Alice O. Howell   



                Circe is a bitch

          no use in mincing words

          that is what she is -

          strangely connected

          her body speaks a language all its own

          with a sinuous vocabulary

                    of tip-tilted swelling breasts

                    and spoon-shaped pelvis

                    long-stemmed bronze-fleshed thighs

                             even her feet are eloquent

                    never both flat on the ground

                    but one uplifted or bent aside

                    like a model posturing

                    vending her wares


                    if her body has words

                    it also has music

                    in that she always smells interesting

                    reminiscent of some bewitching

                    illusive memory

                    dusky, musky, and inviting

                    further - much further exploration -



                    but her face

                    feature for feature

                    is not really beautiful

                    it glows

                    with an incandescent animal appeal:

                    parted lips

                    waiting to be covered

                    sharp pretty teeth

                    perfect for frenzied moaning nipping

                    eyes that smolder -

                    black, hot, inviting pools

                    for flies to drown in


                    she has a way

                    of dropping her lids

                    and looking meaningfully

                    yet so innocently

                    as if for the first time

                    at her next victim


                             wicked, I tell you

                             wicked but clever!


                    At present she runs an antique store

                    and men find reasons

                    to bring unwanted heirlooms

                    to her - and their wives

                    wonder whatever became of

                    dear aunt Lulu's black ormolu clock?


                    The man enters unaware

                    at first and stands transfixed

                    by the collection of enchanted


                    that seems to intrigue him strangely

                    as if it screamed in shouts

                    of unearthly silence for rescue

                    from these dusty corners


                    a little bell jingles as he closes the door

                    and Circe approaches

                    apologizing for her bib-apron

                    which she slowly unties

                    and wriggles out of

                    her breasts doing eye-popping

                    gyrations under the nylon shift


                    the man puts down his Dresden

                    princeling and rushes to help

                    pull that naughty strap caught in the

                    scented gleaming forest of her chestnut hair -

                    she laughs and glances him up and down


                    and his toes curl

                    his tongue dries up

                    and his spine snaps to an involuntary salute

                    to her intentions


                    then she oohs and ahs

                    over his exquisite and precious


                    and a glaze comes over his own eyes

                    as she folds her arms casually

                    under the warm pulsing globes

                    and talks ironically of the high price

                    of things nowadays


                    she turns and reaches up to a shelf

                    for an example

                    exposing a liquid back

                    flowing under the clinging dress

                    and brings down a small porcelain shepherd

                    to blow the dust off his

                    paralyzed face


                    the man starts to sweat

                    and bristle and put away all thoughts

                    of home -

                    the she turns to a

                    china music box and

                    opens it to reveal a powerless pink cupid

                    with a golden bow -

                    when wound up by her flicking braceleted wrist

                    the tinkling parody of his treasured past

                    ripples out, and the handsome little figure

                    pulls on the golden bow in vain

                    his arrows long spent

                    regretfully elsewhere

                             she snaps the box shut in mid-melody

                    and interests the victim

                    as if by sudden inspiration

                    in her special treasures

                    kept only for special people

                    in a special place

                    and so they pass

                    out a back door into a brief

                    court of green grass and hard sunshine

                    and he could if he would

                    see innumerable stone garden ornaments:

                    grotesque dwarfs with blind lanterns

                    beautiful young boys with wet

                    naked buttocks under a fountain

                    and unhappy petrified animals

                    that will never run and frisk


                    but, of course, a man would not notice

                    such things under the circumstances.


                    In the annex

                    are the very rare objets d'art

                    which she will reveal

                    once she has sealed the door


                    very slowly, and very privately

                    she undresses her prey

                    and herself alternately

                    matching promise in every way

                    with expectation


                    by then, poor fellow

                    knows that he is lost

                    and at the final moment

                    he finds himself

                    caught in a ghastly blinding red-hot

                    mechanical, impersonal

                    tick-tock, tick-tock

                    of the infinite orgasm of time itself


                    he shudders in the cruel

                    pincers divided by a steel desire -

                    never, never, never to be satisfied

                    he collapses and swells

                    alternately shrinking and hardening

                    into brittle yet decorative glaze


                    Circe laughs softly to herself

                    and caresses the new ornament


                    then with a toss of her hair

                    she leaves to change into something fresh

                    before placing this

                    charming Dresden princeling

                    into the shop window

                    right next to the black ormolu clock

                    then she puts up a worn printed card

                             BACK SHORTLY - PLEASE WAIT

                    locks the merrily jingling door

                    and glides away

                    for a bite of lunch.

                                                                        a.o. howell