Joan E. Bauer

            The Poet Laureate of Awful Truths

           

                            for Maria Mazziotti Gillan

 

 

The drive from Palermo to San Mauro, three hours.

Palermo’s on the coast. San Mauro, southeast & inland.

In San Mauro, a castle, a 15th century bell tower,

the skull of a saint.

 

When the Mazziottis left San Mauro perhaps

they spoke a mix of Italian & Sicilian as

my great grandparents did, coming from Vicari.

 

 

Gillan writes about lies & denial. She recalls

how she once denied ‘that booted country’

even from herself.

 

She doesn’t ‘hide behind’ language.  She atones

for every unintended cruelty & false word. 

 

You have to knock that crow off your shoulder

& write what you need to write—

 

as she does: on feeding baby apple sauce

to her dying husband.

 

 

Gillan paints. Her paintings, bright & joyous:

mixed media, pastel-toned portraits of women

with heart-shaped or oblong faces.

 

Frequent backdrop: floating fish or flowers or stars.

 

The lips are slightly off-center, the eyes, playful

or contemplative. Sometimes melancholy.

 

In Women around the Kitchen Table,

the face at the center

appears to be her own.

 

 

 

It Happened One Night  (1 h 45 min USA)

 

 

My sister’s The Walking Encyclopedia of Motion Pictures. 

She lives in LA & you can ask her anything.

 

Her first husband was partners for awhile

with Frank Capra Jr on a project for Burt Lancaster 

 

but then Lancaster died.  When I ask my sister

what’s her favorite Capra movie, she doesn’t say

 

A Wonderful Life, but Platinum Blonde.

 

*

 

My favorite began as ‘Night Bus,’ a movie no one

but Capra & his brilliant screenwriter Robert Riskin

 

wanted to make. Runaway heiress & roguish reporter

travel warily together. Miami to New York. 

 

No one wanted to play the heiress, not Myrna Loy,

Miriam Hopkins, Constance Bennett, the list goes on.

 

Claudette Colbert didn’t want the part either.

She wanted to go skiing, rather that ‘rough it’

 

on a bus. Colbert fought with the director every day.

In the ‘classic Capra’ bus scene, the riders sing,

 

‘The Man on the Flying Trapeze.’

Colbert didn’t think that scene worked at all.

 

In the fabled ‘Walls of Jericho’ scene,

hearts throbbed when Gable took off his shirt.

 

Rain is a motif in Capra films. He thought rain

is sexy. When the film ended, Colbert called it:

 

The worst picture I’ve ever made.     

 

Joan E. Bauer is the author of The Almost Sound of Drowning (Main Street Rag, 2008). For some years, she was a teacher and counselor and now divides her time between Venice, CA and  Pittsburgh, PA.  Since 2001, more than 250 of her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in the USA and abroad.  Her second, full-length collection, The Camera Artist, is forthcoming from Turning Point in February 2021.  She’s currently working on a new poetry manuscript, “In Fair Verona,” focusing on Italian Americana.