Beside the river, hellebore
six feet tall flouts thick-veined leaves
floppy and toxic as your tongue.
I kneel at the river and cup
a handful of water not to drink
but to smell. Oily and sour
with pollutants, it would serve
to wash down a tatter of raw
hellebore salad and send me
foul-breathed into the dark place
your rumors would consign me
if I listened too hard to their gist.
You with your corrugated hair,
expensively styled, insist
with your wry immortality
on a way of seeing the world
through the many graces of fiction.
You amuse rather than bemuse
so everyone gladly kneels
or at least sits comfortably
at the long marble-topped bar
you pretend is your altar.
The Friday night crowd regards you
as a cunning mortal ready
with anecdote and innuendo
but too quick to select a male
to wring all night like a mop.
I try to avoid that scene
but sometimes thirst compels me
to approach your altar waving
a twenty-dollar bill. Your greed
overcomes your dignity. The drink
I buy you buys nothing but
a rumor about some hefty blonde
and me, but I laugh so honestly
when I hear you slander me
that even death by toxic plant
seems foolish enough to attempt
in honor of your artistry.