A Stained Silk Dress

"A pot of Earl Grey, Twinings, of course;
loose tea, not those contemptible teabags.
And I have decided on, the three-tiered
melody of afternoon dainties,
the array with the slivered salmon,
with a side serving of lemon,
halved and thinly sliced, mind you.
One is never awarded with
an adequate amount of lemon
with one's salmon,
and do remove the rinds
and those irritating pips.
And do inform chef, no foreign muck
and to make sure the salmon is unsmoked,
smoked salmon and lemon, uncivilized!
Unheard of, I tell you.
And God forbid, if served on anything other than silver,
l shall scream.
Do you hear me? "
"I do, madam." Replied the waiter.
"Good, off with you then." She snapped,
whilst lighting a slender, slim-tipped Davidoff,
seized between her burgundy coated lips.
Her effort successful and when realized,
exhaled, pouted and extinguished the lambent stem
with a deft puff; aware, cautious and determined
in keeping ash-free her legendary silk dress,
often the focus of many an afternoon tea gathering.
Such gatherings, once the highlight of one's day.
A quotidian ritual, herself, a most ardent sipper,
and considered by many, the grandeur
of such social occasions.
Who, when called upon, no matter what,
always delivered with zest milled exuberance
and the accorded pleasantries,
to solve, enhance or decorate
any situation, as needs must and wants demand
and as always, handled with class,
decorum and quaint properness.
Leaving all and sundry
who sought her assistance
for pleasure or otherwise
mid the silverware, bone china,
pastries and scones,
in jolly good spirits.
A most admirable quality
as was her loquaciousness,
never, not even for a moment, dull,
in keeping with her outlandish dress sense,
prowess in the bedchamber
and her legendary rumour-mongering.
As for her resolve, not unlike
her blue-tinted perm,
ever steadfast, no matter the prevailing winds.

Sadly, unforeseen circumstances intruded
and that most splendid of traditions
was abandoned some months past.
Until today, that is, it being such a beautiful day,
she decided to resume
that, which she, so very much enjoyed
prior to the, afore mentioned, interference.
A spur of the moment decision,
as was her way,
leaving her with no time
to offer invitations to her flock.
She would have to wing it alone.

As etiquette dictates and she,
its most obedient servant,
was observed, turned out,
in compliance with the
dress code for an afternoon's excursion
into the leisures of tea-sipping and dainty-nibbling,
though, perhaps a tad over ostentatiously so.
A collage of pearls, pendants,
plumes and a pretty-in-pink parasol
accessorising her meager physical enticements
into stately pomposity,
topped off with a generous plastering of maquillage,
befitting Madame de Pompadour herself,
and all this, in a rich silk dress,
embroidered with a flourish of
Chinese peonies, precariously flaunted on
a pair of, three-inch high stilettoes
with a three-figure price tag.
She was to be splendidly complemented upon
if one were to stray into her
perfumed drenched purlieu,
where she was displayed,
sitting blushingly plump
at a table dressed for two.
A hoary, blue-tinted socialite
amongst a ghastly scattering
of low browed, ill-mannered diners
and to her abhorrent dismay,
a seating of dusky-hued foreigners.
"How utterly awful! "
Seventy-four years of airs and graces,
waited upon, pampered and now, afternoon tea
on the veranda of her favourite hotel.
Were it not for the hoi polloi,
bliss would have been perfected.

"To return after a few months' hiatus
and now this, this lot,
what is the world coming to?
Whoever allowed the common herd entry, is beyond me.
Must ruffle the flock and make known
to management, one's profound displeasure."
She, vexing to herself.
Till then, defended her table,
armed only with intentional disregard
to all outside her haughty dominion.
Stood her ground in highbrowed conspicuity,
Davidoff plumes
and mutterings of disgust,
focusing mainly on the dusky interlopers.
Who obviously necessitated no appreciation
or had any comprehension
whatsoever as to the formalities or graces
associated with the stately
modus operandi of afternoon tea.
"Tut-tut-tut."
She tut-tuted to herself.
Continuing, in silence, her detest
whilst awaiting one's treats.

