Today's poem, "Listening to a Dried-out Lena While Watching Harold Lloyd Hang from a Clock Face at The Mayfair," comes from Peter Richardson's 2013 collection Bit Parts for Fools, shortlisted for the Archibald Lampman Award.
About the poem (from Peter Richardson's interview with The Toronto Quarterly):
"To a large extent these characters reflect the way I see and experience everyday life, though they are not now, nor have they ever been, mouthpieces. To me they are people with their own voices. Lena springs to mind in “Listening to a Dried-out Lena While Watching Harold Lloyd Hang from a Clock Face at The Mayfair.” She feels very strongly about standup and about comedy in general. I’m with her in that sense. That kind of Bette-Midler tartness and resourcefulness is something I admire greatly in women. But that poem arose out of circumstances that had nothing to do with a comedienne sitting in a repertory cinema."
Listening to a Recently Dried-out Lena While Watching Harold Lloyd Hang from a Clock Face at The Mayfair
Thanks for meeting me at the bus station in the snow, Lou.
Who doesn't like silent films? Each frame is a small shrine.
But this store clock scene has me bottomed out for tonight.
Did you know that man lot half of his right hand in 1920
when a studio prop exploded? Nearly ended his career.
Did you know that right here in this scene we're watching,
he dislocated his left shoulder having from that creaky
minute hand—him wearing a flesh-toned rubberized glove?
And you think comedy's easy? I know you didn't say it was,
but I can feel you think it's one cut above casino greeter.
I'm going back on the circuit in three days. Three days left
for me to get my wits together and sound a gong on stage.
Don't tell me it's only nerves. Six months off is a millstone.
I have to be cured and funny, on the wagon and still manic.
And you're not helping at all with that bell captain's pout.
Pass me the bloody popcorn. This is the new me here, pal,
a compendium of one-liners from the sticks of recovery,
hanging by a star, quaking in an old movie house, because
you thought I'd like to see Harold Lloyd in Safety Last.
How's your French sweetheart, by the way? She still
making you fried pork rinds and meat pies every night?
I'll bet she has your best interests in mind. Not like
me is she? Venting at my beanbag ex-Lothario. Okay,
I know you're my support committee and I'm grateful.
And I'll see you get a knighthood one day. But could you
drop me in Centretown? I don't need a duenna. I'm bushed.
Does it show? Good. Yes, I'm keeping track of my meds.
I could explode I'm so angry and sad and geared up inside.