The sad courtesan
On her sad satin ankles,
Flashes her leg-irons of diamond.
The manacles on her wrists a-glitter
Under the moonlight as she dances
(Like a crumpled paper ball
Like dead leaves in the wind)
Her hair is whispering its dark secrets
Under the candelabra, the frozen water fountain,
Across the iced courtyard
(Like a broken top like a dancing doll)
Every note in her step is anguish
All the watching men shift uncomfortably in their seats
Even as her whirling form stirs life
Between their clenched legs. She whirls
(Like a crazed dervish,
like an eddy in the bath) they want her
But are stonewalled by her sorrow.
It bleeds out of her with every
Laugh, in every soft spoken note.
In her they understand the meaning of
Loneliness. They have felt alone
At times, (who hasn't?)
But the sad courtesan has been alone,
All by herself her whole life.
It is this they shrink from,
The thought that it might be catching
And that they might catch it from her
(Like lovers do with kisses in the wind
Like terror spreading from eye to eye)
And so they offer their excuses and slip away
Before the night is done
Before her dance ends.
Must she dance alone, the sad courtesan?
More alone all by herself than before?
She has been learning every evening
Since her dance of days began
To let men leave as they choose
wary of the soul that weeps
through her (through them all)
... like a stain on brocade like a
pennant in the wind like the moon in a lake
like a foghorn in the fog like the glow of the
stars like a shadow at night like the smell
of the tide like the thunder in clouds
like summer lightning in the sky like
blood under skin like fever in the blood
like the wings of birds like the lost pages
of books like the fissures in stone like
knowing what darkness is.
(a way to see light)