Tag Archives: film noir

Regular Poem: Perpetually Training to be the Middleweight Champion of 1944

8 Mar

A sequel to TKO in the 4th

You’re packing
quite the wallop today, toots.

She says
leaning against the doorjamb
idly adjusting her seams.

I’d let you see firsthand
if you got out of those stockings
and put your money where your mouth is.

Jab, hook.

In a blink
she’s sashayed over
with a scowl on her painted face.

I’ll do you but good
pumps and all.

I laugh
and there’s a lot of twist
in my torso,
land a left cross
(I’m not a southpaw
but I dabble).

The truth is
I haven’t seen her
in a while,
haven’t needed to.
I’ve taken to
reciting states and capitals
instead of fantasizing.
I don’t know
if that’s a win or a loss.

But I ran into her again today–
that is I finally agreed
to meet up with her again.

(I’ve been running into her a lot–
just in the hallway, in the elevator, passing in the breakroom,
when the siren screams for shift change–
she passes me a note,
gives me a glance,
whispers so only I can hear.

I finally capitulated.
I told her so.

she said.
Probably learned that word in charm school.
But fancy ain’t gonna get you too far tonight.

I’m faster
or perhaps
less slow–
been practicing my shuffe,
exhaling at just the right moment.

Jab, cross, hook, uppercut, shuffle back.
I look over,
and she looks a little impressed, but
then the grizzled old dockworker
is there, too,
cigar in his mouth,
smoke and sarcasm billowing:

Your parents wasted their money
on that charm school.
Didn’t even teach you how to dance.

My feet get lighter,
but my arms are stiffer.

Jab, cross.
Jab, cross.

I know I’m thinking too much.
He cocks his head to one side.

Punch like you’re
punching something
instead of like
you’re pretending
to punch something.

He’s right.
I have no follow-through, no follow-up.

Hook, hook,
uppercut, uppercut,
shuffle back.

He steps up to the bag,
inspects it,
turns to me with an
old-guy twinkle in his eyes.

You know this thing
don’t have hair, right?
No reason to have some
sissy slap fight with it.

You’ve obviously never
had your hair pulled.

I say (or perhaps
she says),
shoving the feminist rage
into my pocket for later.
It ain’t no joke.

And it isn’t,
but he laughs anyway.

And my face–her face–is melting;
the lipstick is gone,
the mascara is pretending to be black eyes, but
we know it’s not that
because sweat is saltier
than tears,
and who has time for tears
when you’ve got
a heavy bag in your garage?

Regular Poem: Fantasy on Garage Cat

19 Jan

current impetus for self-loathing:
garage cat

she’s nuts
and i’m nuts
we’re all nuts
except the dog
she seems to be holding up all right
but dogs are hearty stupid creatures
idiotically loving and joyful
happy to chew on a piece of bark for hours
or just stare adoringly at you
until you say something to them
will do
and the tail wags and the eyes are alert
and whatever you’ve said
the dog heard
i love you we’re going on a car ride

cats have too much pathos
for their own good
for anyone’s own good
some subtle shift
in the wind or cat hormones
sends them on a sentimental journey
except with less saxophone and Doris Day’s mellifluous alto crooning
and more
pee everywhere
mournful yowling at nothing

she might as well
be dressed in a silk robe
smoking a cigarette
sloshing her bourbon
as she gesticulates a little too forcefully
accusing me of cheating on her

i haven’t even looked at another cat
i swear on my mother’s grave

your mother isn’t dead
you two-timing so-and-so
she says dangerously close to my face
i can feel the sizzle of the slap before it happens
and it doesn’t happen but i still feel it
and she turns
to pace and pounce
to wait and play games
to goad me
until i’m in my own silk robe
screaming and pleading
and i swear she’s smirking

am i george or martha in
who’s afraid of virginia woolf
there’s no way to know

all my clothes are out on the lawn
the next morning
the locks are changed
you mighta took my car keys
but you forgot about my old john deere

and i mow and mow
and now
she’s garage cat
and i hate everything

Regular Poem: Tornado Season

26 Apr

I don’t think
I’d replace all four
bathing suits

just bare bones at first
focus on the essentials

a couple weeks worth of panties
and some cute luggage
to carry them in
live in a motel for a while

like some noir protagonist
on the lam
buy a cheap jalopy
that runs on sawdust and willpower
spending my days
calling the insurance company
on a rotary phone
sitting in the dark
ambling through wet shadowed alleys
in a damp second-hand trench coat
with a throaty narration playing somewhere
running into other displaced people
and nodding grimly
getting into fights in bars

that is
if my house
didn’t land on a witch.

