Poison Pie by Lori R. Lopez

Poison Pie
Lori R. Lopez

An exotic raven-maned accomplice
with a black satin floor-length gown
glides forth in strides of diabolic grace.
               I follow, my face a broken frown . . .

Ill-at-ease, my own steps clunking
in toe-crunching budget Cowboy Boots.
What I get for dressing to half-impress
               from a closet of clearance-rack suits.

“Make yourself comfortable.” Onyx claws
gesture smoothly. “You’ve nothing to fear.”
(When they say that, you really should worry,
               get out in a hurry — bolt like a deer!)

Admitted to an unlit private chamber,
I queasily ponder what lies ahead.
“The show is about to begin.”
               She has a grin that fills me with dread.

I spare an anxious nod and a giggle,
then slump to a perpendicular chair,
designed for rigid people I imagine,
               Although I’m the only one there.

So I squirm to find a compatible position,
a preposterously acrobatic feat.
The lady slipped me a set of goggles.
               “I promise you’re in for a treat!”

* * *

               Miss Dulcet’s vintage picturesque parlor
brimming with elegance caught my eye.
The quaintest museum exhibit,
a slice from the Past. “Piece of Rhubarb Pie?”

               Jolting, I nodded and turned to examine
the curious colorless face of my host,
a tray-bearing spinster in victorian dress,
approaching quieter than a footless ghost.

               She bustled to provide a pair of wedges
and pour fragile cups of mysterious brew.
The Clock on the mantel ceased its cadence
precisely a fraction of a minute till Two.

               Its drone, a continuous ticking had lulled
her innocent visitor not to discern
the poison bottle on a sterling tray . . .
This would the victim belatedly learn.

               Miss Dulcet offered a dainty sugarbowl
with a table-sized ladle or spoon.
“It helps the terrible taste go down.”
Her smile quite as pale as a Moon.

               The timepiece’s morbid tone distracted;
the metronome’s clicking pacified . . .
Chewing and sipping, I couldn’t refuse.
In bittersweet seconds a fool had died.

* * *

I gape aghast, leaning forward alarmed,
fogging the mirror with frozen breath.
It’s not every day that one is permitted
               to observe the occasion of his death!

For a Nickel I paid the asking price,
and the tragedy concluded much too quick.
Why didn’t that idiot through the glass
               foresee it was all a parlor trick?

I extend another gleaming Nickel.
“I wish to go again!” I hear myself hoarse,
willing to sacrifice an entire Dime and
               solve if the crime were committed by force —

Or my murder had been an arbitrary plot,
occurring tomorrow, perhaps yesterday.
I cannot predict the instant of demise,
               for nothing is certain either way.

A fabric has ripped, the Hourglass tipped;
the globe hangs completely upside-down.
A lens or an eye can no longer be trusted.
               The air, the water, the leaves are brown.

It’s curtains for me as I restart the scene,
watching the Final Act play out.
I know how it ends yet urge the victim,
               Think twice before swallowing your doubt!

* * *

               Miss Dulcet uncorked a bone-labeled bottle,
then dumped lots of Arsenic liberally . . .
into my teacup and into the Sugar;
onto the portion of Pie cut for me.

               A dollop of powder from a porcelain box,
a dose of Strychnine sprinkled for topping.
Still I drank and I ate to her heart’s content
these vile refreshments, barely stopping.

               For I had been raised to finish a meal,
to politely accept a generous offer.
Good manners seemed vital in a civilized world.
I could not be ungrateful, an impudent scoffer.

               Invited to peek at an old-fashioned room,
I succumbed to my doom from the cup of Fate
while the Mantel Clock went out of order.
Such a pity, it being exquisitely ornate.

               The classic antique had a musical chime,
an enchanting mechanical ticker as well.
Its spring unwound at the worst of moments —
and failed to signal an untimely knell.

               I was gravely disappointed missing a listen
to the ringing bell of Destiny’s phone.
An opportunity hails but once in a life,
for the Future is a map that none can own.

* * *

The dark velvet drapes dramatically part
and expose me ogling a recurrent purview,
like a dream of me stepping into that lair:
               a Black Widow’s parlor, sticky as glue.

Her web a sly net for collectors and fans
of before the world lost its glamorous shine —
preceding my day, whether now or back then.
               Tangled in strands of a vicious deadline.

We exist by the Clock and expire if it halts
in a peeling, shabby, make-believe land
grown dimmer and drabber with each passing tock;
               shocked at predictable sleights of hand.

It cannot be explained in a rational sense . . .
There are many adrift, vapid souls lacking flair
who meander a Time Zone by choice or by chance,
               and wonder all over what led us there.

Ruled by the movement of fingerless digits,
the kind that will never clench in a ball,
yet batter the living and entomb the spirit.
               There is no relief from its beck and call.

Merely a measure of calm and despair
that marks the heartbeat, an incessant tide.
A bass-drum echo we ache for and loathe —
               a bomb counting down on the other side.

* * *

               Captive to chronology must I languish
in a prison without bars or synchronicity,
suffering the waves of monotonous redux . . .
Miss Dulcet served me Poison Pie and Tea.


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