The Book of Style Poem

The Book of Style Poem

I often kept his suitors at bay.

Yet once a plan was made, I pulled
the florals out, extra nutmeg, and
a few flasks, hidden discreetly, properly,
within the room’s deep crevices
in anticipation of our smoking dramas.

He called himself an artist manqué
when he dressed in his theatre-maroon.
(The preface of this book reads,
“I impresarioed his evenings.”
The pages show their gold on one side,
and the margins are narrow like these hours.)
He never really wanted—nor would ever
break a vein over—my, this, sex.
He said, “it would seem taboo,
like cousins together.”

A particular icy night, unexpectedly,
a visitor came over wielding a knife.
I was called to placate him, deflect
his quaint violence. So I went to our faunish

guest

and kissed and kissed his tense arms,
staining them with candle burns,
only to save us. (It’s as though I were
the rush of violins, a tempered accompaniment
to their romantic collage.)

I brought the tray
with the hand-blown pipe and delicate
syringes with their silver arrows pointing away,
then robed them both in matching silks.

(On the way to impoverishment,
I learn my late night lessons
from these young swans that punish my dreams.)

Later that night, I knew this visit was outdated,
his welcome, outstayed; so I signaled
to our guest in the dark to show him out.
I pulled him by his coat’s lapels
to the door, and he said to me,
“You’re saner than usual,
but still exercising your mystical rights,”
then pushed himself against the posturing wind.

Back in our haven the ice trees began
to strike their light through the breaks
and tears in the curtains.
And I slowly woke him up

by calling out names: this boy’s,
our latest visitor, and old lovers’
like the one who abandoned him
in Amsterdam. I cursed them,
then he’d join me, describing
some elaborate blackmail, imagining them
covered in stab wounds.
It became our carnival where
we illustrated the turbulence of cut jewels.

I think he cherished
my body for a moment,
draping the boy’s robe over me,
and I almost asked him,
“Couldn’t we summon from all
this foreplay another heady scent?”

The luster from the glass and silver
arched over the chairs and pillows
like dense vines, and we found
our old elegance of the inarticulate again.

It’s winter, always, when I’m reminded,
of him, and, you know, there was,
a petit bateau érotique for us once
and danger. And the tragic, the maudlin,

hushed talk—it still goes on about us.

Molly Bendall
from Dark Summer

The Book of Style Poem

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