No Man Worth Her Salt

Joan Crawford Advances Upon Notre Dame Cathedral
     Bakelite harmoniums!—
an intelligent sub-continent
of bruised telephones calling up doctors—
melt in small, third-story apartments, bubbling girlishly
as a thousand and one tree silhouettes scatter their fried lace
to the sound of her morgue castanets.
And with a chain of pearls she tows a train
whose misted windows are proud to complain
about the state of transportation
to an old woman poling a boat on the Seine
and to the breeze’s anarchist
in a crimson punt
in the silt and foam:
which recalls to her the New York City harbor
as she trawls the alleyways of the Revolution
for souvenir parade hands.
Not precious, sophisticated, satisfied,
and a livid as linen—
for she expected too much from the Age of Manners—
she pours two pink aperitifs from a Woolworth’s jug
which is her soul
that noble gas
(lovely as a dark ditch tied at the waist with a rose-tinted scarf)
draining into her red shoes.
     “Forget Pisa: everything is leaning,” she moans
as a doll-sized gendarme chips away at her heart
and she pulls away abruptly
just another wounded rebel
smelling of a chicken farm between two glaciers—
who doesn’t nowadays?
And, in her eyebrows, whiskey dewdrops
as big as antelope skulls!
Her eyebrows are the city’s newest structural beams.
She thinks the Eiffel Tower is fat
and isn’t afraid to tell it so
in a short memo scratched upon an opal.
She scribbles two notes toward a fresher economy…
“At L’Opéra, a sewer rat is playing Juliet
like a Hired Beauty, fresh as fireworks
in a bowl of April milk.
Have her dismissed.”
“A Rose Window will light my incontestable sleeplessness, and the war widows will generate gravity waves which will hold down the overhead.”
     Not quite a pleasure but not so much business:
her success an iron moth already elsewhere
sipping Pepsi through a yellow straw
debriefing her patented hairdo
a fire in an abandoned bicycle warehouse
labeled “Basilisk, Inc.”
She imagines her next major project: 
“Cleopatra pulls the trigger (starkly lit)
on an iridescent key which opens the Autumn’s brass fan
made tragic by broken apertures.
The wake of her barge is legible from Marseilles through a 25 cent telescope
but she has become a veined apple freckled with snow
and night’s Black Delicious is searching for a tree
for both she and her French sailor to fall from
into each other’s arms.
(Compose a list of stuntmen)
She plans to be higher—in the French pantheon—
than a borrowed overcoat and she will be stiff
with the saliva of young working girls
making beds beneath a waterfall.
And yet her profile is a wire elevator
within which the Bastille ghost of a post-breakfast cigarette
lies on a tablecloth woven from a torn shirt
that still has some hair clinging to one of its buttons.
     Feh! Her dress champagne-sharkskin,
her eyes two daiquiri parasols.
She simply must attend a funeral for a pet rabbit
down amidst the great amber columns of her voice
frosted with the psychologist’s daintiest diamonds
to mimic the black flies still struggling in the room’s air.
     And there the ritual mouthful of white cherries
bedridden in her breath misting the train’s tiny windows
back over her burgeoning shoulders,
the Deco pianos like sleepwalkers matted with cobbles
as they pour into the streets below
and just top off her red shoes
so the wrens don’t go thirsty.