Marvin Gaye (1993)

Michael Hofmann

He added the final ‘e’
to counteract the imputation of homosexuality.
His father was plain Revd Gay, his son Marvin III.

He slept with his first hooker
in the army, coming off saltpetre.
He thought there was another word for ‘virgin’ that wasn’t ‘eunuch’.

Including duets, he had fifty-five chart entries.
His life followed the rhythm of albums and tours.
He had a ‘couple of periods of longevity with a woman’.

He preached sex to the cream suits,
the halter tops and the drug-induced personality disorders.
When his hair receded, he grew a woolly hat and beard.

Success was the mother of eccentricity and withdrawal.
In Ostend he felt the eyes of the Belgians on him,
in Topanga someone cut the throats of his two Great Danes.

At forty-four, back in his parents’ house,
any one of a number of Marvins might come downstairs.
A dog collar shot a purple dressing-gown, twice.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

saltpetre  dog collar