EP&M Online Poems



Robin Fox

Derek Freeman and the Working Girls


When Derek Freeman, the notorious anthropological critic of Margaret Mead, was at the height of his psychoanalytical phase, (around 1963-4 in London) he not only photographed phallic doorknockers in Bloomsbury, but went round the cafés in Soho asking the working girls how they assessed the virility of a client.  It was absolutely characteristic of Derek that he was not interested in the girls for sex, but for information on phallic symbolism. They judged by the ties, he told me: they said that they preferred long red shiny ties as indicators of sexual prowess.  They didn’t like wearers of bow ties, nor did they like clergymen in uniform, he added, and that showed that the clerical collar was a castration symbol.  They liked tight, not baggy trousers on men.  He said the girls in Singapore didn’t like men in Bermuda shorts.  (He was there when the Australian navy retook the city from the Japanese.  He remembered the admiral announcing that the sailors could rape and loot, but they must not disturb or destroy any official records.  This had a profound effect on him, as did the behavior of said sailors.)   Men who talked too much, or appeared too clever, he discovered, also put the girls off.  This particularly satisfied him.

I wrote the following for him then.  He was amused.  It has been in a file ever since.     Robin Fox
No self-respecting whore would want to lie
With a client in a polka-dot bow tie,
And would dismiss with contemptuous snorts
A john in baggy check Bermuda shorts.
Yet she will happily trust herself in bed
To one whose tie is silky, long and red,
And gleefully trust her scarlet-painted lips
To a man whose pants cling tightly to his hips.
So you of the bow tie or Roman collar,
Can you buy passion even with the dollar?
The lady, after all, is not a stone,
She cannot live or love by bread alone.
Respect this ancient wisdom of the whore
(These ladies, after all, should know the score.)
Remember: clothing indicates the man
Far better than vocabulary can.
So quips in Greek or epigrams in Latin
Will not excite like ties of shiny satin,
And all the wit that pious learning gleans
Has not the eloquence of clinging jeans.


        Further to  “Epilogue” in The Passionate Mind (2000).

Life Is Too Short  

When we were young and all the world was green,
We used to tell each other: “Life’s too short” --
To justify our sins.  We didn’t mean
It literally of course.  Now we are caught
In its stark literalness, and so we know
(We wheezing, balding ones way past our prime,
Whose memories melt away like last year’s snow)
The humorless reality of time:
Of time foreshortened, of the loss of friends,
Of old ambitions unfulfillable.
We curse the destiny that shapes our ends,
And ‘til recorded time’s last syllable
     Confront, with shaking limbs and labored breath,
     The loss of beauty, and the fear of death.

                                                                                                                                        Robin Fox

Derek Freeman & The Working Girls and Life Is Too Short copyright © 2007 by Robin Fox
All rights reserved

Robin Fox has appeared here only recently but is fine poet and a world-renowned anthropologist.   Among his many books are
The Passionate Mind, The Red Lamp of Incest, The Torey Islanders, and, most recently, The Participant Observer.   You'll have to see him in person to hear him sing and play guitar.

I apologize for failing to publish "Derek and the Working Girls" last December, when I had promised it would appear.  In the academic world, a failure to publish as promised is akin to shunning in an altogether different culture.  I acknowledge my crime with loud
mea culpas -- just shouted out the window to a believing public.  Six months late, however, the poem is still wonderful, and one of the very few poems written inside the world of science.   Thank you for reminding me, Robin!