A tear from Martian eyes
Ensues, moist embrace and kisses.
Elise is seventeen and hisses
Sentiment tried on for size.
The ancient servant hefts
Her FM radio. He manages a grin.
Leon strokes his daughter's chin.
Through stone some feeling sifts.
The girl is dark complected,
Hazel eyes consumed by blusher.
Her hesitance is easily detected
To warm to Margie, brittle, lusher.
She wears her ragged denim,
Blouse and jacket, black felt clogs.
The aviator frames emotion fogs.
The smile is lilting, tinged with venom.
Clemens nods, scuttles on his course.
No one senses his departure.
The moment strains when etiquette is rupture
And lassitude returns in force.
"And how's your mother, bless her soul,
And Uncle Joseph, Grandpa Grims?
I see you're smoking Silva Thins."
In time there comes the lull.
Silence to the waiting cab,
Silence into traffic screaming past.
The fear is that such fear will last.
Margie quickens, starts to blab.
Soliloquy of sculpture, oil,
Cadence of Degas, Gauguin.
The latter's histrionics fairly boil.
Little is depicted but her strain.
The day is warm indeed, a certain pull.
They leave the taxi for the sun-worn
Steps. The latter burn,
Blond glitter, light on Leon's skull.
The further steps extend within,
Cool now, muted like a day
In shadow. Leon oversees their progress with a grin,
The calm ascent toward Claude Monet.
"Elise, your father's often ill.
His week is such a hectic pace.
These moments in your presence trace
A greater joy than pain can kill."
The girl is sullen, lost in thought,
Ignores the artifacts they pass,
Sees little but the moment caught
Like artifacts in rigid glass.
Perhaps she senses contradiction,
That beauty can be trapped for hire.
The commonplace to her seems higher
Than any captive benediction.
She catches moment in the throng,
A lilt of lovers' gesture, dress.
The child that clings to sterner song
Is retrograde, served simply to oppress.
And yet they enter pastel blur,
Shimmer of a thousand captive hues,
Monet at last, the elder child in use,
Transfixed. Vernon, the Seine in rapture.
The child sees objects, mass and form,
A muted voice against the crowd.
There are no cameras allowed,
The total instant free and free to burn.
The little else that Leon sees is fleet,
Harmony controlled by random color,
A lesser harmony of price and seller,
Ten billion in the space of twenty feet.
Margie, observed, is found to fix,
A surge of warmth and childish awe,
To see as child the child that Monet saw.
Warm sympathy of tone on such souls sticks.
A blur of haystacks melting into voice,
Cadmium of statement, ochre, rust.
Giverny shouts in flecks of dust.
The cry at sunset leaves small choice
But tears for color's final dance
Like Buddhist temples, naked soul,
Yet nothing here is left to chance.
Each fragile fleck speaks to the whole.
And on to poplars, lilac, tall,
From silhouette to likeness cast below,
Erupting orange, palest green, small
Bent for sadness in this braver show.
The wash of morning on the Seine,
A muted shading, emeralds to blues,
Haze of pink, unspoken hues
That speak for textures, even strain.
Beyond statement, beyond footbridge,
Garden path, a carnival that runs toward blood,
Mad smears of discord at the edge
Relent toward water lilies, God.
Boredom on the sun-blond steps.
They watch a clever pantomime.
Leon, furtive, checks the time.
Such moments given soon elapse.
"I thought we'd taxi to the Village,
Get off this side to have a look.
We've had enough to fill a book."
Margie insists she will not budge.
"But Margie dear, we can't stay forever.
There's sight to see beyond just art.
Consider poor Elise in part.
She's tickled by a different feather."
The latter's radio is booming,
Cacophony of Lynyrd Skynyrd's pain,
A raw emotive shudder at their patient grooming,
Confronting Leon's placid brain.
"Well if we must let's make it Spartan.
We'll take the bus and watch the scene
More leisurely, nothing that obscene,
I hope. I beg your pardon?"
"Oh God, as if I care what Dad's about.
The both of you'll go your way
And call it mine no matter what I say,
The whole thing's always your decision.
