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.