Regular Poem: I Can’t Even Find a Decent Used Piano on Craigslist

18 Apr

one of those
studio warehouse penthouse apartments
where you ride your motorcycle
right from the industrial elevator
into the living room
that has one leather couch
and a punching bag
and a record player
and a wet bar

you know
the kind
every mysterious sexy stranger has
in ’90s noir
where it’s always grimy
and mostly rust colored
probably situated on a dock
of some kind

and if you pay rent at all
you pay in cash
you recieve from weird
’90s noir jobs
but mostly
you just listen to old blues
and brood
and be sexy and mysterious

also seeking
and a mystery to solve

do not contact me
with unsolicited services or offers

unless they lead to weird
’90s noir jobs
that will finance this apartment

Regular Poem: Why Wouldn’t I

2 Apr

“But why,”
he says
“did you do all those extracurriculars in high school?”

We’re just
chit-chatting, safe
work talk,
sharing parts of ourselves,
pieces, clues,
to the codes of personalities,
each day revealing
with actions and reactions and pauses and catches
and jokes and which jokes we laugh at and how hard,
and answers to questions,
of course.

“Why wouldn’t I?”
I say. I don’t look over,
just resume what I’m doing
as I continue,
“I’m an extrovert with a lot of interests.”
It makes sense to me, makes sense
with me
and the way I’ve performed and presented and costumed myself,
especially at work.
The question had surprised me.
Did he think
I had strict parents, forcing me into things?
That I was trying to get scholarships?
That I was exploring different facets of my personality?
Or was it simply foreign to him
as an introvert with more acute interests?

We were working
and busy
and I forgot to ask properly.

But this morning
I was thinking about it again–
thinking about
the way I’ve internally lived
all winter
in some grim noir space
of anger and existential crisis and moral dilemma and
drinking alone in my garage,
punching my heavy bag
and hating everything,
waking up dizzy and nursing a headache,
rifling through piles of unfolded laundry
spilling from baskets not put away for weeks, months,
schlepping my aching carcass to the kitchen
and choking down whatever breakfast I hope won’t make me want to pull over on the highway and vomit,
driving to work in the silence
of my own bad decisions,
just a moment before I put on my lipstick
and my smile
and my song
and lift people up all day
so that I can get home only to
drown myself all night
and kick myself for it in the morning–

and I was thinking this morning
about how much this wasn’t me.

I’m not unshaven, hard-living Humphrey Bogart
blowing into the dark, wet city
with dirty hands and an even dirtier blonde
and solving slimy mysteries
in back alleys
under a knowing, cruel moon.

Ask any of the now many people who call me sunshine.

I’m Judy Garland
fixing her bicycle so she can
make it to the theatre in time
to put on the charity show
that’ll save the orphanage.
I’m Claudette Colbert
taking in strays during World War Two,
cooking and planting victory gardens
and selling warbonds and rolling bandages.

I’m wholesome,
damn it,
an all-American:
pretty and fun and energetic and generous and

I have an excellent memory–
nearly photographic at times–
my brain
either by nature or years of practice
recieves and catalogues
information in a way that is accessible and able to be regurgitated in whatever manner necessary to the task at hand.

But my heart isn’t as fortunate–
forgets and remembers at inopportune times–
she’s a masochist, too, unquestionably and invariably.

So that makes sense, too–
that I would remember but not remember
for long stretches
that I am not
in actuality
what I have been being–
in some attempt to fool myself or hurt myself
or both.

The heart is deceitful
desperately wicked,
and mine personally
holds a lot of murderous rage,
but she somehow only ever takes it out on

Regular Poem: I can’t be

10 Apr

“I can’t be half a person for you,”
I read.
She said
it nebulously
for the world to read,
the “you” was obviously
someone specific
but also everyone.

She won’t hide her pain
and pretend
that part of her doesn’t exist
for you
(specific “you” and general “you”

I read it,
and it sounded poetic to me,
and I imagined
noir lighting,
a face half-shrouded in shadows,
a silk negligee,
a mournful muted trumpet
on the radio
wailing softly
as she blew smoke
toward the camera,
the venetian blinds casting
beams of equally muted light
around the black and white room.
And she’s saying the words
in a growling whisper.

