Room 51 • Poetry Hotel
Four Poems / Paul Fericano
THE ACTOR’S CREED
I believe in Brando,
the Godfather of enormous weight,
creator of mumbling and angst,
and in James Dean, his only ward, our Jim,
who was sold into celluloid by Jack Warner,
born of the hustler Strasberg,
suffered under Rock Hudson,
was speeding, died, and nominated;
descended into gossip hell;
and on his third film was chosen
again from the dead;
ascended into Giant heaven,
and is seated in a bathhouse with Brando
the Godfather of enormous weight;
from where he will come to judge
I believe in the Holy Spielberg,
the holy casting couch,
the communion of press agents,
the forgiveness of Sally Field,
the resurrection of my career,
and life everlasting without Tom Hanks.
CURLY HOWARD MISREADS EDGAR ALLAN POE
The director yells Cut! and everyone on the set
is relieved to feel the weight of the day lifted
like a dark comedy of unscripted errors,
no one more thankful than Curly Howard
who retreats to his trailer for a quick smoke and a drink,
rubbing as he goes his shaved cue ball head,
where once the hair grew so thick
he actually appeared handsome to women
who fought to run their fingers through it.
He’s reminded now of the sacrifices he’s made,
the punishment he endures at the onscreen hands
of his older brother, Moe, who lovingly calls him Babe,
the mixed emotions he feels with each conk on the head,
each slap of the face or fingers poked in bewildered eyes,
and all the bricks and bottles and picks and shovels
and falling pianos and entire buildings collapsing
down around him in heaps of lowbrow humor and pain
can’t hide the desperation of his clownish art,
the dreary midnight in his laughter.
Sitting alone, the alcohol convinces him otherwise
and he imagines himself a student of serious literature,
finding wisdom in the works of Edgar Allan Poe,
reading tales of unspeakable horrors befalling others,
grateful for this small refuge of scholarly insight,
and he commits to memory poems of young love dying,
mourning loss in a small room, much like this one,
childlike and powerless to rescue the slipping away,
the black doom of wings waiting above the door,
and he reads as he rocks, repeats the line
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermoe,’ over and over again,
until he knows it to be absolutely true.
THE BOY WHO SLEPT WITH A BOWLING BALL
In junior high school I knew a sweet but awkward kid
who apparently slept with a bowling ball.
We weren’t close friends but I think we wanted something
from each other that neither of us knew how to give.
We hung out a few times after school
mostly because I needed an excuse not to go home.
One day I went over to his house
to listen to 45s on his portable record player
and saw this big, round lump under the blankets on his bed.
"That's my bowling ball," he said acting cool,
which was weird since he was anything but cool.
He told me he gave his bowling ball a name,
a common boy’s name, something like “Johnny” or “Bobby”
or “Jimmy” or maybe it was “Ralph”,
which wouldn’t make much sense since that was his name.
But I can’t remember for sure.
I think I blocked it from my memory
to keep from explaining how I really felt
sitting on his bedroom floor listening to Roger Miller
singing about trailers for sale or rent, midnight trains
and old stogies, short, but not too big around,
touching one another in places just beyond our reach.
Over the years I've tried to recall the name
of that bowling ball as if it would make any difference.
All I ever manage is a face, a soft, inquisitive face,
and me, wondering what it was like under those blankets,
to curl my body around something so smooth and hard,
to sleep with something cold enough to keep me warm.
AWOUND THE WOUGH AND WUGGED WOCKS
THE WAGGED WASCAL WUDELY WAN
In Memoriam: John Ashbery (1927 - 2017)
I try not to think a lot about it,
Not think quite a lot about it --
The constant reality of being interpreted
While what I stand for is still almost a bare figure of speech:
A few adjectives, that may be metaphors, perhaps
Not even these but quotes, exaggerations…
And it is absurd then to imagine
That this fuddle is the crumb crust of a cosmic cheesecake,
Flavorless, except for its stale, sour dough,
The pie one tosses in the face of God,
Not the rich creamy filling
We save for our sarcasm,
Cartooned apart piece by piece,
Trash from an old trashman, a sneeze of seasons,
Friends entering their twilight zone.
If I could not write about it –
The interpretation --
Nonsense under the breath of it, but who
Knows anything about what we are saying?
Remember what it is you’re trying to get out of,
Never into something like a membership club
Where no one has ever joined
Because they can’t afford to.
Curiously you read your own poem.
It has begun to show.