Transcript of The Syphilis of Sisyphus

Mary Reid Kelley

Paris, 1952

Scene 1: Sisyphus' Garret


Nature sold me a lie, and I’ve kept the deceit
On my face to remind me: Her falsehoods repeat    
Like the seasons renew. Same advice every time,
Because Nature can counsel me nothing but crime.

Her Utopian swindles profess to be cures,
But infect generations. While smeared with manure
As a young, naïve milkmaid, in apron and braids,
I, too, was Revolting on top of the barricades!
Praising the Rustic, I fell to Gourmet        
And my radical urges were lost, due to Neglige.    

Shamed by this Lapse into Luxury’s error,
I hid my defections, ‘til this happy Mirror
Revealed a new cause for which Sisyphus shoulders     
The burdens of charm, crying, “Make Beauty Boulder!”

Crush earthly pigments! Grind rocks to a dust! Flint
And waxes make Nature submit to adjustment,
While camel hair, sea mud, and squid ink ensure
That while fishing for Compliments, I use Allure!
My Cosmetics prove I won’t be whipped by these rashes:
If Nature gives scourges, then Beauty gives lashes!

Strong discipline needed to bury these pimples
With inch-thick rice powder. Complexions aren’t simple,
And nothing’s so Gouache as to be badly painted!
Technique must be pure because Nature has tainted  
Life’s mortar with pestilence, desperate to wreak
Her foul havoc of impudence right on my cheek.

These sores burn with an anger so hot that I’m incensed!
With Incense still more fragrant than sweaty and hellbent
Provincials extolling fresh air, while they’re scoffing
At Beauty’s demands! Turn your head, and keep Coiffing!

The Toilette is noble! But taste’s in the toilet.
If Art is a carrot, the masses will boil it
To jelly, while praising it’s crunch and suggesting
I eat it! I’d rather eat shit and die jesting!

I’ve a horror of Vegetables, a hatred of Floral,
Nature’s so foul she makes mushrooms A-morel.
Some mushrooms I know, when asked, will admit
That the root of their heartache is: “We stem from shit!”

Cruel Biology, rendering blemish inherent
To produce! I ask Nature, what kind of parent
Begets in the darkness, these sprouts in neat rows
Just to turn on a Blight! I hereby propose

Drastic measures that don’t give an inch to Demeter:
This gift that’s she’s given so kindly will cheat her
Inadequate rations of one dried-up teat per Mouth!

(Sisyphus leaves her garret and descends the steps towards the street.)

Genius needs Nourishing Beauty to suck!
So I’ll go into labor, while pushing my luck
That this child will put Natural regimes to the saber!
Make lumps, proletariats! Knock up your neighbors!
When pickets fail, propagate! Throw down the barrier
Methods. Hunt Nature down, bind her and carry her

Out on a rail. Give her breast a last squeeze:
See! Nothing comes out of her Wet Nurse’s Parodies!
Her milk comes from cowards, and thus I instruct
Babies how to throw bottles, so Milk Ducts.

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