Yes, it sounded
poetic to me,
but did it sound true?

I can’t be half a person, either.
I’m lucky if I can be just one person
without spilling into another.



Regular Poem: Trick-Taking Games

12 Dec

I wrote this poem what feels like a million years ago, back when I was student teaching and playing a lot of computer Hearts.  For some reason, I decided the Queen of Spades needed the film noir treatment.

 The Dark Lady enters
in a sleek, anachronistic gown,
blue-black hair and blue-black eyes
accentuating a set, expressionless face.
And she’s ready.
Oh, she’s ready.

She doesn’t care that
snickers, curses, murmurs, gasps

follow her.

She’s an audacious lady,
proud, straight backed, glistening with glassy-eyed indifference,
And when she steps foot in the place

—propelling herself onto the green with nary a thought of the damage in her wake, or the hearts she may or may not break, or the hearts she may or may not

she carries with her that elegant air of prodigality and purpose.

But hearts aren’t broken

And we still have time to change our strategies.
But I don’t have a good enough hand for any
long-run fancy
maneuvering.  But I’ve
got a bad enough hand to
take her now.
she exhales a throaty laugh as
I realize I’m stuck with her
and she realizes she’s
stuck with me.

And I want to slap her lovely, haughty face,
But she slaps mine first.

“Thought I’d get that out of the way,” she says, her voice
raspy from disuse.
She opens her valise.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” I say as I fumble my match.

And she
laughs and wheels luxuriously around to light my cigarette
with her rhinestone-studded lighter,
her fingernails clicking against
its polished metal.

“Even if you really wanted to, you
couldn’t get rid of me,” she says,
pulling out a framed portrait of her and her ex-husband, taken in happier years.
She kisses
the glossy reproduction of his stern countenance and
delicately glides her hand over the surface of my vanity,
indiscriminately and superciliously scattering my hairspray
and perfume
and earrings, to make room for
her things.

“How about
you pour me a drink,” she says, and
she’s sneering at my divan.
She fluffs a throw pillow and
“You know I like gin.”
“And you know I hate gin.
And even if I had any—” I stub out my cigarette “—you know I’m busy.”

She brings a leg up to examine its smooth, pale surface.  They’re
good gams, but
mine are better.

“It’s all over, darling.  Why bother
anymore?” she yawns.

I peruse her prostrate frame.
I’m not convinced she doesn’t
have a knife stashed

“What about that drink?” she says.

I give her a stare, all switchblades and liquid nitrogen.
But she’s not convinced.
It’s not easy to out ice-queen an ice queen.

She rises and stretches, like
some racehorse growing languid in a stable.
And I’m not skinny
enough to be a good jockey.
“You’d better get back to business,” she says,
crossing to the liquor cabinet and caressing Jim Beam.

I’m disaffected and automatic now, still mad that she’s here.
Again she’s here.
That dame keeps turning up like a
bad penny, but
at least you can use bad pennies to buy things.

To seek this dame is to seek doom, so she had gone
unsought, on the prowl, trolling for a pick up, hunting for a victim, chercher-ing une femme or un homme to whom she could deliver
her foul sting.

I swallow a mouthful of anxiety and disgust as
I think of her and
the way she’d
traipsed in and
the way I’d let her.

And there she is behind me,
over my shoulder,
chuckling at me,
breathing whiskey into my ear and onto
my neck.

I hadn’t had a strategy, but one’s in my lap
all of a sudden,
a puppy excited to be loosed from its cage and in
anybody’s lap:


the moon’s hanging low out my window,
a vacuous beam of hope, ripe to be shot—shot
with my pistol.

I don’t want to give it away, but my
poker face has always needed work.

I feel her nails
dig into my shoulder when she
realizes I’ve slid open my dresser drawer and retrieved my .22—
a golden, pearl-handled affair, pristine and pretty and in fine working order.

“You wouldn’t dare,” she says.  “I just got here.”

“I told you not to get too comfortable.”

“I thought you were bluffing.”

I hear her hold her breath as I play my last card,
as I squeeze the tiny trigger with a touch of trepidation.

The moon has been shot, and its
final filtering rays of light fade from
the venetian blinds.

My eyes haven’t adjusted yet, but I feel her gaze.
“I’ll be back you know,” she says.

And I know she’s not

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