Homage to Sharon Stone

- 1949-
It's early morning. This is the "before,"
the world hanging around in its wrapper,
blowzy, frumpy, doing nothing: my 
neighbors, hitching themselves to the roles
of the unhappily married, trundle their three
mastiffs down the street. I am writing this
book of poems. My name is Lynn Emanuel.
I am wearing a bathrobe and curlers; from 
my lips, a Marlboro drips ash on the text.
It is the third of September nineteen**.
And as I am writing this in my trifocals
and slippers, across the street, Sharon Stone,
her head swollen with curlers, her mouth
red and narrow as a dancing slipper, 
is rushed into a black limo. And because
these limos snake up and down my street,
this book will be full of sleek cars nosing
through the shadowy ocean of these words.
Every morning, Sharon Stone, her head
in a helmet of hairdo, wearing a visor
of sunglasses, is engulfed by a limo
the size of a Pullman, and whole fleets
of these wind their way up and down
the street, day after day, giving to the street
(Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA)
and the book I am writing, an aspect
that is both glamorous and funereal.
My name is Lynn Emanuel, and in this
book I play the part of someone writing 
a book, and I take the role seriously, 
just as Sharon Stone takes seriously 
the role of the diva. I watch the dark 
cars disappear her and in my poem 
another Pontiac erupts like a big animal 
at the cool trough of a shady curb. So, 
when you see this black car, do not think 
it is a Symbol For Something. It is just 
Sharon Stone driving past the house 
of Lynn Emanuel who is, at the time, 
trying to write a book of poems.

Or you could think of the black car as 
Lynn Emanuel, because, really, as an author,
I have always wanted to be a car, even 
though most of the time I have to be 
the "I," or the woman hanging wash; 
I am a woman, one minute, then I am a man, 
I am a carnival of Lynn Emanuels:
Lynn in the red dress; Lynn sulking 
behind the big nose of my erection; 
then I am the train pulling into the station 
when what I would really love to be is 
Gertrude Stein spying on Sharon Stone 
at six in the morning. But enough about 
that, back to the interior decorating:
On the page, the town looks bald
and dim so I turn up the amps on 
the radioactive glances of bad boys. 
In a kitchen, I stack pans sleek with 
grease, and on a counter there is a roast 
beef red as a face in a tantrum. Amid all 
this bland strangeness is Sharon Stone, 
who, like an engraved invitation, is asking 
me, Won't you, too, play a role? I do not 
choose the black limo rolling down the street 
with the golden stare of my limo headlights 
bringing with me the sun, the moon, and 
Sharon Stone. It is nearly dawn; the sun 
is a fox chewing her foot from the trap; 
every bite is a wound and every wound 
is a red window, a red door, a red road. 
My name is Lynn Emanuel. I am the writer 
trying to unwrite the world that is all around her.

More by Lynn Emanuel

Inventing Father In Las Vegas

If I could see nothing but the smoke
From the tip of his cigar, I would know everything
About the years before the war.
If his face were halved by shadow I would know
This was a street where an EATS sign trembled
And a Greek served coffee black as a dog's eye.
If I could see nothing but his wrist I would know
About the slot machine and I could reconstruct
The weak chin and ruin of his youth, the summer
My father was a gypsy with oiled hair sleeping
In a Murphy bed and practicing clairvoyance.
I could fill his vast Packard with showgirls
And keep him forever among the difficult buttons
Of the bodice, among the rustling of their names,
Miss Christina, Miss Lorraine.
I could put his money in my pocket
and wearing memory's black fedora
With the condoms hidden in the hatband
The damp cigar between my teeth,
I could become the young man who always got sentimental
About London especially in Las Vegas with its single bridge­-
So ridiculously tender--leaning across the river
To watch the starlight's soft explosions.
If I could trace the two veins that crossed
His temple, I would know what drove him
To this godforsaken place, I would keep him forever
Remote from war--like the come-hither tip of his lit cigar
Or the harvest moon, that gold planet, remote and pure
  American.

The Burial

After I've goosed up the fire in the stove with Starter Logg 
so that it burns like fire on amphetamines; after it's imprisoned, 
screaming and thrashing, behind the stove door; after I've 
listened to the dead composers and watched the brown-plus-gray 
deer compose into Cubism the trees whose name I don't know 
(pine, I think); after I've holed up in my loneliness staring 
at the young buck whose two new antlers are like a snail's 
stalked eyes and I've let this conceit lead me to the eyes-on-stems 
of the faces of Picasso and from there to my dead father; after I've 
chased the deer away (they were boring, streamlined machines 
for tearing up green things, deer are the cows-of-the-forest); 
then I bend down over the sea of keys to write this poem 
about my father in his grave.

It isn't easy. It's dark in my room, the door is closed, 
all around is creaking and sighing, as though I were in the hold 
of a big ship, as though I were in the dark sleep
of a huge freighter toiling across the landscape of the waves 
taking me to my father with whom I have struggled 
like Jacob with the angel and who heaves off, one final time, 
the muddy counterpane of the earth and lies panting 
beside his grave like a large dog who has run a long way.

This is as far as he goes. I stand at the very end 
of myself holding a shovel. The blade is long and cool;
It is an instrument for organizing the world; the blade is 
drenched in shine, the air is alive along it, as air is alive 
on the windshield of a car. Beside me my father droops
as though he were under anesthesia. He is so thin, 
and he doesn't have a coat. My left hand grows 
cool and sedate under the influence of his flesh. 
It hesitates and then...