You call the shots. They're so damned chic.
I'm tired of grown-up supervision.
At seventeen you're up a creek.
All right. Maybe something from a shop,
Something small, nothing at all
Fancy. I'll pacify with earrings for the fall,
A belt, God knows. Just stop!"
At Eighth they disembark,
A sorry trio in a restive crowd,
Seeking to recapture what Monet allowed
In antique shops aimed toward the park.
Ahead the arch is looming,
A muted gray above the asphalt.
Elise's FM RADIO could take some grooming,
Leon thinks, quailing from its brave assault.
Safe enough, here among the pavement's
Surge of strangers, lax or hurried.
In such entombment Claude Monet is buried.
Leon senses, strives, relents.
A haze of sky infects the light.
Strangers ache in lilac tones.
A strident levity takes flight
Toward spill of lilac on the paving stones.
"Oh God, Daddy, he's dead!"
Leon—"Don't stop. Don't look, Elise."
Margie—"As if that makes it cease?
Oh God, the blood. His head!"
"He's dead, Daddy. He's dead, he's dead!"
Leon—"For God's sake, keep on walking."
Margie—"Listen to the expert talking."
Leon—"Well what would you have said?
These things happen. Better not to look.
We'll check out something nice.
That's just a slice, I'd say . . . a slice
Of life. Let's not get shook."
Margie—"I'd say a slice of death."
They've hurried on for half a block,
Pausing to catch their breath.
It's painful just to talk.
Elise—"It's all your fault. It's all your
Fault. You made me see that awful thing.
How should I react? . . . just cling?"
She weeps against her father's shoulder.
Beyond the Square they tempt
Her at a shop. She barely sees
The glitter in the window. Her tears have ceased,
But still she sulks. They stop, attempt
Another, perhaps a hand-wrought vase,
An atomizer, something Javanese.
The girl is hard to please.
From store to store they chase.
"Are you hungry? How about something Greek?"
Leon's tone is strident, whines.
Elise shows signs
Of interest. Her appetite is seldom weak.
"We'll stop in here, I've read reviews.
They say the lamb is succulent."
Elise enters, truculent.
But hungry. The injured often have to choose.
Souvlaki, feta cheese,
Mousaka, black olives, resin
Flavored wine, a Heineken for Elise—
To alcohol she's no distant cousin.
A second liter for the two adults.
Their conversation slurs,
Tracks sideways toward Elise's mother's faults.
The edge of laughter blurs.
The house she kept, what it cost
Poor Leon to maintain.
And now each year across
From Central Park, thirty grand for certain.
The private schools, the maid,
Clemens, the Benz—
It hardly made much sense.
A lesser man would feel betrayed.
But why is she so long in the john?
Leon wonders between sips. He grins,
Studies his glass. They say it thins
The . . . "Margie, where's my daughter gone?"
No one in the restroom but a fat
Sullen slut. Elise gone.
As Leon paid the bill, that awful fact
Asserted. His voice brittle, face wan,
Contemplating childhood on such streets.
Abducted? Anything could
Happen in this town. Should
He call her mother? Outside, sheets
Of rain came sudden. They braved
Up and down Bleeker, Thompson, depraved
MacDougal. Leon cursed
The weather, the human refuse
Still scattered in the gutters, on the walks.
Pained, still searching, always for Elise.
To think he thought that money talks.
Margie—"Call Susan. Call her.
You have to. It's getting late.
Better yet, just talk to the butler.
Let Clemens set it straight."
Leon—"You think she's home?
And what if she isn't? What if she's . . . ?
I hate to guess. Don't squeeze
My arm. All right, I'll phone."
They enter a corner bar,
Leon fumbling change.
Their smiles arrange
In concert. Leon dials, composed for caviar.
"Yes? Yes? Yes? She's there?
All right. All right.
Not tonight? All right. She gave us quite a scare.
All right, I understand. Quite."
The follow-up is kissing,
Gin, against the emerald mirror.
Release from fear draws them nearer.