"I'll play mother." She demanded,
when the waiter arrived,
slapping his hand away from the teapot,
an unsavory trespass,
somewhat dusky, himself.
She, alone, would pour the tea
and did so with composure
albeit lacking grace,
a consequence of age.
Four lumps of sugar
plink-plonked from a pair
of silver-plated tweezers
and with a raised pinky
poured from a silver-plated jug
a trickle of milk,
liking her tea, hot,
very hot
and stirred clockwise
with her right hand
whilst holding a pair of
handheld spectacles in her left,
through which, scrutinized
the three-tiered display
of afternoon niceties,
as usual, in frowned silence
until satisfied that everything was,
as instructed and to her pleasure.
Contented;
dismissed the waiter,
"Off with you then! "
"Of course, madam." He replied,
as would a lamb obey a wolf.

Her first choice of deliciousness
was a delicately layered pastry,
politely picked from the lowest tier.
As was her custom, always dined
from the bottom, up.
The top tier usually the sweetest,
dessert, as it were.
Herself, having a sweet tooth
as evident in her triple chin,
puffed jowls
and strained corset.
Biting off a morsel, during which,
holding a napkin beneath her three chins,
to keep crumb-free her legendary silk dress.
Her burgundy-bloated lips never parting
as she patiently chewed, allowing the flavours
to release their delectable secrets.
The chef's skills overwhelming her taste buds
with a palette of scrumptious mysteries.
She paused, oohed and
declared with shrilled enthusiasm,
"Oh, this is absolutely delic…"
when realising, her husband,
that unforeseen circumstance
now four months into rot,
downed in a hunting accident
when the boar fought back,
and there, facing her, she found herself
talking to an empty chair
on the veranda of their favourite hotel
whilst the boar remained at large.

Her Ceaser, his Throne, their Empire.
"Absit omen! " Beseeched her pathetic hopes,
inwardly knowing, fantasy would not oblige.
An ineffable feeling of loneliness befell her.
As if plucked from one's pleasure by
the memory of another, now dead and buried.
Chewing for solace but to no avail,
the delicate pastry losing its flavours
as the peculiarities of loss
welled over the tiered array of make-believe.
Striving, as inconspicuously as possible,
to stave off the embarrassment of grieving in public.
However, such was the intensity of her distress,
her efforts were futile,
eventually succumbing
to the uncontrollable tears of grief.
Unbecoming her demeanour,
she faltered, the imperial dye
laundered away in the wash of sorrow,
etiquette violated.
Alone, a lady of no companion,
crying like a lost child desperate for affection.
A weeping remnant
of a once glittering society.
Its Ceaser: her beloved,
who now,
but a gored corpse.

Her inappropriately timed outpourings,
gloat-fodder for the present peasantry,
whose gawking intrusions made it
so unbearably degrading,
especially here, on the veranda of her favourite hotel,
where afternoon tea was a truly delicious occasion.
Such an appropriate ritual
complementing a most gracious way of life,
and now, for commoners, dusky foreigners and servants
to bear witness to the, often hailed,
much loved, doyenne of decadence,
usurped by grief,
destroyed in humiliation
and not a friend when one needed most.
Her pompous maquillage smudged to insignificance
by the salty residues of a weeping heart.
At a table dressed for two
sat a miserable creature, forsaken,
banished to the cold-hearted states of loneliness,
displayed in naked vulnerability
and a stained silk dress.
And to think, the rumours will be unbearable.

"There, there; it's okay." Whispered the waiter,
rushing to her aid, placing his arm gently around her shoulders
and she, leaning into his chest, crying, pleading,
"Don't leave me, please, don't leave me."
"There, there; it's okay." He whispered,
as he tried to calm the arrogant racist bitch
pining relentlessly for her arrogant racist cur,
as would a lamb lick the wounds of a fallen wolf.

by Tony Grannell

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