My father drops in like baggage into a hold. 
In his hands, written on my stationery, a note 
I thought of xeroxing: Dad, I will be with you, 
through the cold, dark, closed places you hated.
I close the hinged lid, and above him I heap a 
firmament of dirt. The body alone, in the dark, 
in the cold, without a coat. I would not wish that on my 
greatest enemy. Which, in a sense, my father was.

The Politics of Narrative: Why I Am A Poet

     Jill's a good kid who's had some tough luck. But that's 
another story. It's a day when the smell of fish from Tib's hash 
house is so strong you could build a garage on it. We are sit-
ting in Izzy's where Carl has just built us a couple of solid 
highballs. He's okay, Carl is, if you don't count his Roamin' 
Hands and Rushin' Fingers. Then again, that should be the 
only trouble we have in this life. Anyway, Jill says, "Why 
don't you tell about it? Nobody ever gets the poet's point of 
view." I don't know, maybe she's right. Jill's just a kid, but 
she's been around; she knows what's what.
     So, I tell Jill, we are at Izzy's just like now when he 
comes in. And the first thing I notice is his hair, which has 
been Vitalis-ed into submission. But, honey, it won't work, 
and it gives him a kind of rumpled your-boudoir-or-mine look. 
I don't know why I noticed that before I noticed his face. 
Maybe it was just the highballs doing the looking. Anyway, 
then I see his face, and I'm telling you—I'm telling Jill—this is 
a masterpiece of a face.
     But—and this is the god's own truth—I'm tired of
beauty. Really. I know, given all that happened, this must 
sound kind of funny, but it made me tired just to look at him. 
That's how beautiful he was, and how much he spelled T-R-
O-U-B-L-E. So I threw him back. I mean, I didn't say it, I say 
to Jill, with my mouth. But I said it with my eyes and my 
shoulders. I said it with my heart. I said, Honey, I'm throwing 
you back. And looking back, that was the worst, I mean, the 
worst thing—bar none—that I could have done, because it
drew him like horseshit draws flies. I mean, he didn't walk
over and say, "Hello, girls; hey, you with the dark hair, your
indifference draws me like horseshit draws flies."
     But he said it with his eyes. And then he smiled. And
that smile was a gas station on a dark night. And as wearying
as all the rest of it. I am many things, but dumb isn't one of
them. And here is where I say to Jill, "I just can't go on." I
mean, how we get from the smile into the bedroom, how it all
happens, and what all happens, just bores me. I am a concep-
tual storyteller. In fact, I'm a conceptual liver. I prefer the
cookbook to the actual meal. Feeling bores me. That's why I 
write poetry. In poetry you just give the instructions to the 
reader and say, "Reader, you go on from here." And what I like
about poetry is its readers, because those are giving people. I 
mean, those are people you can trust to get the job done. They 
pull their own weight. If I had to have someone at my back in 
a dark alley, I'd want it to be a poetry reader. They're not like
some people, who maybe do it right if you tell them, "Put this
foot down, and now put that one in front of the other, button
your coat, wipe your nose."
     So, really, I do it for the readers who work hard and, I 
feel, deserve something better than they're used to getting. I 
do it for the working stiff. And I write for people, like myself, 
who are just tired of the trickle-down theory where some-
body spends pages and pages on some fat book where every-
thing including the draperies, which happen to be burnt orange, 
are described, and, further, are some metaphor for something.
And this whole boggy waste trickles down to the reader in the 
form of a little burp of feeling. God, I hate prose. I think the 
average reader likes ideas.
     "A sentence, unlike a line, is not a station of the cross." I 
said this to the poet Mark Strand. I said, "I could not stand to
write prose; I could not stand to have to write things like 'the 
draperies were burnt orange and the carpet was brown.'" And 
he said, "You could do it if that's all you did, if that was the 
beginning and the end of your novel." So please, don't ask me 
for a little trail of bread crumbs to get from the smile to the 
bedroom, and from the bedroom to the death at the end, al-
though you can ask me a lot about death. That's all I like, the 
very beginning and the very end. I haven't got the stomach for
the rest of it.
     I don't think many people do. But, like me, they're either 
too afraid or too polite to say so. That's why the movies are 
such a disaster. Now there's a form of popular culture that 
doesn't have a clue. Movies should be five minutes long. You 
should go in, see a couple of shots, maybe a room with orange 
draperies and a rug. A voice-over would say, "I'm having a 
hard time getting Raoul from the hotel room into the eleva-
tor." And, bang, that's the end. The lights come on, everybody 
walks out full of sympathy because this is a shared experi-
ence. Everybody in that theater knows how hard it is to get 
Raoul from the hotel room into the elevator. Everyone has had 
to do boring, dogged work. Everyone has lived a life that 
seems to inflict every vivid moment the smears, finger-
ings, and pawings of plot and feeling. Everyone has lived un-
der this oppression. In other words, everyone has had to eat 
shit—day after day, the endless meals they didn't want, those 
dark, half-gelatinous lakes of gravy that lay on the plate like 
an ugly rug and that wrinkled clump of reddish-orange roast 
beef that looks like it was dropped onto your plate from a 
great height. God what a horror: getting Raoul into the ele-
vator.
     And that's why I write poetry. In poetry, you don't do 
that kind of work.