Hostess Poem By Laura Kasischke

Hostess Poem By Laura Kasischke

One of the guests arrives with irises, all
funnel & hood, papery tongues whispering little
rumors in their mouths, and leaves
his white shoes in the doorway
where the others stumble
on the emptiness when they come. He
smiles. He says, “I’m
here to ruin your party, Laura,” and he does. The
stems
of the irises are too
long and stiff for a vase, and when
I cannot find the scissors, I slice
them off with a knife
while the party waits. Of course, the jokes
are pornographic, and the flowers
tongued and stunted
and seductive, while
in the distance weeds & lightning
make wired anxiety of the night. But I’m
a hostess, a woman who must give
the blessing of forced content, carry
a cage of nervous birds
like conversation through my living room, turning
up the music, dimming
the lights, offering more, or less, or something
else
as it seems fit, using
only the intuition
of a lover’s tongue, a confessional poet, or
a blind woman fluffing up her hair. It is
an effort, making pleasure, passing
it around on a silver platter, and I’m
distracted all night
by his pale eye
like a symbol of a symbol of something
out of logic’s reach forever, until
the soggy cocktail napkin
of my party ends
with this guest carrying
an iris around the kitchen in his teeth, daring me
to take it out with mine. Perhaps
a hostess should not laugh
too hard, or dance
at her own affair. Frolic
is for the guests, who’ve now
found their coats and shrugged them on. I hear
someone call “Good-night”
sullenly to the night, disappointment
like a gray fur lining
in her voice. Someone
mentions to this guest
that his shoes have filled with rain, suggests
suggestively he wear
a pair of my
husband’s shoes home when he goes. Of course,
of course, one
of the godmothers has always
come to the christening for revenge. She
leans over the squirming bassinet and smiles
and sprinkles the baby with just
a bit of badness. In his
white smock, he
is prettier than we imagined
he could be, but also
sneaky, easily
bored, annoyed
with the happy
lives of his dull friends. When
he grows up he’ll go to parties just
to drink too much, to touch
the women in ways that offer
favors he can’t grant. The women
will roll their eyes behind
one another’s necks. The men
will bicker about the wine. And
after the party, and the storm, in the afterquiet, the hostess will find
herself standing
a long time on the patio
alone, as I
stand tonight, after
the party, in the still, small song of embarrassment
and regret, aeolian
in my white dress, the wind
feeling up
those places again while I
smoke a cigarette, which fills
my whole body with the calm that comes
just after the barn
has burned to the ground, and the farmers’ wives
in nightgowns stand
around in moonlit air, their
breasts nearly exposed, their
swan-necks warm. Perhaps
it was the wine. When I
passed him in the hallway by the bathroom, I,
thought I heard him say, “Laura, I want,
to ruin your life,” and, trying to be polite, I said,
“That’s
fine.” I said, “Make yourself at home.”

Laura Kasischke
from Fire & Flower

Hostess Poem By Laura Kasischke

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