Trent True responds to our monthly historical photo prompt with the poem ‘A Carousel of Temptation, 1887.’
“A Carousel of Temptation, 1887”
The knock on my office door belied her
faerie-like effect. It broke my reverie
as I watched the workmen below
on the avenue, in their bowler hats.
She is sure of the culprit —
her accusation is as precise
as a Remington
you’d find at Landsberg’s Goods.
I wonder how she managed to elude
the grimy debris of Lexington Avenue
with some construction beside the Baltimore and Ohio
route through downtown?
I hand her my carte de visite
and surmise more about her
as the semaphore streetlamp below
sends a Morse code warning —
with a tapestry of violet ferment —
I wonder if she is staying at the Peabody
just past the telegraph office on Rutherford —
if that is where she’s turning unassuming porters
into the scorched remains of a talbotype you will find in 1901?
I wonder if my stereopticon will be the gateway
to her whispering to me in a Venetian masque —
as she takes me to some midnight ball at Dauphin Manor —
and I will be but a footnote in some yet-to-be-discovered
Tale from Mr. Poe?
I wonder if the methane lanterns
in Chastity Lacour’s tavern
gasped in disbelief at her
when they saw her curves?
I wonder if the man she says wronged her
at the Curio Emporium
is in fact a notional character, created in some literature assignment
at Ms. McCleery’s School of Etiquette for Girls?
I wonder if the player piano in Rasch’s Department Store
will stop just as she goes through my door?
I wonder if the next time she comes back
I will be but one more part of the scalding vortex
Of her wake.
TRENT TRUE is an eclectic creative type, who has worked as a bookseller, museum guide, and dispatcher. He enjoys old films, pulp-style radio, and dreaming of being a Roaring Twenties slam poet.
Each month, The Coil presents an ekphrastic challenge (photo prompt) for writers and lovers of history: We feature a different public domain historical photograph or illustration, and ask writers to respond to it. There is no wrong answer, and no set style guidelines. Poetry, prose, hybrid, fiction or nonfiction, experimental — anything goes that has a history bent. The best responses will be published on The Coil after the challenge ends. See all past challenges and responses.