Past Prime at a Ball

by Christopher Stein


I spin like death

atwirl at the ball

whose punch punches you

in the guts, held fast

by whalebone corsets

and the heady silk

of buttoned waistcoats.


I spin like death

because you laughed

that day in Vienna

when I said, “I will

go far.” You laughed

as the chandelier does

in a crowded hall with

the air in a tizzy over taupe.


I spin like death

even though my feet,

like my hands, are now

that same shade of taupe

as the train on your gown

and spotted like the cheetah

at hunt by the watering hole.


I spin like death

toward that watering hole

which bubbles. You said, once,

in Vienna before the war,

that I would never afford

a champagne worth the trouble

of the pop, but now I drink champagne

like the English drink tea—


and it has me spinning like death tonight.

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