A Reading in Monte Carlo

William F. Lantry

I stop. The noise begins. A thousand hands
move, paired together, in the circling rows.
Clap two huge conches, hard, around your ears--
you'll know the same sensation. Stand alone:
forgiven, for this instant, all your sloth,
your ignorance and chaleur, and your blind
slavish dedication to one craft:
one cannot bear it. Stop, descend the cleft
the only aisle in this red silk crowd
of midsummer furs and evening lit diamonds,
and try to remember who you are
at the aisle's end, where the Consul
clutches your trembling hand.

Young in the mountains, my father
marked our steps along the granite slope
where manzanita twisted the moraine:
ahead on the trail, two rattlers
were wrestling like twisted ropes.
We stood there, amazed, then others
echoed their music behind us
until a few dozen seemed hundreds
and we moved along.

Or alone at night, near Borrego,
I turned, when a single coyote
raised his voice against the emptiness
and howled back my answer. Around me
in a language I'd never heard,
they began their song which rattled
over the windswept stone and filled
the desert night till dawn.

But even that song faded. Now applause
pulls its last echo back from tempered glass:
for there are drinks to be accepted, words
to be endured from strangers, catalogues
thrust into my hands for signatures--
and the only dog is a ruby collared poodle,
the only viper twines the diamond brooch
of the woman whose jewelled fingers
caress the lines of my face

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