for Barbara There are words I've had to save myself from, like My Lord and Blessed Mother, words I said and never meant, though I admit a part of me misses the ornamental stateliness of High Mass, that smell of incense. Heaven did exist, I discovered, but was reciprocal and
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Mrs. Cavendish and the Dancer
Mrs. Cavendish desired the man in the fedora who danced the tarantella without regard for who might care. All her life she had a weakness for abandon, and, if the music stopped, for anyone who could turn a phrase. The problem was Mrs. Cavendish wanted it all to mean something in a world crazed and splattered with the gook of apparent significance, and meaning had an affinity for being elsewhere. The dancer studied philosophy, she told me, knew the difference between a sophist and a sophomore, despite my insistence that hardly any existed. It seemed everyone but she knew that sadness awaits the needy. Mr. Cavendish, too, when he was alive, was equally naïve, might invite a wolf in man's clothing to spend a night at their house. This was how the missus mythologized her husband – a man of what she called honor, no sense of marital danger, scrupled beyond all scrupulosity. The tarantella man was gorgeous and oily, and, let's forgive her, Mrs. Cavendish was lonely. His hair slicked back, he didn't resemble her deceased in the slightest, which in the half-light of memory's belittered passageways made her ga-ga. And I, as ever, would cajole and warn, hoping history and friendship might be on my side. Mrs. Cavendish, I'd implore, lie down with this liar if it feels good, but, please, when he smells most of sweetness, get a grip, develop a gripe, try to breathe your own air.