Félix Vallotton La Valse
Death As a New Language
You learn to speak it sooner or later.
Sooner or later you succumb to its charm,
ready to waltz as it leads you
across dimly lit floors.
Slender flutes of champagne
flash their similes from darkened mirrors.
People are gathered by the walls,
but the ceilings are high, the ceilings
are starry. It doesn’t feel crowded.
You could be at a bus stop,
huddling your belongings, as all
the other passengers push and shove
to get the best seats. You could be
rammed against the rusty railing
on that old ship shedding its paint
into the gray, silent waters of Lethe.
Instead, you are here, in this
weird place where everything seems
possible all of a sudden,
even this tall, dark stranger,
leading you deftly down
mysterious hallways, his hand
on the small of your back,
your eyes closed languorously,
your body attuned to the only
fantasy you’ll never feel guilty about,
the words he whispers in your ear
sweet as oblivion.
First published in Watershed Review, Fall 2018