Hound Dog

Diann Blakely Click to read more...

diannDiann Blakely (1957-2014) published three collections of poetry, Cities of Flesh and the Dead (Elixir, 2008) being the last, and was at work on a series of poems in dialogue with Robert Johnson when she died. A stalwart supporter of this journal, Diann received awards from the NEA and the Pushcart Prize. A native Alabamian, she died in Brunswick, Georgia. Her poem “Hound Dog” appeared in Shenandoah in 46/3.

Lapin au poivre, at your fork’s plunge so lavishly pungent
	my mouth waters in this West Village restaurant
          whose tablecloth we’ve already spotted with wine
		and bits of bread. Long since moved back to native ground,
I’m foolhardy with nostalgia on these yearly visits
	& last night walked late to that spotlit marble arch,
		despite dealers crooning by the vine-snaked columns,
the pursesnatchers & worse. Just like those a decade ago –
	during lectures on tragedy, my gaze would drift

to the windows, & once it was stopped by what might have been
	a mugging, what might have been a lovers’ quarrel,
         the unluckier dropping on one knee to clutch
		a torn heart. Ten years of dinners & I’ve told you
this story before, how I didn’t even raise my hand,
	too unsure of what I’d witnessed, too worried you
		 & the others in that classroom would interpret
such alarm as a rube’s hysteria. I’m alarmed now
	when you push away your glass & meat-spattered plate

to take my hand, our fingers mingling until a dropped tray
	explodes with china: the moment’s repaired with jokes
         about future embraces made leaning on canes,
	           about how our ringed fingers will be too gnarled to tear 
each others’ clothes to shreds. How I’ve missed you, & this city,
	its neon-charged, perilous erotics of flux –
		      ELVIS LIVES, reads a graffitied store grate we pass
on Waverly Place, vainly signaling cabs; back at home,
	Presley-sightings are common, my favorite claimed by
a woman who spotted him among extras when The Firm
	was being shot. I’ll take the King over Tom Cruise
       any day, she said on the news. Her slackened skin
		overlaid the face of the high-schooler she’d been
forty years before, brain & underwear moist, tears streaking
	her plump cheeks as she tilted back her throat to yow.
		Others ripped off bras inky with their phone numbers,
shorts with hotel room keys in their pockets, & hurled them toward
	the spotlit snaking pelvis, the curled swollen lips

that crooned versions of a dithyramb always translated
	as come away, come away with me. Is that why
        New York is so crowded with throngs of land then stay,
		 who hear those primal chords in the city’s sirens
& blaring horns, in the music vibrating downtown clubs
            before dance-frenzied souls drift homeward, paired at dawn? –
		   what glorious splintering comes when we lose ourselves
in another, though sometimes “I love you” sounds dangerous
	as “your money or  your life.” A cab finally slows

& farewell tears sting my eyes, although I smile too
	as the opening phrase of “Hound Dog” crashes through 
         the cab’s window. You ain’t never caught a rabbit –
		 of course Orpheus drove those country housewives mad,
dancing & holding that lyre just out of their hungry reach,
	like your fingers still held an inch from the window;
		of course they wanted to tear apart the singer,
tear him to bloody bits, so he couldn’t leave them alone
	with the music of their savagely pulsing hearts.
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