A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS
(after “My Favorite Houseguest” by Mike James)
In Paris I ate in a restaurant where she and Alice took Samuel
Steward when he would visit them. A wall of mirrors, echoes.
Small stones cover her grave at Pere Lachaise and a jar of pens.
She brought a dignity to Baby Jane that Joan Crawford could never
muster, though she might have thought she could. I love her best
when she is being bad, but still keep watching All About Eve.
Self-Portrait, In Movies
They’re all Swedish.
Fascinated me, but never sure why. I watched him whenever the
chance arose. He was hairy, which always gets my attention, but I
would not have had a beer with him. He’d have squished this bug.
She died just before I turned 10 but even I knew about the pills. I
loved her from Monkey Business and River of No Return. My Diva,
her sadness kisses the world. Bright red lipstick.
Brilliance is not enough. One is required by success to learn
compromise, absent which creation becomes difficult. Not
impossible, but difficult and costly to both body and soul
I could never get over expecting Jeannie to appear at some
inconvenient time in the drama. Or thinking about his mother
flying around a stage on wires, pretending to be a young boy.
Always in shadow, that is where his type had to live then. The
shadow beneath Duke’s piano, the shadows of alleys and bushes
after closing time. Today he’d be a star casting his own shadows.
Sullen and sexy. Eventually sullen won out. Whether riding a
motorcycle or a horse he always seemed in cold control. In the
living room he feels impatient, not really wanting to be there.
I knew he had the hots for Dean, everyone knew that, but I
couldn’t say it. Dean knew too, and didn’t send him away.
Somehow that made it OK for me to feel it, but still not say it.
(for Jason Baldinger)
He had his shtick, repeating it in nearly every film. John Ford
knew what to do with him the same way he knew how to use
Monument Valley. Marion was always watching, just off-camera.
Throwing Agnew under the wheels didn’t help. Nor the secret plan
to end the war. Nor did China. Checkers. Sweltering under studio
lights. From out of his ashes emerged government as a business.
The world twists in ways we seldom anticipate but with which he
seemed intimate. His songs charted for other people, which kept
checks coming in until his shit got fucked up and he checked out.
I had a crush on him but hated that sitcom character: straight actor
playing a straight man mincing around as gay for cheap rent. I’d
watch occasionally, hoping he’d take his shirt off. Never saw it.
Played rough along the edges of American culture and America
played back, rougher. Waterfronts, alleys, aging sleazy movie
houses, backrooms. Broken streetlights in the urban world night.
A belligerent interviewee, he took no prisoners. Knew Delmore
Schwartz. Married Laurie Anderson and started meditating. Died
when even his transplanted liver gave up. The music. The music.
About the Author: M.J. (Michael Joseph) Arcangelini was born 1952 in western Pennsylvania, grew up there & in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s resided in northern California since 1979. He began writing poetry at age 11. His work has been published in magazines, online journals, over a dozen anthologies, & four books: “With Fingers at the Tips of My Words” 2002, Beautiful Dreamer Press; the chapbooks “Room Enough” 2016, and “Waiting for the Wind to Rise” 2018, both from NightBallet Press; & “What the Night Keeps” 2019, Stubborn Mule Press. In 2018 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Image Credit: Collage of Gertrude Stein based off the photo “Gertrude Stein sitting on a sofa in her Paris studio”