Thursday, March 23, 2017


[for Bette Davis who cared about what she was doing
past all comprehension, a great actress because
she wanted it that way]

[Bette Davis looking back sarcastically much later on at a proposed studio name change for her: "Bettina Davies? Oh, PLEASE..."]

maybe she was like some improbable mouthy flower
exotic beyond a neighborhood of weeds born to please,
transplanted by the vagary of a wind

to a vegetable patch, a platinum vacuous backlot
Im an orchid she insists
don't turn me into mashed potatoes

chicken feed

and there she is up on the big screen
bigger somehow than the screen
than any role she ever played

disconcerting as all get-out

the sand in the oyster

and the pearl at the same time
you thought you knew her
but later...

who was ever like her before
her eyes like immense beacons sweeping
dry-eyed weeping

or like a doll's eyes watching

a doll's eyes that can never close
awake or asleep
a fixed something more than a little spooking

you gauging something
but you don't know what
like she sees satin ghosts over your shoulder

and is appraising them or sharing an expensive
joke at your expense or theirs with herself
so that you are uncomfortable 

in your theater seat
despite the plush velvet
even at home

in the safety of your apartment
living room with your own sofa cushions
you wonder what it is that 

was she from Mars
another era, radioactive?

was she made of snow
and then the snow caught on fire
but its still permafrost

what is this element anyway

one we never learned in school
Bette with an e
so often imitated

what were they imitating then
they couldn't know
we didn't know you really

a few mannerisms
the makeup caking in the end
emphatically deep wrinkles

shrunken, still in State

you fought on
not to be the same
apple in the bunch

of apples
they thought you were rotten
you just didn't want to be

small potatoes
but that isn't it either, is it

but the soul
staring us out of countenance
out of ourselves

who could know

a kind of largesse masquerading as temper,
a voice like an ever crisp autumn writ large near rasping

kind of raspberry coloured
eyes of iris blue
wasted on black and white film

the voice again

etching itself into the mind
like the phonograph record
you think its scratched

something in you is irritated past endurance
change the record somebody
no wait, don't you say a little restless in your armchairs

nobody else can sound that way
like topaz speaking
so that Melodrama

slinks away, outdone;
unable to fend.

deeply engraved.
her own medal
in the end

mary angela douglas 23 march 2017