A woman stares, wild-eyed from the terror known only when death,
That black-winged angel,
Appears without warning, without any time for prayers, rescue,
Or bargains; appears
As a sinking car, as a plane arrowing a thousand feet
Per second; appears
As a murderer's knife, unsheathed and glittering. Her wet blond hair,
Grayish in the black-and-white film, drips at the sides of her face
Those eyes, that darkly lipsticked mouth shaped in a scream's darker o.
Blood spatters the tile
Then the cracked drain, its perforations flooding with stained water.
Flashbacks to Psycho:
What middle-ager doesn't succumb, at least in motel showers,
Recalling these shots, or Bates straitjacketed while a fly roams
His twitching fingers?
A man too gentle to hurt a fly, the voice-over repeats.
With brute surrender,
The actor embodied our worst fears: like dying in the bath--
Or flames, or black winds--
Trusting water like a lover to soothe, to cleanse off the grit
And smudge of ill-spent pasts, to give us a new starts. No new start
For a man offered
Only crazed killer roles in his short life, who quoted a film
In his dying days.
An easier story: everyone knew Germans were the bad guys,
That Ingrid Bergman's
Suffering was noble, though her career was nearly sunk by--
Living in sin? out-of-wedlock kids? One era's moral rage
Turns ash as quickly
As the next shapes its fears. Keep me safe, keep me safe--we repeat
Craven litanies now,
In time of plagues, want to feel singled out and cherished by God,
Who'll surely spare us,
Our friends, our families. Almost sensual, these open-mouthed pleas
For blessing, as when we let water sluice its warm passage down
Our flesh at the end
Of a day that's pummeled us into exhaustion and blankness,
When we drop our hands
To unbutton a shirt, pull on the harsh teeth of a zipper,
Look in someone's eyes
And pray love me, treasure my body, don't ever let me die.