Secrets of an Actress (aka Memory Lane)
Relationships are hard and I understand
their fear of the unknown of being stranded
how at summer’s end
we pose in blue swimsuits redder lips, whiter skin
on Fire Island
and suck in our stomachs.
Maybe we need a burning forest to brighten our minds a little bit
but we read big books at the playground
the East Coast so different
than daylight horror/dark Hollywood drive
country club specters where the girls lost their heads
and I can barely touch I swim through their blood in the pool.
I can’t wake up. I am a prisoner of the Lady in the Lake
paradise séance loop
of my switchboard urgencies of my sensitivities.
You say I’ll feel better if I write a letter
so I guess I’ll give up
in velour and just stare at the camera
and mock the delinquent girls then become one in the end
or haunt the shopping mall
where all children have guns and I need to pack.
I’m always the flighty heiress ideas, relief
my platinum head silhouetted against
black velvet so follow that bird
and that bird is blue
and we might not exist
switchboard murder and blood drained from our bodies
egg yolk-eyed kids appraising our ids.
Look how this is the end
how you’ll never have time to be you again
how on a cold foggy morning
you’ll ride the fast elevator
up the Empire State Building
wanting to jump/afraid to cum
what the public will say
your legacy long lovely legs.
Camp-Colored Fire/Special Problems
Is it better to be a loser, baby
resisting the call of straight language?
Bats in the attic are belfries
but I don’t want you coming in.
I drive through the countryside, think Valentino
purple ornamentation how I’m never quite capable
passing the axe murder house.
I pretend unpaid bills and built-up calls
and touching myself make the heat last forever
china dolls, velour cats, crystal castle
the trash film so iconic I’m afraid to rewatch it.
He says there’s always story can’t suspend disbelief
skins my eyes and leaves me rhetorical skeletons
leaves me in gold velvet curled on the couch
I sob what’s cooking?
Maybe I haven’t thought it through enough
maybe I’ve thought through too much
but I’ve made the living room a myth of brocade
blood-red carpet and pearlescent fangs
and me in gold velvet curled on the couch
and you in a middy dress playing the piano
and my time expands to eat Sunday, sore ovary stubble
flooding at least once a month
and I can’t keep up with the dishes
when I’m secretly helping the killer
and I don’t get star signs only dark booze
and if my makeup’s kabuki my torch song is camp
and I’m the only one who can’t stand it
one star-mood earring stuck in my hair for two scenes
and I rip the wig off
of some showstopping numbers of bone
as the soggy ghost tries to find home
and I might need to rise likewise out of myself
but I can’t resist empty landscapes
flashbacks w/in flashbacks w/in flashbacks
where all headless chickens run wild.
A Summer Place/the New Look
After the Scopitone it could be thick-dick noir
egg-yolk smock dresses
and the devil’s baby a sensitive lady typing a sensitive poem
or a grey faux-fur coat and sneaking away from private school
to sell the mink and snake away the beach boy’s baby.
I know I’m desperate and disparate
really weird with my thoughts really need to scrub my face
let my salt lips dry
the beach boy’s bare chest on the boat
and the father drinks himself to death
and oooh it’s such a soft fear
all those bathing suit blues and middy skirt fevers
and all the seawind and never wearing them
and ooh but I know a secret space between house and beach
where we could be alone all skin and bones but nevermind.
I’d rather time take me back
to the aqua t-shirts and the marigold firecrackers
to my hair breaking off to the thin line between public pool and country club
soft-focus peachy lipstick
take me back to when I cared
no breasts yet and I washed my hair
so I would smell good for you
or farther back to when I threw my orange-sequined moon over the rail of the cradle.
Take me away since my handwriting claims immoral animation
let me fuck against the sea’s ammunition
since I’m afraid to lose the season I’m afraid of sun séance
and are any girl’s thoughts darker than mine?
I want to ruin her face where only the glowiest powder matters
where the glittery horse is half nervous breakdown.
Maybe it will be all photos of me naked
pink as a pig in the dimly-lit alley
I might be haunt or I might just not know
how to love or think
in my red headscarf praying time stops
I might just be another assembly-line bombshell
torpedoes of pep shots fired in my arm.
