With only a few apologies to Robert Browning
Here’s David Beckham, looking as if he were alive.
The breathing slow and metrical, that steady rise
and fall of his stupendous chest. Caught on film,
spooled day and night inside this darkened room
for us selected few — the women who appreciate
a perfect nude, swooned in Egyptian cotton sheets.
Though quite untouchable. Still, it works both ways.
He will not raise a hand nor undermine a word you say,
open an eye to find your body wanting —
he’ll just sleep on, indefinitely, the gothic font
of each tattoo rippling the light like animated ink.
An artwork on an artwork, or so I like to think.
These days, who doesn’t want to play post-gender
post-identity games? Some call the piece a wonder
now: no thrusting David lording it from his pedestal,
but here in bed, supine, surrendered, vulnerable.
You noticed, no doubt — smart women always do —
my use of the conditional subjunctive. It’s true,
his whereabouts are not now known. Sam Taylor-Wood
could have explained, but why should an artist stoop
to deny claims that suspected murder was a ruse
to inflate a portrait’s worth? As you know, she chooses
never to stoop. It soon became a viral trend: so many men
caught sleeping. Their dreamy half-smiles frozen
for all eternity — a crying shame so few smiled half
as charmingly when wide awake. The photographs
and phone footage quickly multiplied. It was claimed
some disappeared, leaving just these silent bodies framed,
seemingly alive, yet not alive. Some have objected
to galleries displaying these ‘spots of joy’ I have collected.
Such trifling complaints! — from those quick to find fault or blame,
their passions, like their anger, all too easily inflamed.
Besides, a comic slant on the male form informs our view.
Well-read critics — which I am not — claim none of this is new.
At least their names remain. Titles that have tumbled down
the centuries, appended now to objets d’art. And owned.
Projected onto pink-washed walls, pleasing backdrops
for soirees hosted by bad feminists like me. A step up
from chichi dinner parties served on Judy Chicago plates.
It’s almost time to leave. Cocktails will be served at eight.
But as we head downstairs, listen out for Artemis,
our new sound installation, fresh from the Venice
Biennale. You can just detect the baying hounds
beneath the unchecked roar of laughter echoing around.