Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

[Two Poems]

by Bill Lovelady

Bare ruined choir

Unwilling to eat pizza again, 
bored by the lovely boy 
who had never read a book, 
browsing in the library 
instead of going home, 
she was an Evian apple ripe 
for the honor of being picked. 
A white-haired gentleman, 
immaculately dressed, approached 
her, certain that he knew her. 
“Paloma mia, I thought I would 
never see you again. I’ve grown 
old, but you look as young 
as you ever did. You don’t 
owe me as much as a smile, 
even so, I beg your forgiveness. 
Let’s eat where we always ate.” 
At the restaurant, the waiter 
appeared, and the gentleman said, “She 
wants the strip steak, medium rare, 
Caesar salad, dressing on the side, 
new potatoes boiled in the skin. 
For me, the usual—and champagne.” 
The gentleman looked at her and sighed, 
“Is your favorite still Shakespeare’s 
sonnet about old age?” She nodded, 
and he spoke the entire poem 
about “the bare ruined choir” 
in a baritone that sang 
like the wind in the tallest pines. 
The next morning she slipped 
into her dress and departed. 
He was still asleep, or she 
might have asked him to tell 
her his name and the story 
of his long-lost love.

—From Half-Blind Mirror, published by TMO: The Neighborhood Office, in Helena, Montana (2012)

Carnival knowledge

Seeley, a memory from the fifth grade, 
spoke to me twice. Held back a year, 
she sat staring out the dirty window. 
She was left-handed, and the fact 
that the teacher was left-handed 
and had learned to write 
with her right hand, did not impress Seeley. 
She turned around, with the teacher 
at her desk, and used bad words 
to tell me that her welfare 
worker was shipping her to Anson, 
a town twenty miles down a gravel 
road from where we sat. The teacher 
took her hand to lead her to the woman 
smiling by the door. Seeley nipped off 
my pencil as she passed my desk. 
The summer that I was growing 
an inch a month, the pitch man, 
in a black top hat and a red 
jacket with tails, demanded 
my attention. “For a thin dime and your soul: 
you will see heavenly sights. Mademoiselle 
Mimi, world famous exotic dancer, 
a direct descendant of Queen 
Nephratiti, appearing for one 
night only in a performance 
from Ancient Egypt.” The Horned 
Beast himself seized my elbow. He knew 
I had a coin reserved for cotton 
candy. I paid my dime 
and followed college boys 
into a tent lit by kerosene 
lamps with untrimmed wicks. 
Mademoiselle Mimi started a five-tone record, 
removed her sky-blue robe, and presented herself: 
in all her glory, every unstitched inch of her, 
all new to me, and danced a bare three minutes 
on a dirt-floor stage, two arm-lengths away, 
lighting up the desert between us 
like a burning bush. A college boy asked, 
“Is that all?” Mademoiselle said, 
“What more did you come to see? 
Shall I kick off my shoes?” The college 
boys left, laughing at their friend. 
Mademoiselle startled me when 
she walked over, her high-hung fruit 
as firm as the apple on Eve’s tree, 
and called me by name. Her avid 
gnawing on her ragged 
fingernails retrieved a memory. 
Seeley it was, from the fifth grade.
“Nothing much in Anson
but farm boys and churches, 
no soda fountain, movie house 
closed down after showing 
‘Gone with the Wind.’ When 
I left Anson two days ago, 
no one waved, not even a finger.” 
I retreated, numbed and dumbed 
by the dazzle and the dark.

—From Half-Blind Mirror, published by TMO: The Neighborhood Office, in Helena, Montana (2012)

SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Bill Lovelady

was born in 1923, the sixth of eight children who survived the Great Depression. When he was 19 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. As a result of his war experiences he became a pacifist. He attended college on the G.I. Bill, taught school for eleven years, worked as a methods engineer, did social work and auditing for the County of Los Angeles for 15 years, retired and built houses.

Lovelady and his wife were married in 1949, have four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, and have been married for 62 years.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury