Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Days Of Wine & Roses

The hard part's keeping his feet; the tilt
jars him & is he a pinball machine
or just some guy whose wingtips understand craving?
A Wurlitzer orbiting, the world felt tipsy then,
a porkpie hat tipped on its axis—
but what doesn't veer slantwise windblown down boulevards?
A hat lost from a romantic flick
whose owner must think piano Manhattan
Studebacker; & too he thinks bouquets
but it's actually stemware catching
Pall Mall's reflections.

All right, the barroom's not bigger than
the Orient Express, but it's going places,
it's a quarter spun into a slot to ring up jackpots, it's
Jimmy Cagney's tripping-to-catch-his-straw-hat-
song-&-dance, it's upside-down
Chinese flowers in fishponds; &
he needed to feel the lurch, & it wasn't
the gusts rustling big trousers,
it wasn't the wind knocking off his porkpie hat,
it was the way the world moved then,
& he liked anyhow to get swept off his feet,
he said, as who doesn't?

Meanwhile, Sally walked inside revolving doors;
she's both there & not there, like
Gene Tierney in Laura.
But she's on time of course, so much so it's scary,
she's a sweep second hand stared at.
She arrives, he says, like Billy Holiday's tide
washing up B flats, murder mysteries, Old Fashioneds,
& what's more, inevitable things:
fortune cookies, a pretzel's twist, pearls strung into
a nervous breakdown,

this & so much more she comes in with.
He'd rather lounge inside the mirror lighting her
beautiful Lucky Strikes, her smoky orchids.

This must have been what it was like those days,
like a plastic tuxedo lit up all night in
the dry cleaning shop next door,
electrified but yellow as lemon ice, & like
a champagne cork rocketing past escape velocity
from Times Square, New Year's 19-anything,
like pink carnations peddled in the train station like
Shanghai contraband, it was like that
to be young & in love, both wearing sports coats,
& these larger than thought, & with such deep pockets.
This must have been what it was like,

this world: more his oyster than any shooter he slurped
awash in lager through Happy Hour.
Sometimes he gets so choked up he's hearing torch songs
sung 10 feet deep in a swimming pool
(& ripples radiate green from a hat afloat but
the water's not waxed paper flower wrappers, it
flickers a Chablis quart's anemic green glass)
sung 10 feet deep in a swimming pool
at 2 a.m. as the party moves elsewhere &
a corsage sinks in the deep end,
tragic as a blonde.
It was a rosé bottle dropped, was them, was
hats snatched from the haberdashers, them, was
flowers carried off on a subway, was
them, he & Sally, wobbly, asking,
Why does someone always have to drown.

Jack Hayes © 1990-2009
This poem appeared previously in Chump

9 comments:

Poetikat said...

I think my favourite line (among many) is the "pearls strung into a nervous breakdown".
Man, you have got the edge! I really get into these trips between the celluloid and the pages of a good book. I'm feeling it.
Ever see Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"? That image of the tuxedo really called that film to mind and everything else was black and white.
Great stuff!

John Hayes said...

I may have seen that film--was Penelope Cruz in it? Thanks--& thanks again for your generous post on Invisible Keepsakes!

Poetikat said...

No problem. I am happy to do it. After all, we need to support our fellow-artists and it would be selfish to keep such great work a secret.

Kat

Dominic Rivron said...

Really enjoyed this - it's so rich in imagery. I've had a long day, so I'll come back and read it again when my brain can do it justice. Meanwhile, I'll stick this grand new blog on my bloglist!

John Hayes said...

Thanks Dominic--always appreciate your support!

Sandra Leigh said...

like Billy Holiday's tide
washing up B flats
- Is it because I am a singer that that line followed me all the way through the poem? I love it - and tragic as a blonde, too. Very noir. This is a great idea, John.

John Hayes said...

Hi Sandra: As Leon Redbone said, "Bb, the people's key." He's kind of arch.... glad you liked the poem!

Ginger Ingenue said...

Oh wow. This is wonderful, John.

I wanted to read the poem responsible for the blog's title, but before I even saw the title of this one, I saw the name 'Jimmy Cagney'...thought, Wait a second! What's this...turned out to be just the poem I was looking for!

And this part :

"she's both there & not there, like
Gene Tierney in Laura.
But she's on time of course, so much so it's scary,
she's a sweep second hand stared at.
She arrives, he says, like Billy Holiday's tide
washing up B flats, murder mysteries, Old Fashioneds,
& what's more, inevitable things:
fortune cookies, a pretzel's twist, pearls strung into
a nervous breakdown"

LOVE it.

You could carve it on my tombstone.

John Hayes said...

Hi Ginger: Thanks, & thanks for following here, too. There are quite a few of these SF poems that have something to do with classic films, but I know Laura is high on your list. It's great to see you gain in blogland--you were missed.