DAME WHO CARRIED HER CANE IN HER COFFIN
A title invented by Wallace Stevens but unused until now.
She was the lady Donovan-O’Neill
Who lived alone with others of her ilk
With divans and damaskas lately seen
And early sought to furnish forth her mind.
It was a nebula of rosaries
That went revolving where she lay among
The candelabra, confections of the wake,
The ductile tears of elders, and the young
Who raised their lace bandannas in alas.
Upon her lids small change winked there at Death
Who stood to gain the least against her will.
Tumblers clinked chorales in umbral tones;
“The sullen diapason of the sea”
Responded in the seashell of her ear;
Silk sang to her, mahogany and teak
Antiqued themselves and her: she was la belle
Of Boston, without ire, who left no heir
Unturned, who never tuned an air
Nor breathed a centime’s scandal. There she lay,
Chiffon and velveteen, high-toned and waled
Beyond the stockinged throng while in her grasp
Whence it had fallen from her to la grippe,
Not to be raised anon, her prop and stay
When she’d been able — the good and proper cane
Of dim repute, restored to her in spades.
But not to her, for she was in their minds,
Not in their mist. She’d walked beyond the haze
Of waking into slumber with her wood.
The coffin had dissembled her catarrh,
Her fever dissipated in the flue.
She was no longer she, but sybarite
Of Was, the melancholic dame of Seem
At one with timbre, nevermore of would.
Copyright © 2009 Wesli Court