It was her nose that caught my attention,
But not as a prim thing with a small IQ to match.
It was something grand like a tropical toucan.
As the poet’s jar engulfed by rugged Tennessee,
This nose was more a presence than an object.
Her green eyes though were not jungle wild;
They took me to places like the Warsaw ghetto.
I think today of her as a thing of art, because like a carving
Or, even more, an engraving, her features seem immortal.
We met in Paolo’s car on the way to Rio, a local favorite.
She sat in front and I right in back behind her.
I had already met her nose.
I couldn’t help myself and reached up to
Touch the nape of her neck as a way to say hello.
When we stopped and got out of the car,
She approached and whispered,
“I like the hand on the neck.”
What a thing. The only time in my life
I have loved someone’s nose.
We fucked all the time but she didn’t want anyone
To know. I was only 23
But felt freed from the unknown.
Had it been another time and place,
We might have had a go, but we let things flounder
And blew the chance of a lifetime.
Marian had had giant soft tits
And that is all there is to it.
She wondered aloud if that was what
Had drawn me, as they had attracted others;
She recited men’s comments.
I’m sorry, my love, it isn’t your chest,
Not even your beautiful green eyes.
It is that majestic nose, the beak of an eagle,
The bride of the sky that did it.
Picasso had almost got her right with
His cave-dwelling ladies. She had the same angular
Breasts and a grand Baroque ass.
She was cross-eyed, too, and carried that nose
With its high-arched bone. What he got wrong were the feet,
Which were not like the Spaniard’s lumbering ladies,
Gigantic, but small. He hadn’t caught
Her skin color either, which was pale and creamy, not gray,
Coffee or gravy, nor that most modern of hues, blue.
She’d had a searching mind, a sly smile,
A wicked, charming laugh – almost a cackle.
She was a little crazy. She used to bang
Her head against the wall, and, she said,
Did it because she felt worthless. She could be
Cold and hyper-critical, snobby and dismissive.
She was capable of violence. She once
Punched me in the stomach and made
Me double over.
We lost touch. I saw her, though, sometime later.
She was down fifty pounds.
She kept her nose and her sexy laugh
But her thighs and marvelous ass were gone.
No longer ancient, she had become modern.
She was sleek and sickly like T.S. Eliot.
She was a ghost. She’d once,
This Marian Treger, had Eliot’s appetite
For things; now she bore his sorrows.
She still had her nose,
But she had dropped her beguiling smile.
I knew then and there that something was irretrievably lost.
She was thin and less than lively.
She was no longer Rubens’; she belonged to Modigliani.
She was brittle and, I could see a mile away,
No longer interested in me.
I went to our friend from São Luís, who shrugged:
“Some toucan prefer Venezuela.”