Again she’s on the prowl.
See the whisper of a whisker
above her lip, the monocle’s claw
tigering her eye, the silk silence
waistcoating her hips – each button a fang
on which a lover may catch.
Which lipsticked voice will catch
mid-croon as she prowls
in tonight? Which saxophonic fang
will she blunt with a whisker
of smoke into silence?
Which brick wall will shy from her claw,
her moonbeam-sharpened claw?
And from what sorry bedbug did she catch
this Charleston influenza? Even in silence
her black brogued foot will tap and prowl
the dancefloor, whiskering
out some newfangled
rhythm as makeshift as her paycheck. Fanged
with a crisp deck, her lobster-claw
Queen of Hearts plays coquette with a whiskered
Joker. But watch her catch
a flapper by the waist and prowl
a gloved hand through that bobbed blond hair in silence:
how much such silence
speaks! Love with its million fangs
shadows her into each speakeasy. Wherever she prowls,
her swaggering mug bears Cupid’s claw
marks – it’s not just lust that catches
this poor cat by the whiskers.
Oh America, you’ve singed many a whisker.
Sauntering home in streetlamped silence
she whistles an old-country catch,
its Yiddish rhymes ribboned to bits by memory’s fang
like those Sapphic fragments half scratched out by history’s claw.
In the sky, dawn’s on the prowl.
Worldwide she prowls, immigrant whisker by vaudeville claw,
steeled with silent-film fangs. This butch sure is a catch.
Consumption’s kiss was impossibly tender.
Like an anglerfish you pulled me under.
I have not wit enough to woo.
Bewitch me speechless, oh wizard of want.
Call the police on this heart of flint.
These youthful terrors are not very pure or true.
On Good Friday I gave my last promise away.
With my last match I burnt down Troy.
I’m perfectly, bloodily daggered in two.
The tarantella ruined my best boots.
An epidemic of silence conquers the streets.
Pity poor me, a mute and forgetful Jew.
Like all small tragedies, I drag on and on.
No love can unbutton this soft jail of skin I’m in.
Desire deludes worse than the flu.
Of all sordid creation you’re the utmost harlot.
Look at this laughingstock, this love like a silver bullet.
The baker’s daughter sleeps in a coffin of yew.
Solstice vampires into eclipse.
Into sweet dreams I relapse.
Neglected, my heart beats askew.
Lydia Friedman once went on a blind date with a marble statue in Vienna. She lives in New England and can be reached by howling into the void, or at www.crookedbutinteresting.wordpress.com.