So silly not to've seen her radio was missing.
The follow-up again is gin,
Kissing, and gin again and kissing.
The flower child is in her skin,
The stodgy BROKER almost missing.
"We'll take a cab, Margie. Why pinch
Pennies? A taxi all the way to Woodcliff Lake.
I've had enough today. I thought I'd break
There for a moment. Just another inch
And Christ, where's my marbles? She
Was mad. God, was she mad,
Old Susan. She has me up a tree,
That woman. At my age, it's sad."
They flag a yellow cab across the street.
The fare is double, then the tip.
They've given pain the slip.
And settle in the back to get some sleep.
Brilliant in the early night,
Manhattan, slate sky and neon,
Faceless buildings, Leon
Settled back against her, tight.
Bright light, florescent signs
Through the canyons, the silhouettes
Of power thrust high against regrets,
Futility, defeat. A billion bold designs.
And on to Amsterdam, cars snaking
Past the road-lamps, kaleidoscope
Of lancing light nearly breaking
Leon's heart, nuzzled into Margie's throat.
The Hudson Parkway fleet
Toward the western shore
Of that grim island. Such perfumed radiance, more
Than he could bear or cheat.
And then the Bridge, hung there
Above the river, arching through the quiet,
Raw conquest on its concrete pinions,
Mass, ambition, grace, seemingly in flight.
"Are you asleep? Are you sleeping, dear?
I'm sorry that I have to wake you.
This day's been enough to break you.
Are you sleeping? Wake up, my pretty one.
The night will soon be done.
Come. Wake up. That's a girl. You seem
Like a goddess, lost in dream."
"What time is it? Oh Leon, we're home."
The softest guttural moan
Purrs from her throat. Her yawn is such
That only Raphael could touch.
"Leon, we're home again."
She doesn't even mind his grin.
"You're often thoughtful, kind.
I've often said you were a find."
Past the doorman with their pass,
Up seven flights, climbing noiseless, rapt.
No comment would be apt.
They sense that silence speaks at last.
"Leon, honey, should I take a shower?
Gretta must be fed.
I'd rather go to bed.
Don't look so sour.
I know what you want. I'm in the mood.
Perhaps a little sweat
Will make it interesting. Not yet.
I'll feed the kitten. Your eyes are lewd,
You know that? I haven't seen
That look in seven years.
Leon, you're blushing. Your ears
Are flushing, nearly crimson.
Could I say I love you? I love you.
Would you believe it?
Just let's leave it
At that. I think I do."
Leon lies in muted light,
The willing victim
Of a thousand forms. They are dark on bright,
Pastel and lilting. Leon burns,
Aches, waiting, a languor
Feels rush of heat on lilac satin,
Melts into longing. She is stranger,
Face in a crowd,
A purity that only grief allows,
Honey hair and flesh. He vows
To hold her if permitted.
But holding is to yield.
Perhaps he knows that at last.
An aching die is cast,
A honey sweetness only she can wield.
He wants to take his time,
Melting, melting into rhyme,
That tactile flesh and texture,
Melting, melting into rapture.
The fantasy is greater than the fact.
He is held to the act.
She whimpers in her need.
He spills his seed.
And she is hungry, sighing,
Empty now, crying.
He strokes the honey breasts.
The sullen time arrests.
They lie apart on satin.
She faces from his strain.
And yet she loves him,
Inexplicably, even now loves him.
Perhaps that's the hardest part.
It was that way from the start,
His brave glitter, protecting her forever.
She is calm now, calmer.
"Leon, you're going to have
To learn to sleep without the light.
I've had it for the night.
I'm simply tired. Behave
Yourself, honey. No nonsense.
No, I'll close the door.
Your fears are such a bore.
Take a Valium if you're tense."
She tries not to kiss him,
Slips to the corridor.
"Your fears are such a bore."
And yet she'd miss him
Horribly. The ache would last.
All her body in the corridor.
HIS FEARS ARE SUCH A BORE.
That last thin ray to cast
On Leon's face, that sight
Is more than she can bear, erase,
That last awful trace.