Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

[Two Poems]

by Joan Jobe Smith

What I Learned from the Movies

When I hear shocking news, I will faint.
When my fiance leaves me holding a candlestick on the haunted house
staircase to go for help 20 miles away, the vampire will bite my neck.
When my fiance and the bad guy begin to fight over the nitroglycerin/
uranium or something that will destroy every living thing on earth if
spilled, I will hit on the head with a Ming vase, baseball bat or Maltese
Falcon my fiance. When the handsome singing cowboy who saved my
life and my father’s ranch from the dastard banker or Apaches kisses me
and rides off into the horizon on his white horse, I will smile and disappear.
When I am in the family way and ride a horse or walk down stairs, I will
fall and lose the child I am carrying. When my child coughs or sneezes,
he/she will die. When my child dies, my husband will blame me and I will
take to streetwalking and drinking whisky with stevedores along the wharf,
lose my looks and will to live and throw myself beneath the wheels of a
locomotive or a black La Salle sedan. When a telegram arrives, it will
always tell me that my fiance has died in the war. When the moon is
full, a man will either kiss me or kill me. When I wear marabou and
contemplate suicide while gazing at the Manhattan skyline, Fred Astaire
will ask me to dance. When Elvis tries to kiss me on the balcony, a gang
of girls will ask him to sing while they push me over the railing into a
swimming pool. When Marilyn Monroe is near, I will suddenly bear a
striking resemblance to a bean and egg burrito. When I am 40 like Blanche
Dubois, yet still have smooth crème fraiche skin, I will place paper lanterns
over light bulbs of desire to hide my aging face to spare young men from
shrinking from the hideousness of my old woman-ness and when I am 50
like Norma Desmond, even though I still have skin as smooth as cream
cheese, I will beg for a close-up so’s to terrify every man on earth with my
antiquity and when I am 70 or more and must scrub floors to earn a living, I
will work on my hands and knees with rags and buckets while the men use
mops and smoke cigars. And: when I cry Oh! and they call for a doctor and
he tells them to boil water, I will die.

—Previously published in Pearl (Issue 29), Spot Lit Mag 4.2 (Fall 2010), and Cultural Weekly (August 2012)


Hollow Cost

My mother told me about the hollow cost
one Saturday morning as I lay
in her bed beside her where I read
comic books while she moaned
for just forty more winks, it her
day off from the Payless Café
and when she finally yawned,
stretched and woke, after I’d
turned the Little Lulu pages
as loudly as I could, sometimes
she told me stories about when
she was a little girl in Texas
riding horses, milking cows,
cooking on a wood-burning stove.
But that one morning she cleared her throat
the way she always did before she scolded me
and she told me she had something to tell me
that I should hear from my mother
gas showers
shaven-headed women
sixty-pound men
human-skin lampshades
the war so much more
than white oleo
FDR speeches on the radio
letters from my father in Algeria. Oh,
how you wish you had never heard
some of the things your mother told you
that six million were more
than all the stars in the sky
on a clear, winter night.

—Previously published in Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, edited by Charles Adés Fishman


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Joan Jobe Smith

founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go girl in Southern California before receiving her BA from CSU Long Beach and her MFA from UC Irvine.

For nearly a decade she enjoyed/endured a literary and platonic friendship with the extraordinary poet and writer Charles Bukowski. Her literary profile, Charles Bukowski: Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) was recently published by Silver Birch Press; and her memoir, Tales Of An Ancient Go-Go Girl is forthcoming from World Parade Books. She is married to the poet Fred Voss.

“...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