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.