," but that delicious bit alone might have triggered the birth of this poem. For what is "a 7 x 7 cm piece of Hef's famous silk pajamas, worn by the great man himself" (as advertised by the publisher) but a religious relic, one exquisitely appropriate for our times?

I shouldn't have been surprised that "Miss October" had plans for me beyond exasperation and bemusement. For years my poems about the undead and uneasy 37th president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, had taken me places that would have made even a zombie from Yorba Linda recoil in horror.

Both "Miss October" and my Nixon poems carried me back to Washington, D.C., where I was born, and where my father, a deejay and actor, lost his livelihood during the McCarthy era, but that was one way station among many. Poems have their own itineraries, issued only on the fly.

"Miss October" (very unusually) emerged in a single fit of scribbling, precisely the wet and glossy piece you'll find below.


If I have to be a playmate
In my time on earth
I want to be the girl
Of drifting leaves, cold cheeks

And passionate regrets.
I think Hef loves October best
Because although he cannot
Say so, he is this close

To death. December
In its stealth has hung
Long spikes of ice
Around his sagging ears, his

Sex. So in October
I'll be the centerfold of gay
Pretense, the girl who says
We're at our blondest

And most perilously beautiful
Right before we check out
Of the manse.
Soon all Hef's dreaming

Will be ash, his favorite pipe
And smoking jacket,
Last vial of Viagra
Safely under glass

At the Smithsonian.
When my shelf life here
Is done and all the damp
Boys stealing glimpses

At the newsstands
Are old men, I want them
To remember how many

Are gone, how many rooms
Stand empty, shutters
Drawn, the last girls slipped
Away in bright October.

"Miss October" appears in Rachel Loden's new collection of poems, "Dick of the Dead" (Ahsahta Press).

By Ron Charles |  January 15, 2010; 12:52 PM ET Poet's Choice
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This is so good! How wonderfully Miss October resonates in January when one is fed up with stupidity anyway.

Posted by: agordon49 | January 16, 2010 1:12 PM

Rachael Loden's poems espress timeliness--in pungent, never bland, eloquence. Thanks for the 'Poet's Choice' feature.

Posted by: bets415 | January 19, 2010 5:45 PM

Sly & trenchant. How lucky Hef is to get the deft poetic heft of Loden.

Poet's Choice is so cool.

Posted by: wendyf | January 22, 2010 12:18 AM

Rachel Loden offers an exquisitely crafted, funny, and spot-on satire of contemporary American life. No one does it better!

Posted by: pvaldata | January 22, 2010 11:38 AM

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