John Surowiecki


Rita Hayworth
We do see you, you know,
on the other side of the screen,
always in the fourth row
(since you won't wear your glasses),
eating your popcorn (double butter)
and sipping your drink (Pepsi-Cola).
We know everything about you.
Every time you knocked on Marion
Grabowski's door you asked: Marion,
are you decent? And she answered: Me?

Greer Garson
When you watched Mr. Chips
you cried so hard the manager
was ready to call an ambulance;
and even you wonder sometimes
how light thrown against a screen
can burn a hole in someone's heart.

Walter Pidgeon
I remember your handkerchiefs: 
scalloped edges and red piping,
some with delicate floral patterns,
all pressed and smelling of cedar.

Olivia de Havilland
Your favorite theater was the Palace:
everything in black and purple
with a crystal chandelier and plush
velvet chairs. When you saw Snake Pit
there you squeezed Marion's hand
so hard you nearly broke her fingers.

Franchot Tone
You and Marion saw Midnight Mary twenty times,
maybe more. Each time you saw me kissing Loretta Young
you almost passed out. Swooned, I believe, is the word.
I suppose the scene was kind of steamy for its day.
And maybe you thought you were she, a poor girl
trying to make something out of what you were given.
Poverty of the purse, but not the spirit.  Thank you
and adieu, adieu: at least I have you to remember me.


She praises his gift of a tin cat, japanned
and bejeweled and black like her cat at home;
and all the while nurses, unarmed and helpless,

most from Ireland, ask her to drink water
as if that could extinguish the fire in her lungs.
Outside, sunlight runs up and down an orange park
like a child. Students gulp down hot dogs

on the medical school stairs, small against
the brickwork, cold in the shadow of marble,
imagining new weaponry, supplicants as before
and as always, the last friend to those in pain.

She refuses morphine: mists of cheap perfume.
She's not really dying, she says: she's being born
into the world of the dead.


It passes the childhoods of people
it doesn't know, meeting aunts
with hennish stop-and-go eyes
and uncles with tiny square teeth. 

It finishes school, mourns the loss
of parents, has lunch with exiting lovers,
wanders through the park
holding hands with someone who
relies on it more than it likes.

It knows it is gradually being replaced
by memory and remorse.
A high-school girl takes up its theme,
then goes on to something else. 

When she said she wanted us to see
she meant seeing cowslips and musk roses
where there were weeds, English oaks

where there were dead elms and dying
chestnuts, greening hills where there
were mountains of tires and engine parts.

Walking the hospital halls looking for a friend,
she finds herself in every room, bleached
and withered and near death, wondering
if oversized books will groan for her one day

and tissue-paged anthologies issue their sighs,
if Shakespeare's plays will stand as her ribs
and heart and if, in her honor, novels will refuse

to open and volumes of poetry refuse to close,
revealing on each page her long walks home
and late nights spent in the company of words.

John Surowiecki is the author of Watching Cartoons before Attending a Funeral (White Pine Press, 2003) and The Hat City after Men Stopped Wearing Hats, (The Word Works, 2006 Washington Prize). He has also published five chapbooks: Bolivia Street (Burnside Review Press, 2006), Further Adventures of My Nose: 24 Caprices (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2005), Dennis Is Transformed into a Thrush (White Eagle Coffee Store Press, 2004), Five-hundred Widowers in a Field of Chamomile (Portlandia Group, 2002) and Caliban Poems (West Town Press, 2001). In 2006, Surowiecki won the Pablo Neruda Prize sponsored by Nimrod International Journal and finished second in the 2006 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival National Competition. He was a featured reader at Cafe Muse in April 2007.  The three poems in this selection are part of a long poem, "American Stroke," which is recently finished and looking for a publisher.  Publications include: Alaska Quarterly Review, Antietam Review, Briar Cliff Review, Columbia, Cream City Review, Folio, Gargoyle, GW Review, Indiana Review, Kimera, MacGuffin, Mississippi Review, Nimrod, North American Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Rhino, West Branch, and Xanadu.



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