Mrs. Cavendish and the Dancer

Mrs. Cavendish desired the man in the fedora
who danced the tarantella without regard
for who might care. All her life she had
a weakness for abandon, and, if the music
stopped, for anyone who could turn
a phrase. The problem was
Mrs. Cavendish wanted it all
to mean something in a world crazed
and splattered with the gook
of apparent significance, and meaning
had an affinity for being elsewhere.
The dancer studied philosophy, she told me,
knew the difference between a sophist
and a sophomore, despite my insistence
that hardly any existed. It seemed everyone
but she knew that sadness awaits the needy.
Mr. Cavendish, too, when he was alive,
was equally naïve, might invite a wolf
in man's clothing to spend a night
at their house. This was how the missus
mythologized her husband - a man of what
she called honor, no sense of marital danger,
scrupled beyond all scrupulosity.
The tarantella man was gorgeous and oily,
and, let's forgive her, Mrs. Cavendish
was lonely. His hair slicked back, he didn't
resemble her deceased in the slightest,
which in the half-light of memory's belittered
passageways made her ga-ga. And I, as ever,
would cajole and warn, hoping history
and friendship might be on my side.
Mrs. Cavendish, I'd implore, lie down
with this liar if it feels good, but, please,
when he smells most of sweetness, get a grip,
develop a gripe, try to breathe your own air.

by Stephen Dunn

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