Poetry » Bernard Henrie »

Roman Baths

The baths at Caracalla
are a Sahara now,

no water I can see for miles;
dry aqueducts arched
in the heat.

My wife and I wonder
how long they flourished,
how long they welcomed
human gods
under assumed names.

My wife says she will love
forever, but already
an arid one or two dozen
arguments scald us,
our hearts dry stone.

At the five star St. Regis
Grand Hotel, Rome,
my Christmas bonus
incinerates.

We remove our shoes
in the royal bath,
shake-out robes
of illicit cashmere
monogrammed with
an Indian chief.

We purge our teeth,
listen for hotel noises
and turn down the comforter
like patients on anesthesia.

A Small Hotel in Jamaica

Oleander is airbrushed
against my wife’s coiled turban
of room towels;

Luxurious black skin, dark earth root;
eyes half-closed under maroon eyelashes.

Our hotel is balanced on a wet crop
of steep hillside in sight of the ocean,
water flows from an overturned jar
into the basin of an inlaid fountain.

The corridors and veranda fill nightly
with new scents; I imagine them
from ever-green clumps of grassy
leaves and cone-like fruits.

At certain hours a thin vapor
I could not identify passes through
the faded pink hotel and we stammer
once again in love with our homeland;

later, a bristling cocoa mango blends
with auto horns from the lower road.

We sit on a thick chaise lounge,
both home again to Jamaica;
the deep black color of our hearts
masking two-centuries of revolt,
faces scented with burned-out
plantations and glazed acres
of sugarcane.

Do You Still Wear Burgundy Mascara?

Even the dinner the little restaurant laid on
I could not believe in.

How wet I have got in the downpour,
squat and a little overweight opposite
you in the almost empty café,
our reflection in the window glass
like a wedding portrait.

Calcutta Poem

I recall the steam
from your arriving locomotive
settling on the stone lions
of the British Museum.

Your first look at a new husband:
blotting his face with cold rags,
a book bag cutting the shoulders
of a stained-through shirt,
the Calcutta Times blown against his leg.

Perhaps you mistook me for a student.
Only the rain
could make you look more disappointed.

Seven years later, I imagine the bitter poem
unsheathed by your heart to trains and crows
stealing past our home.