Dying Goddess

What was he after all?
A wise-cracking bouncer
She was the featured act
The fetching, singing siren
She passed him at the door
And barely looked at him

She was a savage feast
Wild hair, puma black eyes
Cherry mouth, lizard tongue
He loved her tongue and teeth
Wrote bad lines about them
Flesh like fresh apple skin

That sort of boyish thing
But the colors were right
Whipped cream, blackcurrant sauce
Milk chocolate and brandy
Calorie rich, piled high
He should have suspected
There was too much of her
When she sang the room blazed
And the boys burned, leaving
And left at two, smoldering
Nobody, young or old,
Could ever refuse her

After, at the Greek diner,
They ate eggs and bacon
Pancakes and black coffee
She was happy and talked
And talked and he listened
Her teeth and tongue moving

In the early mornings
Driving to Queens College
She rattled on about Poe
And chemistry and math
He made offhand remarks
That unsettled her calm
She said he drove badly

One summer afternoon
They drove to the ocean
And lay down on the beach
Head to toe, skin to skin
In her infinite blanket
Her body, speckled sand
Was a shifting dune
When the gulls came at night
She played a song for him
For him and no one else
It was almost perfect

But there was still something
Missing he thought, yes he
Was almost sure of it
There was something not there
Entering a bar room
Her hanging on his arm
Was like walking into
A church with flaming hair
Every head craned to look
He could hear the hearts stop
Just for a moment and
Then go back to beating
In that she was perfect, he knew
And she knew it also
And that was the problem

Dreaming, she was a siren
And he was a sailor
He could not clear the shoals
The boat screeched, groaned
And settled in the darkness

The next day he told her
“I know what is missing.”
“Don’t forget the exit.”
“You have no soul,” he said.
“Damn,” she said.
“You missed it.”

Years later at a party
People from the old days
Noisy and good natured
He saw her on the stairs
In a blood-red ball gown
Her hair black and alive
Her shoulders white and bare
The noise dropped to a hush
It was the best entrance
Of her career he thought
And he was proud of her

But sadness had come
With her, some subtle sign
Of time’s unwinding coil
Everyone around her
Giddy, little planets
Seemed somehow unaware
That she was not singing