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I never used to notice gay couples, remarked Brassie.  Twenty

years ago, people were not ‘out’ when they were out, if you see

what I mean.

You used to see them at art galleries, I replied.  That was the

place where I first became aware of men being ‘together.’  I suppose

a lot of us were naive then.  I once went to a Private View…

…and wrote a poem about it, no doubt, laughed Brassie.

Well, yes…

And here it is:

PRIVATE VIEW

It’s a Tate Private View, at l’heure bleue,

with earnest, shaven-headed male couples,

hip-joined, dressed in black, affecting ear-rings;

sharing an Exhibition Guide, as Friends.

There’s an occasional hermaphrodite:

self-contained, apparently orthodox.

Some linger by Simeon Solomon’s

Love in Autumn; study flagellation

of shivering Cupids, with detachment;

whisper about Redon’s castration theme,

look puzzled at an enigmatic Sphinx.

They pause before the liminal figures.

Sydonia Borek.jpg

Politely, they wait for me to step back

so they can see Sidonia von Burk,

with her snake-knotted overdress and filet;

Macdonald’s spermatozoaic princess;

Salome’s necrophilia.  Climax

by Beardsley is received rather limply.

They almost link hands before Lamia,

while my heterosexual girl friend

hyperventilates over architraves.

Self-obsessed I spot inaccuracies

in the labelling.  Pluto, not Neptune,

you fools.  And who is Gabriel Fabre?

Decadent afternoon over, we walk

to Waterloo’s surreal ‘normality.

The escalators do not tolerate

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: everyone must

enter the turnstile with their own ticket.

Curiously, the ear-rings have vanished.

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