Love Spells


Disproof of ritual magic:
incense and candles, amulets and spells.
Try hard as you will, you cannot make
an oblivious boy love you. I know.
I have tried. Despite the aid
of an army of phantom helpers,
arrow-laden translucent Cupids,
satyrs ascending fire-escapes,
garden Priapii all compass-pointing
from his bedroom to mine;
in spite of love-arbors made
of djin-gathered roses
from the grave of Omar Khayyam;
in spite of the mandolin serenatas,
the gypsy fiddles, the er-hu, the lute,
the mournful barrage of hautbois
and Arcadian shepherd pipe,
he heard not a single chord
that brought my name to his lips.
Not even the darker spells availed:
despite the panic that seized
his would-be lovers
as bodiless wish forms stalked them
on empty street, scaling to the height
of penthouse with dacoit ease;
despite the solitude my magic cast
around him, still in that emptiness,
I was not the one he called to fill it.
The lovers fled; he fled their fleeing.

Vain the midnight oaths and promises
I made to dubious monarchs of love,
half-seen in the smog of my sulfurous hearth,
as I bartered to black-eyed Erys
(love’s phantom in Pluto’s domain),
a year of my life, for a night of his.
“Later,” the hard bargainer said,
placing the coin back in my hand,
“Wait, and he will be with you always.”
Now, with ashes and Styx between us
I know the full scope of the contract refused:
The coin is for the boatman.

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