Endecasyllabics: About the Women (Alma, Ruthie)
The lion-maned poet holds court on our blue
divan, reminiscing on her Aegean
days—tramping the beaches of Santorini,
bare-bouldered Hellenic hills almost too bright
to countenance—she steps into her husband’s
huge sandal prints. Tawny cloud of her hair flows
down her shoulders, ashes from her Virginia
Slims scatter over the sofa’s blue roses.
She props naked feet against the arm rest and
asks us: “Who else could have understood that sky,
that purest cerulean picked out by stars?
Whose words burned into the oracular stones?”
We exchange looks—are we supposed to answer?
His feet were more bruised, his form more broken than
her rose, burned to ash in Orphic shade. But she
goes on praying at the altar of his art.
We empty her ashtray and refill her glass,
sit cross-legged on the polished wood-plank floor
eye-level with her ankles. Outside, through cracked
jalousies, Ruthie the Duck Lady roller-
blades by, in red lace-up boots and Santa Fe
flounced skirts, Jackson Brewery straw hat jammed down
over her greasy curls. A clutch of mallard
ducks, adolescents still fledged in yellow fuzz,
are waddling as fast as their flat orange feet
can slap the cobbled paving stones behind her.
Behind them, a buggy driver hauls back on
his mule, yells at Ruthie, Hey, baby! Move on
over! But she slow-skates straight ahead, curses
stream between her teeth in a blue billow. Her
ducks veer off, spooked by the buggy’s painted wheels.