(After a painting by Edward Hopper)
Pierrot and his cigarette are out of place.
Hanging from rouged lips,
the Gauloise remains forever unlit,
white and pure like the greasepaint
that masks his flesh.
He is afraid watchers think him unmanly.
His eyes burn inside red diamonds.
the ruff around his neck is stained with sweat
and street dust. His hairless skull
is painted too. He ignores his woe to drink.
A thick palette of rouge and lipstick cannot hide
his woman’s age although she thinks it does, a little.
She knows his needs; knows he likes her helpless
on her knees in the blue night. Sometimes, he pulls her
by the hair, presses her mouth against him.
He will pay her in fists pulled from pockets
of trousers he never removes.
His two companions, black beret, white epaulets,
do not wish to finish the wine and go home.
Their wives are fat, their children hungry and dirty.
The companions speak the patois of the street;
share coarse stories, and women.
Their laughter is a lie.
A fourth carafe of Chablis sits half-empty
on the table, a fifth will come.
Children laugh at this clown;
Nannies toss coins at his feet; Dogs growl and nip.
No one knows his dreams are suffused with night
– the greasepaint hides it all.
His woman waits in silence to his right.
Later, he will force her
to the hard floor, her mouth a slash of red.
This thought, perhaps, makes him grin.
She has blackened the gray from her hair,
its angular cut frames raw cheekbones.
A last pair of earrings sparkle from her lobes.
Her arms are white, thick; her breasts
heave from a green bodice.
The tilt of her chin begs an answer
a clown can never give.
©JP Reese 2010
Published in the Blue Issue/Blue Fifth Review