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]

Models & Marie Antoinette: Two Escapes

Related Posts

Headshot of Oliver de la Paz

Poetry-Making as Empathy Play: An Interview with Oliver de la Paz

OLIVER DE LA PAZ
I had just come to terms with the realization that I had been writing about my neurodiverse kids, but through the mask of the Theseus and the Minotaur allusion. That’s when I started messing about with other shapes and structures, like mathematical equations and multiple choice questions.

Image of apple

Roya Zarrin: Three Persian Poems in Translation

ROYA ZARRIN
Did you hear? / They're calling me / from my northern gardens, with the scent of rice, / and from southern gardens, with the scent of revelation trees. / Forget water justice. / Don’t follow me. / Today I’m bitter, Obadiah. / Today is the feast of sacrifice ...

Yard

January 2020 Poetry Feature

MARCUS SCOTT WILLIAMS
iont remember my impressions before we installed the white picket-fence around the yard, but i like it now, makes the yard feel smaller, surrounding you like a bear hug. i know this yard. water balloon fights where balloons don’t satisfy-pop, jarring lightning bugs ...