Inanna in Vegas

Steward announces landing. Nan tightens her seatbelt,
tries to breathe. Sweet girl, somewhat fearful, a dove, not
            splendid. Latter-day flower child,
            Nan believes in kindness, healing.
Her career, massage, bodywork for pets,

kneeling on the floor stroking tumored Labrador
Retrievers, injured cats. She’s flying from Seattle
            to join her boyfriend Thomas.
            He’s been here a week, phoned, asked
her to join him, party, get married

at a cute little chapel (Viva Las Vegas, 
or Little White Wedding).  Tom’s a honey, blond high-
            lights, wool sweater, great kisser…
            She can’t quite believe her luck;
this gorgeous guy ignoring stares of lus-

cious women in bars, supporting her career, wanting
marriage, children. She hasn’t called her parents, just
            told her friends she’d be away
            this weekend, hugging excitement
close. But when she exits from the gate, he’s

not there to meet her (phone’s not answering). She waits
on the blazing sidewalk, finally hails a cab.
            He’s not at Circus Circus,
            but left a message for her to wait…
guaranteed the room with her credit card.

Breakfast buffet, All You Can Eat is included,
as is striped wallpaper, big-top peak headboard, red
            balloon lights.  In his backpack
            she finds the joint she’s looking for,
lights up.  An hour of Animal Cops, Food
Network, she can’t sit here a moment longer (Tom,
Tom the baker’s son, stole my heart and away he run),
            goes out looking. Taking cabs
            past Bellagio (rare
water coaxed into falls, fountains), looks

among palms at the Mirage, under Elvis’
statue in the Hilton. Stops beside plunging plaster
            horses to mount the colonnade
            of Caesar’s Palace. Slave girls, draped
in lamé, tasseled gold bras, plumed

headdresses, offer trays piled with frosted grapes. She’s sewed
a dress to marry in, but wanders the Forum,
            window-shopping. Caryatids
            bear the weight of coffered
ceilings, iron banisters, Burberry,

Versace, Roberto Cavalli. Tourists in jeans
like herself, but also some bee-stung lip elegance
            sliding Appian Way.  Houndstooth
            cigarette pants, butterscotch
retro bomber jacket.  Stiletto

heels.  Long crystal earrings, even thin crystal rope
twined in her piled blond hair.  What Nan made will just not do.
            In Max Mara, she finds
            a simple shift of ivory silk
with jeweled halter, scarf.  For a moment

she sees herself as Venus—nails done, hair streaked, sown
with diamond clips, jeweled sandals, Botox maybe.
            Dress doesn’t quite flatter
            her tiny breasts, narrow hips,
this dress she can’t possibly afford.

Maybe she could make some money? I’ll be back when
I win big, she promises; salesgirl smiles wanly.
            At the end of the Strip,
            in Luxor’s dark pyramid,
Nan plays blackjack in Eternity Bar.

Winning at first, waiters in striped wig-covers
keep the free daiquiris flowing.  Men in wheelchairs,
            tethered to oxygen carts,
            enter like pilgrims at Lourdes.
Winning is their miracle.  Winding her way

back from charging another hundred on her Visa,
she misses her charm bracelet, Tom’s gift.  Tiny hands,
            Golden Retriever, lucky dice.
            She crawls under the table,
but it’s not there.  Suddenly sober, finds

her wallet empty, credit card two thousand down.
She opens the hotel room door to a strange scent,
            blond wig hanging from the knob,
            open bag of white powder
on the desk. Below the mirrored ceiling,

Tom blinks naked in red balloon light. Damn, he says
I forgot you were coming. Behind him, also
            rising on her elbows, dark-haired
            Nan, ten years younger, skinnier—
no, not twenty-five, maybe fifteen years old.

Her breasts are tiny shot-glasses, small snorts beneath
her black baby-doll.  Hey Nan, meet your twin sister,
            Tom slurs.  Nan sees an endless line
            of herself receding, each
smaller in a smaller frame.  She will never

marry him, make little miniatures of herself
for him to use this way. Suddenly on her own,
            too shocked, angry to cry
            or plead—she’s a splendid
warrior, falcon, no longer Good Girl.

Okay, Nan says, I’ve lost a lot of money, my
head aches. I’m going home; don’t ever call me again.
            She lunges for his wallet,
            grabs all the cash, his copy
of her credit card.  Piles together her things,

slams out of the room, leaves this place where you can be
a Goddess for a price. Falls asleep on the plane,
            dry-mouthed, red-eyed, sore-hearted,
            still she wakes smiling from a dream
about throwing balls for a three-legged

dog, all joy in retrieving. She says to her-
self: I’m going back without (I will not say his name),
            back to my garden, my friends,
            my life I love, which I will live
one small, tainted pleasure at a time.

Roberta P. Feins is an editor of Switched-on Gutenberg, one of the oldest online poetry magazines.