The Party



The flirtation went on for nearly a month.
I think he half-expected her to wander
into one of his parties with
her whip of cricket’s bone, her lash of film,
through period bedrooms swathed
in rose and lavender silk
and vivid with new flowers,
guests concealed behind every couch
and table, a hundred and sixty men
with sixteen Lewis guns,
to meet her new beloved
in a garishly decorated Los Angeles suite.

After a moment I discovered
his tiny eyes in the half-darkness,
good cousin Capulet–
his beautiful daughter still in the hospital
with her broken jaw wired together.
Hearing him talk of Juliet,
Gatsby got himself into a shadow
as if that name, shot from the deadly
level of a gun, gave way
to another shadow–
gentle Romeo, sprawled from a red couch,
gulping from his bottle of scotch.
He seemed to fill those glistening boots
until he strained the top lacing,
a great pack of muscle shifting
when he moved under his thin coat.
“Spakest thou of Juliet? how is it with her?
Where is she?”
He kept drinking until she walked
into the room before him.
Her wan, scornful mouth smiled.
“Out fucking,” she said.

Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light.
I drew to part them: in the instant came
a madness most discreet–
he sprang over the cocktail table
and grabbed her by the throat.
The moon had risen higher
and floating in the Sound
was a triangle of silver scales
trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drop
of the banjoes on the lawn.
Out of control, Bonasera leaned forward
and shouted hoarsely,
“Is she a Capulet?”
She was laughing. “You even make love like a kid.
You still think screwing is like those dumb
romantic songs you used to sing.”
Romeo, scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper,
punched her in the stomach,
beat her as he had beaten snotty smaller kids
long ago when he had been a teenager
in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.

I drew to part them: in the instant came
the fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared,
a pair of stage twins, who turned out
to be girls in yellow and Clemenza
had stepped back hastily to avoid being hit
with fragments of skull, bone and blood.
The people in the street cry Romeo–
Rosaline, in trembling opal
seizes a cocktail out of the air
and moving her hands like Frisco
dances out alone on the canvas platform.

“Let’s get out,” whispered Jordan, after a somehow
wasteful and inappropriate half-hour.
“This is much too polite for me.”
Johnny sat on the floor with his head in his hands.
Here at the wedding feast, some young matrons,
wide-hipped, wide-mouthed
with all the admired beauties of Verona
slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table.
There lies that Tybalt–
and Juliet, bleeding, warm
in her pink formal gown, a tiara of flowers
in her glossy hair. She had flirted with Sonny
in the past week of rehearsals.
She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation.
“An absolute rose?”

“I know your wife,” continued Gatsby, almost aggressively
as Romeo thrust his maids to the wall,
and Capulet stepped out of the shadows,
threw a silken cord around his neck.
Sonny leaned back in the swivel chair
then asked in Italian, “Have they shot him?”

Then I heard footsteps on the stairs
and in a moment
the thickish figure of a woman
blocked out the light from the office door.
Probably it was some final guest who had been away
at the ends of the earth
and didn’t know the party was over.


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