Bernard Henrie

1929 - Poem by Bernard Henrie

I looked for her at the 5 o’clock tables
decorated with Tanqueray Malacca gin,
mixed sweet and sour pineapple juice
shaken over iced and laconic Curacao.

My happiness roared with youth,
a girl I did not know kissed my mouth,
the city burned at my feet with taxis
yellow as South American bananas;

jazz music hollered in hot cellar clubs,
pale green money sat in waiting room
chairs like a cancer clinic patient,
I wore white shoes, it was that long ago.


I was a white diamond in New York
and handsome as the Prince of Wales.

Debts of a sun god in shops along
5th Avenue. I learned enough French
to pronounce parfums sprinkled
over dancing girls and somnambulant

Sped in taxis yellow as South American
bananas and drank in Spanish Harlem;
anonymous girls eyes black as storms
kissed my mouth, Tanqueray and ice
crushed on rouged l ips.

Became engaged to Glenda Tilton,
but she dived the Far Rockaway Beach
pier; they found her three days later
wrapped in sour green sea weed,
show girl legs albino white and nibbled
at the edge.

I smoked all night above the East River,
vodka the color of snow I imagine
at Moscow's Bolshoi.

A Santa-Fe took Glenda’s coffin
to her parents, the train like a guest
slowly leaving a party; I was too
hung-over to recall the rhyme scheme
of a villanelle.

Tea lamps and RCA phonographs;
Brownstones along Lexington Avenue;
tarot readings and séance reconnections
with the lingering dead; played poker
like a maniac, bet the Yale-Harvard
game, sat ringside at Yankee Stadium
for the Sharkey-Tommy Loughran fight.

My mother visited and for five days
I stopped drinking. I wore white shoes.
It was that long ago.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, June 8, 2013

Poem Edited: Monday, September 23, 2013

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