Miriam Levine




BEAUTY SECRETS OF THE DEAD

 

In life Jen's hair had never been so thick.

Never would she have bought a kimono

on which fire-cracker mums explode

 

through skies of silk.  "Tell me," I begin,

but she presses her finger against her lips

made up with pink and yawns like a cat.

 

When I ask again, she pushes away air

with the flat of her palm and refuses a beer

though she once loved to sip through rafts

 

of foam to taste dark brew.  Like one

pestered by flies, she tosses her head,

but, noticing my tears, speaks at last: 

 

"You will have to see 'the moist lotus open

along the banks of the Acheron.'"  Had Jen

met Sappho whose words she quoted?

 

Jen who never read anything

but bills and Sunday papers

comes back from the dead educated.

 

"Honey, the weight of new hair will make your scalp

ache.  Deliciously.  You'll drink Chateau Lafite

with all those you have loved and choose your clothes

 

from an eternal wardrobe.  The scent

of jasmine will never fade, but not one

of these things is worth it."  How well

 

she knows meā€”heaven of wine, love,

clothes fragrant with jasmine, hair dense

as a chow's, and Sappho.  I could have it all now

 

except for hair too thick to comb.  Kicking her hem

as if she were dancing flamenco, she dismisses me with a kiss

blown from immaculate fingers that once tied my ribbons.




Miriam Levine's most recent collection of poems is The Dark Opens (2008) , chosen by Mark Doty for the Autumn House Poetry Prize.   Her books include three other collections of poetry; Devotion, a memoir; and In Paterson, a novel.  She lives near Boston and in South Beach.








                                    

 

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