My abundant hair, my only wealth, fits so easily
in his fist. I pull the soft stem of his handrolled cigarette
from my lips, which he told me are a pair of petals
floating on the surface of a child’s glass of milk,
only to see its paper has turned from white to scarlet.
He made me so uncertain
I bit into my own mouth, almost ate myself as if
I’m plum. And we’ve only just met. How readily
the wounded wound.
Someone else might balk
but when he sees my blood he gets a look:
hungrier, meaner. Tenderer, too. He has my hand
and I can’t speak. Fear and arousal are betrothed,
a ring of bridal-white around my iris, a snowstorm
in my brain. Wires flash, overlap: Why
delicious paralysis? Why my laugh? He’s a lion
I can’t leave, and there’s nobody to tear me free.
What can I do but lower my lids, lift my chin, expose my
throat, arch back, appear equally animal?
Maybe this is what I want, to slowly
offer up my body, hope he’ll preserve my
prettier soul. After Father died, I learned to bloom
and close. Beauty can bring great confusion and sorrow. He drives me down
to 24th Street, stone tower of many rooms.
All my life, every night, I shut my eyes and dreamed
a mansion, opened door after door to fresh
pleasures, made my own sleep ecstatic.
I thought those chambers were the nooks
of my own diamond mind.
Now it seems they were prophecy, but I never dreamt
this top-floor bed among beveled mirrors, this red
velvet swing, this glazed clay stallion
on the sill. You must be wiser than most women if you
become his wife. Must pray. Exhibit docility.
You may subtly gun for power, tilt your face
away, flash the cream lightning of your teeth:
this is what they call “Come hither.”
You may return and return to his bed with a flowering
need, softly straining, secretly, to become the one in charge, to rule
by yielding. But it’s all futile
for there is no way to avoid danger. He left it lying out,
his unlocked book. Or confusion: he always nurtures after
he makes his kind of love. Garnet gems, hooded cloak of cochineal, angel
food cake, fire of whitebark pine.
After so many little deaths, I’m not sure if this one’s real.
How he furies after finding my trace on the pages.
My smile is my forever plea, frozen by the glass lens.
How my tears smeared the places where
he laid them all down: every vanished girl’s maiden name,
inked in red.
“Evelyn Nesbit Poses as Bluebeard’s Wives” is inspired by the original French Bluebeard folktale, by slices of the poet’s life, and by the life of Evelyn Nesbit, (the world’s first “supermodel”), who posed as five of Bluebeard’s wives for a postcard in 1905.
ROSE DEMARIS is an emerging poet whose work appears in The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Roanoke Review, Qu, Vassar Review, Cold Mountain Review, Maiden Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a Poetry MFA candidate and Teaching Fellow at Columbia University. Born and raised outside of Los Angeles, she went on to spend many years working, writing, and exploring in Montana, and now lives in New York City. www.rosedemaris.com
CLAUDEA discovered art through music in her teenage years, which led her to study Design at the National University of Arts in Bucharest, Romania. After graduating, she went on exploring and lived in Italy experimenting with art and jewelry making, before moving to the United Kingdom. She currently lives in London, where she works full-time and spends her free time painting.