She Stalks in Manufactured Darkness

Window opens,
a gust of wind touching candles
and flickering lights mask hidden rooms
where Mrs. Steele, 60s scream queen, shifts
behind curtains made as props
for Poe movies that aren't quite that.

Too many figures with Italianate names
throwing the plot off scale,
and perfection becomes a question
more of location than taste,
Corman's designs spinning themselves
toward resolutions self-contained.

Big screen deceit hypothesizing pain
in red amounts of dye and glue,
and rows of Inquisition instruments
against backdrop of mortar and brick,
all so unconvincing and even less true
on Mrs. Steele, her porcelain face
betraying subtleties of contrast
not possible in technicolor.

She stalks in manufactured darkness
with delicate foot and devious head,
too much labor thrown on this one Mr. Price,
a rare fish slipping away into other arms
more nuanced it seems, observe,
one man's last duchess, someone else's first,
the Claus of Innsbruck was one up on Browning
when he made Neptune tame a sea horse.

Fiction is easier than life,
also more profound but amiably so,
no need to fear Mrs. Steele's footsteps,
her ominous whispering's a dream,
notice her pasty face contrasting with ebony locks,
high cheekbones holding things in place
and those large eyes, melted emeralds
known only to absinthe drinkers.

Bohemian interpretations of Gothic tales
don't quite work but they do manage to smell
of wormwood and lemon balm
and decadent visions of Mrs. Steele,
among other things,
dare I say even neo-Platonists?

Ironic to think so,
then, all her carnal love would be as intense
if she merely smiled and handed me a plate of biscuits,
no reason for endeavors more extreme,
lazy afternoons gradually replacing horrors
of previous nights and early mornings and
would you then care to sit down, Barbara,
and have some tea?

No need to scream, just asking,
after all, there are moments
for laughter, times when even a woman
must break character.