Well, there was still a sure hand, anyway,
When she stood up alone, in a casket of light,
In the jet velvet blackness; and round her neck,
And along her outstretched naked gleaming arms,
Felt the cool python slowly coil and coil….
But that was for the snake, more than for her.
And when that Russian upstart ran out dancing,
Flinging her little knees up, so affected,
And throwing her arms about so foolishly,
The audience went half-crazy with applause!
Pretty? Well, if you call it pretty, to have
That listless scanty flaxen hair, and eyes
So sentimentally blue. When she was hired,
She was half-starved, poor thing, and cried and cried,–
And, really, it was half in pity she took her.
And now to have her getting all the notice,
With those ridiculous dances! Hopping about,
Frisking her hands up, perking her rat’s head sideways,
Smiling, or looking sad, running and jumping,
Or toddling on her toes–it was disgusting.
And as if that weren’t enough, to have her men
All whining round this girl like a lot of tom-cats,
Even her husband!– (not that she wanted him).
And then, to have that corner player get up
And give her a box of roses, on top of all!…
She wondered if her strength would fail her, sometimes;
And if, instead of smiling, when the girl
Was given an encoure (taking her hand to share it),
She’d suddenly burst out laughing and slap her face:
The wretched thin little measly skin-and-bones!
–She paused, fatigued with combing out her hair,
Sick of trying to get those scraps of tinsel,
And stared at red mirrored eyes. She was getting old.
by Conrad Aiken