Persephone in Hell, VI by Rita Dove, from Mother
After the wind, this air
imploded down my throat,
a hot, rank syrup swirled with smoke
from a hundred cigarettes.
Soft chatter roaring. French nothings.
I donít belong here.
He inclines his head, rather massive,
like a cynical parrot. Almost a smile.
She doesnít belong, thatís certain.
Leather skirtís slipped
a bit: sweet. No gloves? American,
because she wears black badly.
Iíd like to see her in chartreuse,
walking around like a living
Sotto voice, his inquiry
curls down to lick my hand.
Standard nicety, probably,
but my French could not stand up
to meet it.
"Puis-je vous offrir mes servies?"
"Or myself, if you are looking."
I whisper this. Iím sure she doesnít understand.
"Yes. IímÖ.sure heís here somewhere."
Here you are. "
"Excuse, I thought you were French.
You are looking for someone?"
Heís gone and back, as easily as smoke,
in each hand a slim glass
alive with a brilliant lime.
"What time is it?"
I hope he wonít let himself
be found too soon. A drink?"
Again the dark smile.
"Some call it that."
shrinking from the glass.
"A minuit. Midnight.
The zero hour,
you call it?"
"trick of light." I take the glass,
lift it to meet his.
Back to the
House of Hades
To my Main Page?
"Chartreuse," I say, holding out a glass,
"is a tint not to be found au naturel
in all of France, except in bottles
and certain days at the Cote díAzur
when sun performs on ocean what
we call un mirage, a--"