Three Crowns of Misfortune

Poem by Mary Meriam

I. Stripper


Down the tawny, blood-red, and orange cast-offs

fall, like fairies tossing their crinkled clothing,

party-worn and faded in golden slants of

           earth-sinking sunlight;


all the Loves undone with her frock come falling,

dress undresssed, unbuttoned, unzipped, Misfortune,

barefoot, rootless, stripped of her silver tree bark,

           shivers for strangers.


Not for strangers! Pitiless Love with velvet

gloves demands this stripping of leaf and costume,

downward dancing, falling forever, falling,

               falling forever.


II. Sweatshop


Wait for nothing, wait for the Loves, what matter

night that gallops, tramples her roses, horses,

wildmares, slung here fruitless and starved, Misfortune

           slips on the cliff’s edge,


falls and falls with no one to catch her, over

rock face, street lamp, oceans apart from comfort,

mother, sister, lover; she sighs now, listen:

           love is unlikely.


Melancholic silkiness, cobalt, Loves hum

blue, the sidewalk saddens in Spanish Harlem

drums at dusk, at midnight, then morning traffic

           trumpets her shortfall.


III. Hack


Through the elms and ginkgos, alert to all her

listing, shrinking, deviance, sunk tomorrow,

no tomorrow ever, for sorrow’s lonely

           arrows transfix her.


This is dark desertion, and silent, bitter

cold. She sits alone in the automobile,

waiting. Danger shoots her. The Loves go quickly

           somewhere without her.


Now the wheel is seized by some force outside her.

Death will drop her over the bridge. Misfortune,

desperate, poisoned, jinxed, a forgotten fire,

           fights like a soldier.