Marsh Hawk Review is an online poetry journal sponsored by the Marsh Hawk Press collective. Marsh Hawk Review will appear twice a year, under the revolving editorship of collective members. Each issue will offer a selection of poems solicited by the editor, in addition to new work posted by poets in the collective.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sandy McIntosh

Sandy McIntosh

At Le Côte Basque

She was not literary
And didn’t get my references
To Truman Capote’s tell-all
About the Ladies Who Lunch.

I’d worn my new suit
Tailor-made for the occasion,
Admiring myself in the mirror,
As I tied my tie, as I
Straightened my trouser creases,
As I
Combed my hair
In supposed
“Literary” fashion.

The Maître d’ welcomed us
As if we were old friends.
I laid it on thick,
Pretending I knew the famous people
Who dined there.

Our waiter translated the menu
(“I’ve never heard of any of these dishes,”
She whispered. “Do people really
Eat snails?”)

I offered to order for her.
I thought she’d enjoy the
Sweetbreads a la Financiere
But she gagged when I told her
What I’d done.

I thought a few more drinks
Might help, but later, she disappeared
Into the Ladies Room.

The main courses were cleared—
Replaced by dessert,
By her uneaten:
She had not returned.

The Maître d’ invited me
To a little table
By the Ladies Room.
“We must have your table for
Other customers.”

I drank demitasse after demitasse
By the Ladies’ Room door.
At midnight the Cloak Room lady reported:
“She’s passed out on the floor.”

I dithered, not knowing
What to do. Finally the Maître d’
Decided:

“I’ll get the kitchen staff
To carry her out the back way.
You take her from there.”

Next morning
She told me to serve her
Breakfast in bed.
She was ill, she pleaded,
With a tummy ache and a headache,
And needed caring for.

She was not
The sophisticate
I’d wanted her to be.

I screamed:
“Make your own damn breakfast!”

“You don’t know me,” she screamed back,
Her eyes clear, glaring.
“I’m not your damn mirror!”

*****

The Heart Between the Floors

My father, a lawyer, told me this bedtime story:

I always wanted to be a writer (he began). I rented a house far away from everyone, so as not to be disturbed, so I could finally get my writing done.

I was writing a scary story about the shadows that move when you’re not looking, and the angry roil of the red flames in the furnace.

I wrote fast, demonically.

It was midnight when I first noticed it: A pulsing, thrumming sound. It kept thrumming, thrumming, thrumming. I put down my pen and raced around the house for hours looking, but I couldn’t find it. It drove me nearly mad! I had to find that noise.

And then I had an idea. I began to tear up the floorboards. The more of them I removed the louder and closer came the sound.

Finally, my heart beating in rhythm with those ominous pulsations, I ripped up the remaining floor boards.

All was darkness beneath.

At first I didn’t see it, but then suddenly it was right there before me. I leapt back in terror!

“What was it, Daddy,” I asked, frightened for my life.

“It was,” Daddy answered sternly, “the terrible, horrible, monstrous Heart Between the Floors!”
*

Years later, I read Poe’s story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I confronted my father with the evidence.

“Why did you pretend that the story you told me was your own?”

“You know,” my father answered. “I really did want to be a writer. But that story I told you, well, it was the best I could do.”

*****

On the Disappointments of Love

“Did you say your name was Seth Thomas?”
Daisy, wearing the green and orange,
Of her long ago prep school,
Her blond hair faded, mousy,
Looking at me,
Waiting.

“Seth Thomas? The clock maker?”
Well, it had been
A longish time
Since we’d been together, I reflected.
Many years.

“I shall read your Tarot cards now,”
She, shuffling, announced.
The first: “The Knight of Wands!”
The second: “The World, reversed!”
And the third: “The Two of Coins!”

But what did they mean?

“They mean,” she, indignantly,
“Exactly what they say they are!
You can’t hide from truth!”

Later she served me
A leg of lamb,
Raw.

“How long did you cook this?”

“Oh, fifteen minutes, give or take.”

I’d brought no wine;
She offered no water.
We sat silently,
Until three minutes past eight.

“I’m sorry,” she sighed.
Her measure
Completing its circle.
“I can’t marry you, after all.
Tomorrow I leave
For the Antipodes
Never to return!”

I had not asked her to marry me!
Mortified, outraged, I gorged myself
At a nearby restaurant,
Then returned home
To the clocks ticking loudly,

And I starving,
Just starving.

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