Models & Marie Antoinette: Two Escapes

By MARIA TERRONE

 

Even tight, feared spaces can expand, morphing from the past

into the fuzz of nostalgia, which I’ll try to avoid here,

e.g., #1, me at 16, looking for the “model studio” listed

in the Manhattan Yellow Pages. Toting a portfolio, I climb

the stairs of a West 40s walkup worn as another century.

“Models?” “No, that’s Cheekie, 2 flights up,”

one red talon points to heaven and off I go. 

A woman in a sheer negligee greets me, opens the door wider:

I take in a stripped-bare space, commercial buzz, the motion

of flouncing baby dolls, lace bra the black center

of a blinding white circle, and Cheekie, I assume,

behind the tripod. The image flickers across my retina,

then burns in. The hallway presses close, and my skin feels tight,

as if about to chip off in jagged bits like the ancient green paint.

I flew from there—no, plunged—a bird escaping fire.

 

e.g., #2, someone lit matches after the creaky elevator cable

snapped and plunged its human load

that New Year’s Eve in SoHo. I believe

it was Marie Antoinette in drag. I remember her coiffure,

towering ice sculpture frozen to perfection,

and satin billows that regally occupied half the elevator,

brushing against the perturbed ventriloquist who clutched

his dummy tighter. Neither had spoken all night, stopping

conversation instead with their sudden appearance and stares

in the center of happy talkers. Yes, I’m certain it was the Queen

who struck matches from a book hidden in décolletage,

holding up each brief, tiny flame like a torch, guiding us

once we hit bottom—jarred but not hurt—feeling

our way through the pitch of a basement

that could have been a Bastille dungeon, but wasn’t.

 

Maria Terrone is the author of three poetry collections including Eye to Eye (Bordighera Press, 2014) and a chapbook. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Poetry and Ploughshares and more than 25 anthologies. She is the poetry editor of Italian Americana.

[Purchase your copy of Issue 06]

Julia PikeModels & Marie Antoinette: Two Escapes

Related Posts

Good Boys

MEGAN FERNANDES
Once in a car, a good boy / shook me hard. If you like it / that way in bed, then why are you… / the tiny bruises on my arms / where his prints pressed into my pink/ sleeves rose to the surface like rattles. / Like requests. They thrived there / for a week until they settled /

What’s Goin’ On?

JONATHAN MOODY
On Marvin Gaye’s birthday, the D.J. / introduces “Sexual Healing” as the sole song / responsible for why some of his listeners exist. / If he & his wife were having trouble conceiving, / he would’ve skipped over the cliché / the way he skipped over the details / of Marvin’s tragic death

May 2017 Poetry Feature

GERRY LaFEMINA, ELLEN DORE WATSON, STEVE BARBARO
Giant shadows of wind, the semis blow by, / bemoaning lost mileage; the drivers / on that mad combination of caffeine, adrenaline, / & speed. The skyline something crossed out— / not a bad word, necessarily, but a right phrase / at the wrong moment.