from Chain Down the Moon by Carolyne Whelan
At Nana Kate’s 90th birthday party, a woman from The Home,
Margaret, insisted I ought to move to Hollywood.
You are a movie star, she told me, and she wandered
to that place the senile go for comfort, the created past.
She and I, both in our early twenties, playing the roles of sisters
in a feud for the same man. Perhaps my father standing nearby,
perhaps her long-dead husband who still visits daily.
Nana Kate smiled every time I sat by her that day—
she knew she ought to be happy to see me, whoever I was.
All the other strangers and returned dead relatives told her so.
I remember this now, reading a Bukowski book I picked up
at a garage sale, 25 cents. It looked like it had been read once, half-way.
It’s old Bukowski, crotchety regretful Bukowski bloated
with women and shoes under the bed, with an ugly life
and finally after all those years a wife he maybe loved.
Not my grandmother’s life, though I can’t say
the truth about Margaret. The two of us beaming down Mulholland Drive
big glasses and tiny, full purses, camera flashes, a night club.
Margaret whispers something to Tommy Dorsey, our song comes on,
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Sinatra with that longing look,
our fans, our love.
She thought I was Hollywood beautiful.
My father tells me she was neurotic, movie stars can’t have tattoos
or piercings in strange places, so many visible mistakes.
But I believe in multiple truths. That somewhere Margaret is still young
and wild and sane. Old people can still know beauty, can still find it oddly.
Inside their own sad faces, inside the faces of those they want to love.
Carolyne Whelan (website) currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a legal secretary, writing instructor, and freelance-anything. Her first chapbook, Glossary of Tania Aebi, was recently published by Finishing Line Press.