Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Crazy Lady

photo by Danielle Kelly 

The Crazy Lady

She was always sitting on the end of the pier
Smiling, dressed for a party.
Sometimes she wore the red dress and black mantilla
Of a spanish cabaret act, sometimes she looked like a crazy doll
With a painted paper parasol and a blowing silk wrapped hat,
Strapless dress made for nightclub dancing.
Once she wore a cowgirl outfit
With a lasso and Stetson hat but  we never saw her
Dressed for the beach.

It was Coney island; no one cared, but
Ma told us she was crazy, not to talk to her,
And really, we didn’t want to,
We just looked at her as if there were no ocean
No infinite playground of sand before us,
First thing every summer when we came,
Bringing our white city skin, our pails and shovels
And our blanket to wrap up the summer.
Dad was the only one who always
Turned his eyes away, his mouth set in a concrete line.

Our last summer at the beach, while Ma was swimming,
She left the pier, she walked down the boardwalk
Straight to our sandcastle, and stood behind Dad
Like a lost ranee in a purple sari of gauze,
a lipstick dot on her forehead.
She touched his back. Our eyes were round as sand dollars.
He jumped like a fish on the hook, when it fights to get away.

Then he looked at her
Really looked, like he might never stop looking.
The noises of the beach were muffled,
Time and motion slowed to nothing while they stared
As if they were alone on the moon.
Planets could have crashed above them.
The ground could have split.
Then she smiled, she put a raincoat over her
Wild lavender dress, and wiping her forehead,
Turned and walked away.

The next summer we went to the mountains
And rode horses and stayed at a ranch.
But I liked to think that she finally left the beach
Behind and, dressed like anybody’s mother,
Went home to smile for someone else.

January 2011

Posted for One Shoot Sunday, at the inimitable One Stop Poetry


  1. Always enjoy reading your work. For this challenge it was the part beginning "Then when he looked at her..." when you describe that part, with ambiance set and and stirring tension built, reads so well. Had to chuckle over the ending change of vacation plans. Cheers!

  2. You have such a wonderful way with descriptions, I love the interpretation - was one of the thoughts I had when I first saw the image. You've put it into words so vividly!

  3. YOu are a poetic storyteller! Thanks for such an amazing tale about a woman we might be at some part of our lives. Many people search for disguises when life so requires them.

    Kiss your cheeks, girl. =*

  4. I love the lipstick bindi.

    I expect none of this ever happened except in your fertile imagination, but you've brought it utterly to life for your readers.

    A litle contact changes everything, yeah?

  5. Thanks all. This was just a quick look into an adult's dilemmas through the eyes of a child.

    @FB Totally imaginary, and yes, facing things often brings resolution...and in this case, fortunately it wasn't Ma with a handgun.

  6. I love this story, its pathos - you made it very real, so real I thought you must have really seen her as a child. Wonderful writing. I enjoyed the change of vacation venue.

  7. Wow, I am amazed with this wonderful weaving of words you laid out before me. I have been there a few times (considering where I live) and felt it in my core as I have seen MANY people on our Boardwalk doing the same. Great piece here hedge, but then I always expect you to wow me with your offerings!

  8. People's fear of different. That's what I read in this post. We should rather have the curiosity of a child.

  9. Nice ending twist. Left the beach, still bearing smiles...Such a story you drew from this picture, it is both captivating and descriptive. Vibrant imagery, and sweet...

  10. wonderful, imaginative job here! xxxxj

  11. You drew me right into the story telling poem, it sounds like you were there and experienced it a few times in your life. I chuckled when I read you vacationed in the mountains the next year.

  12. Oh, great story Hedgewitch of this lady, you had better look maybe she decided to head for the mountains also...bkm

  13. It could be real; it could be imagined. It's wonderful, especially how you turn the poem with the line "Then he looked at her". You give the piece such poignancy.

  14. Joy,

    You definitely got your hands on a woman of some recklessness! I expected a kiss . . . or a suicide!

    The silence implicit in the family 'change of vacation venue' is full!


  15. Well done you! I love you created a short story in three stanzas and took me somewhere in the 50s to a beach and a family and a woman in her cocktail length formal, whale boned and dangling with baubles, bangles and beads; that's a mermaid of a different color. yeah, can do it all. Gay @beachanny

  16. What a story, Joy! And told or no, woven with such mastery of pace, poetic imagery and structure. I love every line but especially the last two stanzas--where the absolute of her turning away occurs, and the last three lines that clinch the narrator's terrific voice. Thank you!

  17. Oooops! I meant "absolute surprise of her turning away..." So sorry!

  18. emphatic story line, fine reading

  19. You painted such a fabulous picture of the crazy lady...and captured the isolation they are put in because people tend to fear the unusual.

  20. What a story this is. I was captivated from the first line. Well done!

  21. excellent....this is great poetry...amazing what you did with this image...really good stuff...pete


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats