Winter 2005



Diane Wakoski

Blue dominating its dragonfly stretch, a bar
as long as the legs of a Vogue model, its mirror
wrapping around looking glass shelves and burnishing the
lit green of chartreuse, amber brandies, mahogany bourbons, stemmed goblets
like wasps hanging from wooden racks -

The honeybee topaz of filled
brandy balloons, and only men
wearing tuxedos, like hard shelled beetles;
me of course, wearing velvet.
It was my unfinished short story;
A caterpillar that never turned into a butterfly.
The one where I could never get the
descriptions right and didn’t know how
to make atmosphere into a character,
which is what I intended.

The whole story I didn’t know how to tell yet
was about men and me. Me, of course, the protagonist
of “Club Velvet,” always me in black velvet
at the center of my faux sophisticated high school story.
And a lineof shadow you’s in the mirror
of my Black Widow
femme fatale plot

My trouble was that I could never imagine
anything happening -- A dud for a plot.
All I could breathe into this story was the torch
and the light swirling,

the way you twirl cognac before
taking a sip, the whir of insect wings. It was all
essence. Before I ever read Stevens,
I was thinking of“Peter Quince
At The Clavier,”
inventing a mirrored place where “Noir”
was my name. Though
it didn’t translate to “black”
or even to “night.”
“Noir” was the improbable arachnid
of imagination, black and gold as my orchard spiders,
lit from behind, a web scintillating with globed
artificial light.

So young then I didn’t realize the shadows of prophecy
my inadequate story projected.
I should have seen a torch that would flame
the smudge pots to life in the orange groves. I should have seen
the ploughed furrows over which
the gopher snakes glided, and the grey paper cone
of wasp nest under the porch eaves. I should have told the family story of three women shut away
from the world of men, rather than trying
to invoke their celluloid longings. Palm trees and yearning for uniformed daddy to come home. That was my life,
which I didn’t know how to write about.

But if I was going to reject the daylight of my Southern California innocent life, for the nightclub shadows
of Raymond Chandler’s LA,
then I should also have seen you in a man’s arms,
rather than mine, or even another woman’s;
true forty’s noir, only hinted,
never spoken, the torch
song of hidden love. Instead, it was a
floor length sable I saw myself
wearing, as I stepped past portal.
You should always know
when you are missing something,

the firefly that winks so briefly you
never want to look away.




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