Biographies

Listen to the poem in English

Read by Audrey Shu

Biographies by Dorothy Parker
(from Enough Rope, 1926)

Now this is the story of Lucy Brown,
A glittering jewel in virtue’s crown.
From earliest youth, she aspired to please.
She never fell down and dirtied her knees;
She put all her pennies in savings banks;
She never omitted her “please” and “thanks”;
She swallowed her spinach without a squawk;
And patiently listened to Teacher’s talk;
She thoughtfully stepped over worms and ants;
And earnestly watered the potted plants;
She didn’t dismember expensive toys;
And never would play with the little boys.

And when to young womanhood Lucy came
Her mode of behavior was just the same.
She always was safe in her home at dark;
And never went riding around in the park;
She wouldn’t put powder upon her nose;
And petticoats sheltered her spotless hose;
She knew how to market and mend and sweep;
By quarter-past ten, she was sound asleep;
In presence of elders, she held her tongue –
The way people did when the world was young.

And people remarked, in benign accord,
“You’ll see that she gathers her just reward,”
Observe, their predictions were more than fair.
She married an affluent millionaire
So gallant and handsome and wise and gay,
And rated in Bradstreet at Double A.*
And she lived with him happily all her life,
And made him a perfectly elegant wife.

2

Now Marigold Jones, from her babyhood,
Was as bad as the model Miss Brown was good.
She stuck out her tongue at her grieving nurse;
She frequently rifled her Grandma’s purse;
She banged on the table and broke the plates;
She jeered at the passing inebriates;
And tore all her dresses and ripped her socks’
And shattered the windows with fair-sized rocks;
The words on the fences she’d memorize;
She blackened her dear little brother’s eyes;
And cut off her sister’s abundant curls;
And never would play with the little girls.

And when she grew up – as is hardly strange –
Her manner of life underwent no change
But faithfully followed her childhood plan.
And once there was talk of a married man!
She sauntered in public in draperies
Affording no secrecy to her knees;
She constantly uttered what was not true;
She flirted and petted, or what have you;
And, tendered advice by her kind Mamma,
Her answer, I shudder to state, was “Blah!”
And people remarked, in sepulchral tones,
“You’ll see what becomes of Marigold Jones.”
Observe, their predictions were more than fair.

She married an affluent millionaire
So gallant and handsome and wise and gay,
And rated in Bradstreet at Double A.*
And she lived with him happily all her life,
And made him a perfectly elegant wife.

*rated in Bradstreet as Double A: Bradstreet (now known as Dun & Bradstreet) is a corporation providing commercial data and analytics for businesses. It now ranks businesses alphabetically and numerically from 1-100 into Risk Categories – the higher the rating, the lower the risk that the rated business will be unable to make payments. A Double A rating would signify that an individual or company was very safe to do business with. 

Author Notes

Dorothy Parker, American writer (1893-1967)

Dorothy Parker’s main works include poems, short stories, and sketches.  A view of the human situation as simultaneously tragic and funny is characteristic of her writings.  From 1916 until 1920 she was a drama and literature critic at Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines.  She wrote book reviews for The New Yorker from 1927 until 1933.  Her last major undertaking was to collaborate on a drama, The Ladies of the Corridor, in 1953.  She was among the founders of an informal literary circle–the Algonquin Round Table. 

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Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.