Mesmerist

I.

He never laid hands on me,
all that time, except the usual

which he could take or leave.
Never a wrist, though, or a temple.

But out in the halls, in Deauville
or Coventry or I don’t know where

Will you be—listen to this—a perfect angel
and stay behind the chinoiserie?

Oh yes, with the glass harp too,
and—on my mark, Rose—that moan

rising, the silk and frost of it, fingertips
slicked—you had to—in the cooling swill

always at my feet, of lye and tallow,
the maidening of last night’s linen.

II.

Scarecrow still he’d go,
frock coat stark in the dream heat.

Then the hands, slow as a sunrise,
some lady novelist, every peck of her

peony bright and whiskering the air,
from her book, fallen open

a rattle of ashy lavender,
bless her, asplay on her lap, and then—

then, he could lift a snowflake,
I swear to God, off her heart

with that tongue, safe as a diamond,
cradled and urged—
Do you feel it?

There now, a wing beat merely,
as if a dove were trapped?

The flames, then, dipping and
curtseying low in their bowls

and all those hearts, you see,
they’d quicken and dim

all smut and flutter, they were

chambers of smoke, of fretting moths,
of vapours.

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