I wrote this poem what feels like a million years ago, back when I was student teaching and playing a lot of computer Hearts. For some reason, I decided the Queen of Spades needed the film noir treatment.
The Dark Lady enters
in a sleek, anachronistic gown,
blue-black hair and blue-black eyes
accentuating a set, expressionless face.
And she’s ready.
Oh, she’s ready.
She doesn’t care that
snickers, curses, murmurs, gasps
She’s an audacious lady,
proud, straight backed, glistening with glassy-eyed indifference,
And when she steps foot in the place
—propelling herself onto the green with nary a thought of the damage in her wake, or the hearts she may or may not break, or the hearts she may or may not
she carries with her that elegant air of prodigality and purpose.
But hearts aren’t broken
And we still have time to change our strategies.
But I don’t have a good enough hand for any
maneuvering. But I’ve
got a bad enough hand to
take her now.
she exhales a throaty laugh as
I realize I’m stuck with her
and she realizes she’s
stuck with me.
And I want to slap her lovely, haughty face,
But she slaps mine first.
“Thought I’d get that out of the way,” she says, her voice
raspy from disuse.
She opens her valise.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” I say as I fumble my match.
laughs and wheels luxuriously around to light my cigarette
with her rhinestone-studded lighter,
her fingernails clicking against
its polished metal.
“Even if you really wanted to, you
couldn’t get rid of me,” she says,
pulling out a framed portrait of her and her ex-husband, taken in happier years.
the glossy reproduction of his stern countenance and
delicately glides her hand over the surface of my vanity,
indiscriminately and superciliously scattering my hairspray
and earrings, to make room for
you pour me a drink,” she says, and
she’s sneering at my divan.
She fluffs a throw pillow and
“You know I like gin.”
“And you know I hate gin.
And even if I had any—” I stub out my cigarette “—you know I’m busy.”
She brings a leg up to examine its smooth, pale surface. They’re
good gams, but
mine are better.
“It’s all over, darling. Why bother
anymore?” she yawns.
I peruse her prostrate frame.
I’m not convinced she doesn’t
have a knife stashed
“What about that drink?” she says.
I give her a stare, all switchblades and liquid nitrogen.
But she’s not convinced.
It’s not easy to out ice-queen an ice queen.
She rises and stretches, like
some racehorse growing languid in a stable.
And I’m not skinny
enough to be a good jockey.
“You’d better get back to business,” she says,
crossing to the liquor cabinet and caressing Jim Beam.
I’m disaffected and automatic now, still mad that she’s here.
Again she’s here.
That dame keeps turning up like a
bad penny, but
at least you can use bad pennies to buy things.
To seek this dame is to seek doom, so she had gone
unsought, on the prowl, trolling for a pick up, hunting for a victim, chercher-ing une femme or un homme to whom she could deliver
her foul sting.
I swallow a mouthful of anxiety and disgust as
I think of her and
the way she’d
traipsed in and
the way I’d let her.
And there she is behind me,
over my shoulder,
chuckling at me,
breathing whiskey into my ear and onto
I hadn’t had a strategy, but one’s in my lap
all of a sudden,
a puppy excited to be loosed from its cage and in
the moon’s hanging low out my window,
a vacuous beam of hope, ripe to be shot—shot
with my pistol.
I don’t want to give it away, but my
poker face has always needed work.
I feel her nails
dig into my shoulder when she
realizes I’ve slid open my dresser drawer and retrieved my .22—
a golden, pearl-handled affair, pristine and pretty and in fine working order.
“You wouldn’t dare,” she says. “I just got here.”
“I told you not to get too comfortable.”
“I thought you were bluffing.”
I hear her hold her breath as I play my last card,
as I squeeze the tiny trigger with a touch of trepidation.
The moon has been shot, and its
final filtering rays of light fade from
the venetian blinds.
My eyes haven’t adjusted yet, but I feel her gaze.
“I’ll be back you know,” she says.
And I know she’s not