Saturday, November 13, 2021



She wanted out
before they came with
the Chicago overcoat,
but her luck was never aces,
like a filly four men own a leg of;
still her eyes. She had lamps like
two shots of fizz, a nightcap in themselves
and the bob she got to peeve her mother
she thought fit her like a laurel glove
when she left the farm behind her
when life began to wind her
like a two dollar watch.

She climbed the satin stairway 
to a sky of empty sockets just west
of Hooverville and the L.A.summer moon.
She bumped gums with the butter and egg man, 
the man who stepped on stars, another flicker
for his candle on the purple velvet couch. He cast 
her sixth behind Lugosi, the girl who screams
her heart out in a movie off the cob. He gave her eyes
a number in a book with a hundred others
who ran away from their mothers
to an apple filled with worms.

After Fatty took the Rappe,
before the Dahlia bloomed her ink smudge,
she hollered, "Abyssinia," kissed off
 the painted desert, hooked up
with the junior props boy, and threw the watch
away. They moved to North Dakota, and
she told her grandkids nothing
about being sixth behind Lugosi,
about cadillacs and canaries
about L.A. in January,
about the girl too many owned a leg of
or the man who stepped on stars.

November 2021

 posted for Fireblossom at
The Sunday Muse, whose theme today is
Note: Abysinnia is '30's slang for "I'll be seeing you." A Chicago overcoat likewise for a coffin. To 'own a leg of' a horse is to be part of a syndicate which mutually invests in a racehorse for profit, bumping gums is to talk aimlessly or too much, especially about yourself. You can look up the rest of the slang I've used   here,   the Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle/Virginia Rappe scandal which rocked 1920's Hollywood  here,  and the notorious Los Angeles Black Dahlia murder case which sold so many newspapers  here.

Images: Mischa Barton posed as early film star Louise Brooks, via Sunday Muse  Fair Use
Still from the 1929 German film Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks and Fritz Kortner  Fair Use


  1. Okay, I have gathered myself following the sheer joy of reading this the first (three) times. First off, it is obvious how much hard work went into this, and yet it's as smooth a film through a top of the line projector. You've pulled together a number of elements here into a cogent whole that just blows the doors off, imo.

    Old slang is tricky because we weren't there to soak in the feel of it, and yet you've folded it seamlessly into this piece, and it acts as spice and also places the whole thin in an era and attitude. "Chicago overcoat" is priceless.

    How many girls have gone to Hollyweird looking for success and found only a casting couch and bit parts? Nobody, though, is a bit player in their own lives, and I love that she left and built a life with the junior props boy, a life fulfilling enough that she needn't even mention her Cali experience at all. She went there, tried that, survived and chose something better. Thank you for putting so much effort into this poem for my prompt, Joy--it truly made my day.

  2. She didn't tell of the famous couch either. I know.
    Really great, I loved every word. I wrote from Brooks also, my mom has pictures of her wearing a hat like hers. Dad often teasingly called her a flapper, she was five years younger than Louise.

  3. This is full of visual delight! One can see an array of images just floating in sync!

  4. This is utterly fabulous in every way Joy! The voice, the images, the whole darn thing is absolutely wonderful I really did not want it to end! I hate to quote a line, but I so love "when life began to wind her like a two dollar watch" This is one of my new favorites of your poems my friend!!

  5. "Abysinnia" i had to look it up to get a pronunciation, has a really great sound, also it's the former name of etheopia.

    "She climbed the satin stairway
    to a sky of empty sockets just west
    of Hooverville and the L.A.summer moon"

    love that image. yeah this is epic, his goes on my favorites list. just the other day i was watching a documentary on william hurst and his actress mistress, this just brings all of that to life. so well written joy!

  6. Ancient early Hollywood is Jericho -- adorned skulls beneath the house -- and a Louise Brooks in it (or passing through it) is Abyssinia, this exotic and arch. You did such a good job of layering in the old references that as poetry they didn't need notes (though they amplified the hammers). Hollywood was such a violent explosion of the imaginarium, the 20th century could not recover from it. Now that it's dead we can see it more through Brooks' eyes -- carnival barking.

  7. "a filly four men own a leg of" is all-time great. Also "She had lamps like two shots of fizz," and life began to wind her like a two dollar watch." The language removes the film from our eyes, silent no longer. Left me wanting to shout "Abyssinia" into the void.

  8. "when life began to wind her
    like a two dollar watch."

    Wow luv that image

    Happy Sunday


  9. Love a story of someone who walks away and survives. Thanks for the notes at the end.

  10. Shouting out my WOW! A novella packed in poetic parameter. Stunning work, Joy.

  11. "Like a filly four men own a leg of." Wow! And "the man who stepped on stars". This is the tale of many nameless starlets. I love how the poem takes us to her being a grandmother who doesnt talk about that time (though her grandkids would be agog at all the stories!) A wonderful read.

  12. noir poetry. fan-freakin-tastic, with turns sharper than the crease on a freshly-starched shirt. yet subtle, the allusions and inversions and then the hope and even joy of her escape. I really love this one ~

    1. Thanks, m. It's a time period that seeped into me as a child. The thirties were still very fresh for my family, we had furniture, knick knacks, pots and pans from the thiries still used, and all our dress-up play clothes were flapper style. It was pretty cool, compared to the garish fifties.

  13. Perfect lines, every one.
    "when she left the farm behind her
    when life began to wind her
    like a two dollar watch."

    "She climbed the satin stairway
    to a sky of empty sockets"


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

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