Richard Beban

SLAVE TO LOVE: Paris 1986

In the Place Contrescarpe we conspired
to cut his silk shorts to shreds, your dark
Italian who whispered "everything,"
but meant only that he would take it all.

The snaggle-toothed waiter brought me
creme after café creme, for you more
vin rouge in small tumblers. You said
you held it well, but you didn't. Your hands
never shook, but your face wore the full, red
October moon & your tongue grew
a coating of mud.

We tithed francs to the jukebox,
heard Slave to Love again & again
& laughed. That was yesterday,
we vowed, the clank of manacles
almost drowning our words. I toasted
the woman I came here to forget, her name
cut my lips like sharp winter breath.

He was proudest of his silk underwear,
you said, how it felt against his scrotal sac
& the head of his tasty cannoli. He was hard
most of the time & you took that
for love but never again. One more
vin rouge, one more taste
of Brian Ferry's liquid voice
& you would be off, carving knife
in your purse, key to his apartment
in your palm. But you slid into November
& the francs ran out & Kansas suddenly
seemed like home again.

The next day you flew there & buried the knife
in the backyard with your copy of
Slave to Love. Your new hometown
husband knows nothing, though he wonders
when he sees in certain oblique prairie light
the deep chafe marks
on your wrists & ankles.

Won an honorable mention in the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival & appeared in the SGVPF anthology in 2000. It also appeared in What the Heart Weighs, from Red Hen Press, 2004