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BLACK WALNUT ETAGERE

by Ken Harnisch

She was proudest I guess of
Her black walnut étagère
On which she mounted the
Porcelain goddesses of
Her youth. I heard she was
Model to the loveliest of them all,
The ballerina with the jet black hair
And silver eyes that twinkled
In the sunlight; a light that poured
Relentlessly through the crystal walls

She was wraith-thin and reminded me
In her waspishness of Audrey Hepburn;
I would watch her mouth until I was sure
She became conscious of my staring
And then her lips would divide and reveal
Columns of perfect ivory;
It was that smile that ensnared my
Youthful heart.

You are the product of a Puritan mind
She offered once, which was
As direct as she ever got.
I bristled like a porcupine, at first unready
To admit my frailties to a stranger.
But mostly, she spoke in whispers and circumlocutions
Which were beautiful when they fell upon the ear
And beguiling to my adolescent mind.

In the end, she had a way of being intimate which stripped
Me of all pretensions, and soon thereafter, my clothes.

I am not, she said, a predator,
As she kissed me softly on the lips.
Guilty of the sin of seducing me
And yet, not bearing a sliver of the weight
Of its consequence. I am your first, she
Said, and I will remain unforgotten.
For that alone someone will remember
Me as beautiful, even when I’m flawed.

And how she smiled again as
I leapt to her defense, shouting my denials
Of her deviance, although I never felt violated.
But I protested her self-derogation
Until it dawned on me she had gone fishing
For the compliment well before
We finished tussling in the sheets.

Naked, I felt uncoordinated and oddly
Alien. I sought my third eye in the mirror
Over her enormous bed and felt for my sixth
And seventh fingers as she gazed at me
With that half-crescent grin.
Do not feel threatened, she said.
I may need you again,
She said after that, and kissed my forehead.
Would you be up for sin as I would visit it upon you?

You are not a sin, I whispered in reply
And her ivory teeth gleamed in the crystal light.
Ah, young man, she said. You see, I have already
Transformed you. Now a changeling, you shall go
Out into the world and break more hearts
Than any man should.
I fear I have been Genesis
To a scoundrel.

Not a scoundrel, I replied, but a lover
In training… and this time she laughed.
Men, she said.
So easy.
So damned easy.
But she took me in her hand and said
You would look good up there
On my black walnut étagère.
Can I sculpt you, my knight?
Mold you? Paint you and fire you
In the kiln of my own desires
Until you emerge as shiny and
Unreal as all my porcelain dolls?

I touched her flaccid breast
And it rose in my fingertips.
Mold me as you wish, I said,
Feeling like a giant. But she already
Knew what I was to eventually learn:
That I’d just become another figurine.


11/26/2010

Posted on 11/26/2010
Copyright © 2021 Ken Harnisch

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Linda Fuller on 11/26/10 at 05:34 PM

A spellbinding tale indeed - hybrid of Circe and Mrs. Robinson perhaps - quite enjoyed this.

Posted by Anita Mac on 11/27/10 at 03:29 AM

There is something breath-taking about this... I was glued to it start to finish. Well done & thanks for sharing!

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 11/27/10 at 05:15 AM

Smooth, seductive, the individuals come to life with your pen.

Posted by Lauren Singer on 12/02/10 at 06:59 PM

"you are not a sin" ... mmm. yes. loved this, ken.

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 12/29/10 at 02:42 PM

Excellent poem Ken. Easily captures the dark humor of a Greek tragedy...the essence of Aphrodite. May all men beware of the siren's call.

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 12/29/10 at 02:44 PM

PS: I had to look up the meaning of etagere. I had no idea there was a name for such a thing, but of course, there's a special name for everything. :)

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