The Bistro Styx, Rita Dove, 1995
1. She was thinner, with a mannered gauntness
2. as she paused just inside the double
3. glass doors to survey the room, silvery cape
4. billowing dramatically behind her. What’s this,
5. I thought, lifting a hand until
6. she nodded and started across the parquet;
7. that’s when I saw she was dressed all in gray,
8. from a kittenish cashmere skirt and cowl
9. down to the graphite signature of her shoes.
10. “Sorry I’m late," she panted, though
11. she wasn’t, sliding into the chair, her cape
12. tossed off in a shudder of brushed steel.
13. We kissed. Then I leaned back to peruse
14. my blighted child, this wary aristocratic mole.
15. “How’s business?” I asked, and hazarded
16. a motherly smile to keep from crying out:
17. Are you content to conduct your life
18. as a cliché and, what’s worse,
19. an anachronism, the brooding artist’s demimonde?
20. Near the rue Princesse they had opened
21. a gallery cum souvenir shop which featured
22. fuzzy off-color Monets next to his acrylics, no doubt,
23. plus beared African drums and the occasional miniature
24. gargoyle from Notre Dame the Great Artist had
25. carved at breakfast with a pocket knife.
26. “Tourists love us. The Parisians, of course”--
27. she blushed--“are amused, though not without
28. a certain admiration . . .”
29. The Chateaubriand
30. arrived on a bone-white plate, smug and absolute
31. in its fragrant crust, a black plug steaming
32. like the heart plucked from the chest of a worthy enemy;
33. one touch with her fork sent pink juices streaming.
34. “Admiration for what?” Wine, a bloody
35. Pinot Noir, brought color to her cheeks. “Why,
36. the aplomb with which we’ve managed
37. to support our Art”--meaning he’d convinced
38. her to pose nude for his appalling canvases,
39. faintly futuristic landscapes strewn
40. with carwrecks and bodies being chewed
41. by rabid cocker spaniels. “I’d like to come by
42. the studio," I ventured, “and see the new stuff.”
43. “Yes, if you wish . . .” A delicate rebuff
44. before the warning: “He dresses all
45. in black now. Me, he drapes in blues and carmine--
46. and even though I think it’s kinda cute,
47. in company I tend toward more muted shades.”
48. She paused and had the grace
49. to drop her eyes. She did look ravishing,
50. spookily insubstantial, a lipstick ghost on tissue,
51. or as if one stood on a fifth-floor terrace
52. peering through a fringe of rain at Paris’
53. dreaming chimney pots, each sooty issue
54. wobbling skyward in an ecstatic oracular spiral.
55. “And he never thinks of food. I wish
56. I didn’t have to plead with him to eat. . . .” Fruit
57. and cheese appeared, arrayed on leaf-green dishes.
58. I stuck with café crème. “This Camembert’s
59. so ripe," she joked, “it’s practically grown hair,"
60. mucking a golden glob complete with parsley sprig
61. onto a heel of bread. Nothing seemed to fill
62. her up: She swallowed, sliced into a pear,
63. speared each tear-shaped lavaliere
64. and popped the dripping mess into her pretty mouth.
65. Nowhere the bright tufted fields, weighted
66. vines and sun poured down out of the south.
67. “But are you happy?” Fearing, I whispered it
68. quickly. “What? You know, Mother”--
69. she bit into the starry rose of a fig--
70. “one really should try the fruit here.”
71. I’ve lost her, I thought, and called for the bill.
Dove, Rita. "The Bistro Styx." Mother Love. N.p.: Norton, 1995. N. pag. Poets.org. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.
The epithets in lines 14 ("wary aristocratic mole") and 19 ("the brooding artist's demimonde") PRIMARILY serve to