Summer 2004


Summer 2004

Dan Richman

The old goat buys a young girl
from a good family in big trouble.
He enjoys showing her off to his cronies.
"Look at her and weep," he wheezes behind a cigar
as she glows in the gloom of his mansion
built by Indian slaves,
a light in a cave.

At night if he hasn't drunk too much
he takes his pound of flesh,
not caring if she lies as stiff as a board,
her lips a slit,
so lovely is she to look at -
that skin, that hair like smoke smudging his sheets.

One night, his rooms jammed with plunging necklines,
stuffed shirts, blazing candles,
and sweating Indians in stupid vests
to make them look like servants
instead of objects,
puffed up Ponce
orders his wife to play the lute, shouting
"Alright, everybody! Shut up and listen to this
and die of envy!"

The girl touches the thing.
The strings tremble like fawns.
Sweet songs flutter in the cigar smoke
eager to escape.
And two things take place:
the crowd of stoned planters and their wives
actually do shut their mouths.
And Ponce sees that his wife is better than he is.
He thought he was buying a piece of ass
when what he got was a princess.
Only class could freeze that audience.

Now helpless,
he dies when she twists from him
and burns in hell when he tries it still
but there's nothing at the tip of him but him,
stuck in her.
She's somewhere on some green hill
outside his halitosis.

Exploded hair, pajamas,
he kneels at the altar.
"Oh, Lord, I know it's out of character,
but I fell in love with my wife.
Who won't look at me twice. Ah,
if I could only be young, olive-skinned,
and slim, and start again
and do something besides business,
something generous,
so that she would smile
and touch me in public!
Oh, Jesus, on your nails!
Around you the dead climbed out of holes,
the lepers leaped, and the blind gaped.
So is my prayer that crass?"

Now the old Indian saying her Rosary in the gloom
has him!
What better way to avenge her children
than drop the hint of a drink
that can melt the years and free the boy
trapped in old bastards, even capitalists
to skip again in the sun?

Poor Leon!
That's all he needs!
Maddened by the elusive one,
ready to reverse time in her direction,
ignoring all advice,
sailing north through waves by the million,
harsh dawns, soft sundowns,
nations of pelicans,
flying fish,
he drops off the map to a hot coast,
low, muttering.

It sucks him in, him and his men.

After weeks of mosquitos, nights of drums,
days of snakes, spiteful vines,
no fountain, no Youth, but eyes
stalking them through the palms,
They slump into a swamp and sink and choke
except for Ponce who has the spunk
of a wild old man in love with youth
driving him back to the agony of life
long after life has had enough.
He rips his face from the mud.
His eyes light when they hear a lute.
He looks for a pale shape in the shade
he prays is his wife,
naked, smiling, and open to him at last
at the stroke of his death.
But a bird flutters on the wet palm of a palm-leaf,
repeating those lute-like notes,
And an arrow nails the old man's mind shut.




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