by David Moolten

A woman humming—not smirking from under
A bleach job or black butterfly lashes,
No pendulum in her hips, no allure
To methamphetamine except for those already obsessed,
Her scooped out cheekbones that only look high,
Her teeth like black corn—just someone decent
At holding a note— turns my head, briefly.
Then my hand pushes me through the door
And on with clinic, her life no less unsung.
But the melody oozes charm, from one of those
Slow ballads whose tawdry lines twist your guts
From the outside, a tune that carries her
Into the spotlight of my consciousness
Though it might as well be conscience, a woman
To whose heart I’ve listened brusquely through her blouse.
She sheds modesty with her voice—this who she is
When she forgets someone’s looking. She lacks
The necessary malice to harm anyone else,
Distract me, say, while her dealer-lover springs
From the next exam room with a gun, the one
Siren a faint wail flying through the afternoon,
Heart attack or car crash. If Terpsichore’s daughters
Wooed a sailor, that too was pure accident,
Their importuning not about him
But Persephone sunk so low she kept house in hell,
Her companions turned to cursed things so they could roam
In search. Maybe sometimes the vile want
Only what they once were, lost in monstrous hurt.
Maybe like a man in over his head
I’ve heard this song enough, drawn to her
Each time it spills from the radio, understanding
The breathtaking magnitude of all I don’t.

Published on July 23, 2011