06 November 2012

Lynda Hull

[from Lynda Hull's The Collected Poems, Graywolf, 2006]

Hollywood Jazz

Who says it’s cool says wrong.
    For it rises from the city’s
        sweltering geometry of rooms,

fire escapes, and flares from the heels
    of corner boys on Occidental
        posing with small-time criminal

intent — all pneumatic grace. This
    is the music that plays at the moment
        in every late-night noir flick

when the woman finds herself alone, perfectly
    alone in a hotel room before a man
        whose face is so shadowed as to be

invisible, one more bedroom arsonist
    seeing nothing remotely
        cool: a woman in a cage

of half-light, Venetian blinds.
    This is where jazz blooms, in the hook
        and snag of her zipper opening to

an enfilade of trumpets. Her dress
    falls in a dizzy indigo riff.
        I know her vices are minor: sex,

forgetfulness, the desire to be someone,
    anyone else. On the landing, the man
        pauses before descending

one more flight. Checks his belt. Adjusts
    the snap brim over his face. She smoothes
        her platinum hair and smokes a Lucky

to kill his cologne. And standing there
    by the window in her slip, midnight blue,
        the stockings she did not take off,

she is candescent, her desolation
    a music so voluptuous I want
        to linger with her. And if I do not

turn away from modesty or shame,
    I’m in this for keeps, flying with her
        into fear’s random pivot where each article

glistens like evidence: the tube of lipstick,
    her discarded earrings. When she closes
        her eyes, she hears the streetcar’s

nocturne up Jackson, a humpbacked sedan
    rounding the corner from now
        to that lavish void of tomorrow,

a sequence of rooms: steam heat, modern,
    2 bucks. Now listen. Marimbas.
        His cologne persists, a redolence

of fire alarms, and Darling,
    there are no innocents here, only
        dupes, voyeurs. On the stairs

he flicks dust from his alligator
    shoes. I stoop to straighten
        the seams of my stockings, and

when I meet him in the shadows
    of the stairwell, clarinets whisper
        Here, take my arm. Walk with me.

Lynda Hull