More poems now that I have time. This poem, or dramatic monologue, was written for Harriet Whitbread, who performed my poem, Erlkönigin. I wrote it over the week-end, with Bicycles finally done, and wanted to write her something she could really have fun with—my way of thanking her. If you’ve never read Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, then you should read that first or you’ll be apt to miss the humor and inside jokes. As usual, I enjoy writing pastiches like these that turn the originals a little upside down and a little inside out. As I see it, why let the men have all the fun? Enjoy.
My Last Husband L.A. [Enter Madame de B. wearing a caftan and sipping a whisky sour.] That’s my last husband pictured on the wall Looking as if he were alive. The great Photographer Pierre Blanchet insisted— And spent the week-end taking photographs. No doubt he would have stayed a few weeks longer. I’ve since been told Pierre had fallen madly In love with him. It mattered neither men Nor women, everyone who met him loved him. Yet after all these years I’m not surprised You didn’t recognize him—being younger. Fame, as they say, is fleeting. Even so And only having seen his photograph, You’re not the first to ask me who he was— What with that jaw, that brow, that piercing gaze. And not for me. Oh no. No. All of that Was for Pierre or rather I should say His camera. Was I there? Oh yes, although You’d never guess. Before he was discovered He tended bars. He made me whiskey sours. That’s how he was. So thoughtful. Whisky sours For me and for Pierre a Cosmopolitan, A Mai Tai for the bellboy, Juleps for The scullery maid. They loved him. Everyone Adored him. Oh but they adored him. Why Any trifle batting eyes at him He’d treat as if he’d known them all their lives. A movie star! Imagine that! You’d think There was no point in living where we lived: This villa, planned by Lars van Alderhof; Its stunning view of the Pacific ocean; An architectural beacon! But I digress. As I was saying: Everyone who met him— Well, I was always being told how lucky I was. How fortunate. I was the envy Of womankind! Imagine being married, They’d say, to Jason of the Argonauts, To Robinhood, to Tamburlaine and Harry The goddamn Fifth! The day the photograph Was taken, on that very day, my agent Called to tell me I’d been chosen. Me! The starring role in La Belle Dame. I’m sure, Of course, you’ve heard of it. I won an Oscar. Alas but that my husband never knew. He knew that I would star. Was any man Supportive as he was? Was any wife So lucky? He at once made known to all That I, his unexampled wife, would star In La Belle Dame; then added sans merci. Indeed. The laughter was uproarious. Oh how They loved him. Sans merci. Indeed. I’m sure You know the story. Last that he was seen He’d driven off in his belovèd Aston Martin. Gone, but for this: his photograph; still smiling As if alive. Shall we repair to the salon? My agent will of course review the contract— I’m sure a mere formality considering Your studio’s well-known—munificence. Just follow me. And those? The magazines? I had the covers framed. Quite lovely. Taken Shortly after I had won the Oscar For La Belle Dame—and while touring Italy. The statue in the background overlooked A gorgeous cove and was quite famous. Sculpted By Hans of Strasbourg and entitled: Neptune Taming a seahorse. Tragically, there was An accident. The workmen who’d been hired To clean and renovate the statue must Have loosened here and there a bolt, forgetting To tighten them—a cable snipped?—who knows. (Whatever does a woman know about Such things.) But down went Neptune, down Into the waves with nothing whatsoever To brake his fall. The chariot was found But never Neptune—no doubt swept out To sea. As luck would have it though, just Neptune And nothing else. The seahorse, so it’s claimed, Still stands just as it was—and still untamed. [Exeunt Madame de B.] Dedicated Harriet Whitbread
Needless to say, and just like Browning’s poem, mine is based on true events.