What if?

A poem in my Dorian Gray series.  I had pondered this part of the mythology while working on my MFA but this prompt brought it to the front of my mind.  Merrill is posting today on dVerse Poets Pub. She asks us to ponder time and what if? For once in this series, Dorian shows some mercy.

What if?
The killer had already murdered four women.
A prostitute reached out her scabrous hand to me
and I thought of pushing it away
until I looked in her face.
She was in her 40’s and long past the age of attraction.
Her teeth were black or missing
and she bared her limp breasts for me to see.
What if I pitied her?
What if I just gave her a few shillings?
She would spend it on gin ‘ot instead of
buying a bed for the night.
She would sleep on the street –
A bundle of dirty rags.
What if I just gave her money?
Would it take some of the ugly from my portrait?
Would it roll back to when the portrait was
my current face – young and beautiful?
I pulled out a pound note and put it in her hands.
I told her to go in peace.
She stumbled to the tavern on the corner.
What if she passed out there?
Would she be robbed?
Would the bartender throw her out?
Doesn’t matter.
For once I did something good.
Would it show in my portrait?
I read the next day in the papers
Mary Kelly had been brutally murdered –
Eviscerated, flayed.
I looked at my portrait.
The what if didn’t work.
My portrait was still as old and ugly
as the prostie I gave money to.
What if?
What if?

Whitechapel – 1890

27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. merrildsmith
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 16:47:36

    Oh, intriguing, Toni! As soon as I read Whitechapel and prostitute I thought of Jack the Ripper, and I wondered how Dorian would fit into it. A definite what if here!


  2. msjadeli
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 17:02:27

    cries into the soup


  3. Glenn Buttkus
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 17:20:45

    Fascinating to think of your Dorian Gray series. So many of us have these sagas going. I really liked the feel of this–hip and historic; reminds me of the excellent
    TV series called PENNY DREADFUL.


  4. Grace
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 18:45:24

    What an interesting twist to the Dorian Gray series Toni. What if..what if…


  5. Frank Hubeny
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 21:45:29

    Interesting idea about doing good–that it might change one’s face. It should change something, but we can’t well predict the consequences of our good actions even on our own faces. Your poem gives me something to think about.


  6. Gina
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 23:56:33

    Actions have reactions, do we chose based on what we think might be the outcome. it seemed the outward look was of more importance than his heart condition. nice weaving of two historical figures and their possible confluence


  7. Mish
    Jan 02, 2019 @ 00:04:22

    A thought-provoking assortment of “what if’s” that really made me think about the significance or non-significance of each of our actions. So many variables to add to the mix as well. Happy New Year, Toni. 🙂


  8. kim881
    Jan 02, 2019 @ 03:15:04

    Dorian Grey and Jack the Ripper! What if, indeed! You already know how much I enjoy this series, Toni. More please!


  9. annell4
    Jan 02, 2019 @ 10:30:13

    This is very sad.


  10. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Jan 02, 2019 @ 14:13:25

    Oh I wonder if you can do anything good… and if it would make any difference to the portrait… I think some things are irreversible.


  11. rob kistner
    Jan 02, 2019 @ 16:54:52

    Dark but engaging Toni. Impossible not to read to the end. Well written!


  12. Just Barry
    Jan 02, 2019 @ 19:43:12

    Intriguing and chilling tale. I like how the what it’s dovetailed into inevitability.


  13. lillianillian
    Jan 03, 2019 @ 09:22:52

    Putting the idea of Dorian Gray into this prompt….genius.
    It’s interesting isn’t it? I’m afraid I am sometimes guilty of this passive kind of doing good…the giving of money rather than deeds. The question is always will the money be used for “the good”? What percentage of the money given to the nonprofit or charity will actually go into the concrete good or into the coffers of the organization itself or into the marketing plan rather than the doing. Ah…you’ve got me thinking here!


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 03, 2019 @ 12:50:27

      I think too often we give money and then get angry or disappointed that the money isn’t spent the way we think it should be. Before I give to any charities I always check the administrative costs, what the agency uses for itself in terms of officers, salaries, offices, etc. those with high admin costs, I do not contribute to, including the Red Cross. I know a man who works for the local Red Cross and his salary is 125K per year. Even he is embarrassed to tell someone he works for them. And if we give money to an individual, will they spend it for wine or chocolate or toys? We want them to eat but helathy food. I learned many years ago that when I gave money to someone, to let it go, to treat it as the gift it was. Once the money touched their hands, it was no longer mine, it was their money. When I worked downtown, I always kept several one dollar bills in my pockets to give to the panhandler. In only two cases did the person ask for food instead of money. A man asked if I would give him money for food and I looked at him like, really? Come to find out he and his son (5 years old) were living in their car. I took them to McDonald’s across the street and fed them royally. I also gave him my card and a number to a person at Social Services who could help them. My friend told me he had called and asked for help, that he worked construction and parked his car at his daily job so he could look after his son. Shocking and heartbreaking the tales we hear when we want to listen.


  14. Lona Gynt
    Jan 07, 2019 @ 19:06:27

    Dorian is the penultimate example of someone wanting to do good in order to look good. But the truth is always lurking. This is some excellent “fan-fiction”poetry, I love it Toni.


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 07, 2019 @ 19:53:43

      Thank you! I love writing it. Although I have received my degree, it is still so much fun writing it.

      Get Outlook for Android



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