I have an old story to tell you—
Sit down beside me and listen.
My face is red with sorrow
and my breasts are made of straw.
I sit in the ladder-back chair
in a corner of the polished stage.
I have forgiven all the old actors for dying.
A new one comes on with the same lines,
like large white growths, in his mouth.
The dancers come on from the wings,
I look up. The ceiling is pearly.
My thighs press, knotting in their treasure.
Upstage the bride falls in satin to the floor.
Beside her the tall hero in a red wool robe
stirs the fire with his ivory cane.
The string quartet plays for itself,
gently, gently, sleeves and waxy bows.
The legs of the dancers leap and catch.
I myself have little stiff legs,
my back is as straight as a book
and how I came to this place—
the little feverish roses,
the islands of olives and radishes,
the blissful pastimes of the parlor—
I’ll never know.