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A Whip and A Chair
Mary Rose Betten


for Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes"


I wonder if other women almost seventy
find close contact with some men our own age
as terrifying as I do.

Men who've let their eyebrows go feral,
who look as if jungle warfare is being fought
directly above their eyes.

I'm afraid I might get caught in them--
trapped, twisted, bullwhipped and tangled.
And with my arthritic limbs I could 
never claw my way out.

Alone in a hotel elevator one morning
destined for free coffee in the lobby,
a beastly-browed fellow joined me on the fifth floor,
a freshly brewed cup in his hands.
The steam stood his eyebrows straight up
wielding the scepter, buck stiff and stalwart.
I pushed the button and bailed.

At a cocktail party I saw Cindy
the chain smoker lean down to kiss
a savage bushranger who reached up for her,
knocked her ash straight into his brows,
set off every sprinkler
and sent us all home sopping.

Cousin Walter of the wolfish brow
ignored my plea, caught the flu and
sneezed so hard and often
he whiped himself to death.

Might not American men be trained to
master the threat of their militant eyebrows
or must we resort to a whip and a chair?


From Hanging Out with Loose Words (FootHills Publishing, 2005).
Used here with the author's permission.



Mary Rose Betten (1936 - 2017) was a writer and award-winning character actress. Her plays were produced in New York, Hollywood and London; her essays were featured on NPR; she appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, including The Waltons, Gunsmoke, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Highway to Heaven, and Dallas;  and her poetry is as diverse and entertaining as her career was. Learn more about Mary Rose here.


Post New Comment:
What a fun tribute!
Posted 11/18/2016 07:39 AM
Andy Rooney would have loved this tribute to him! An elderly friend of ours would often sport such eyebrows. It was apparent his daughter from overseas had been to visit when those "militant eyebrows" were brought under control… slowly the unruliness would emerge again revealing the upcoming return of his dear daughter. Thank you for the fond memories!
Posted 11/18/2016 07:23 AM
Perfect! An acquaintance of mine actually uses only one eyebrow for such a performance!., a delightful poem.
Posted 11/18/2016 03:12 AM
Delightful and amusing! Janice
Posted 11/17/2016 10:56 PM
This was a lot of fun. It loosens up my imagination. I will save it as a "prompt" for some writing of my own. Thanks
Posted 11/17/2016 09:37 AM
This poem celebrates what poetry is all about for me. Feral eyebrows!!!Only a poet's heart speaks to what many miss...pure delight! Thank you Mary Rose.
Posted 11/17/2016 06:42 AM
Love it. I've seen those brows!
Posted 11/17/2016 06:37 AM

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