Note: This poem takes some of its ideas and imagery from the 1959 film A Summer Place.
Queen Bad Seed Two
Cherries on your full lips
such a pretty pie but so thin in the haunches
you keep your powder dry
and I am the pink pig hoof on my hip
wearing a cloche hat in the flower advertisement.
I lost my movie list it’s ok since I prefer the phone
and I walk Sunset alone at dawn in a purple knit bikini
skimpy until all the silent films die
and I’ve only got a few more days of summer’s hot fraud
until my talent’s gone.
Goldilox gothic sleeping on a pink raft shaped like a coffin
I joined your cult for makeup
got tricked into ritual
the firework-thunder conundrum
something flashier than war.
Now I need a secretary without the fear of calories
now I need a secretary who will not lose my head.
It’s the Biloxi premonition
watching the blood clot in the air conditioning
dripping in bobby sox
twisting in my dainty platinum wedding band.
But no one is in charge of me
my new husband took the gun
and I let the drama play out
among the smoky bookcase Scotch and cognac
and it was my kidneys or it was
the glow-in-the-dark needle in my teeth
or the faux-stone tiara.
The flowers were published
a funny spider walked across
we positioned his body in the shape of my star
skin nightclub shiny
but I was the light one
I just wanted hotdogs and ice cream
before the horror stopped.
Heat Makes Me Licked Clean and Slow
the ghost of Dr. Pepper or Marilyn Monroe.
You lied about the thunderstorm
but your windows look just like my windows.
Hear the cat on the steps warm up her plate
but it’s hogs that stick with me.
Hear the crunch of the cat eating the wrong food
pissing in the wrong places
but it’s the hogs keep me up all my dark imaginings.
I guess I just go with Tennessee heat
and any pills and free cookies and hurricane bikinis
I guess I just wear the same clothes.
He says get home before night and I guess I don’t care
right now I’m a stand-in alone.
Heat makes me licked clean and slow
I have time to think no watery birthdays no communiques.
Remember the time I jumped off the side porch
to shatter my ankle? Maybe I hated it since glitter
was too close to home.
Time seems endless on the back roads until I die
and in my dream of Iceland it’s just one blue lake
and the sunset and the picture I take but don’t save.
There is a kind of freedom being Tennessee skinny
a bus ride a red jumpsuit some sort of moral
but I will never swim that quarry
and your window looks like full-color noir
and I always blame a man for death.
Time seems to stretch and he keeps yelling
make it fit, make it fit
and I won’t stay awake long high kick, high kick
he’s dying/don’t answer
and I won’t show emotion
so go ahead and fetishize me dressed like a leopard
and posing in roses.
A Come on, a Stare Girl, a Pair of Binoculars
There are a couple of recordings of Valentino’s voice
and the other night I listened to one
and thought I’d drive my car into the garage and leave it on
and shut the door and die and leave a note I can’t sleep
and there is a gold velour dress that ties at the neck
and it’s too expensive and I thought about wearing it, touching myself
on a green brocade fainting couch and letting a beehive inside me
and wearing no makeup except fake eyelashes made from real hair
since I feel inadequate and the masturbatory image and the buzz
is my pregnancy and I show my stomach to a faith healer
on a lake beach. My thing is I take evil and keep it.
My thing is old movies will ignite immediately.
I used to hurt more when I’d sleep the garage door so heavy
I might lose the baby. All summer is gluttony, ice-cream, the Dari Owl
Hex. All fall is tight whites, a sore throat. Game fortune
is strange and all truth is beyond me. I toe the line between
horror and noir. My dead kidneys ache and all my wounds
drain and why do I do this? They’ll have to find a double
to finish my movie in a big hat, big sunglasses, nine shades of ivory.
Jessie Janeshek's third full-length book of poems MADCAP is forthcoming from Stalking Horse Press in 2019. Her first two books are The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017) and Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). Her chapbooks include Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, 2018), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Channel U (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Read more at jessiejaneshek.net.