Why, when I’m stuck in traffic
on this Maryland highway rank with billboards,
do I envision myself in a rickety wagon
alongside Henry Fonda—
near death from yellow fever—riding
to a leper colony in 1850’s New Orleans?
Present desperations almost always
conjure a scene from some old movie. When
atonement seems appropriate,
Bette Davis appears in a welcome bubble,
her sins upstaged by the noble tilt of her chin.
I lift mine a little higher, gaze
into the rear-view mirror—beyond my red scarf
at a hundred slow-moving cars. As if on cue,
it starts to rain; I chose the worst route.
And I wore the wrong dress to the ball,
Bette sighs. We both sigh. I free
my right hand to place a cloth,
a cool wet cloth on Henry’s burning forehead.
Of Mice and Smoke
……………………………….—Bonita “Bonnie” Lynn Fields, former
………………………………..Mouseketeer, dies at 68 from throat cancer
Bette Davis exhaled female allure; twin
trails of smoke emerged from her nostrils
whenever she pouted or flirted or fumed.
Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner—they all puffed—
strong dolls with glamorous lacquered nails
holding aloft paper tubes of tobacco.
Silk gowns, fur stoles, tiny rhinestone waists,
nicotine stashed inside chic beaded bags.
Fresh-faced and agile, Bonnie Lynn Fields
danced into the Mickey Mouse Club at twelve,
her breath invested in tap and ballet—
television fame a starburst
glittering her adolescence. Who knows
where she picked up her first cigarette?
Maybe at a pajama party with a pack of friends,
each daring the others to inhale
in sophisticated goddess style,
à la Bette, à la Ingrid and Lana.
Oh Bonnie, for years you succumbed
to the lure of Lucky Strikes—
removing the cellophane a ritual
like unwrapping a shiny gift.
On the mantel, your Mouseketeer ears,
small dead animals gathering dust.
© Shirley J. Brewer
Shirley J. Brewer, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, is a poet, educator, and workshop facilitator. In addition to her work being published here in the Loch Raven Review, her poetry has appeared in The Cortland Review, Comstock Review, Passager, New Verse News, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and other publications. Her poetry chapbook, A Little Breast Music, was published in 2008 by Passager Books. A second book of poems, After Words, was published in February 2013 by Apprentice House/Loyola University of Baltimore (reviewed in this issue—Editor).