~This poem first appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review (2011)
Her platinum finger-waves fallen, her roots dark as liver,
bearing witness like Nora’s I.O.U.
in A Doll’s House, looking now like a faded star’s comb-over,
Anita Page trades Clara Bow her mackerel-blue
brooch for three cigarettes. Thunder
cracks over the delta. Alice Joyce armors
her cheeks with her hands and squats under
a bush, her eyes empty as an itinerant farmer’s.
Vamps, virgins, and flappers wait for the curtains
to meet, for the subconscious noises
from critics cueing the Wurlitzer
for the upturned faces of those relegated to vaudeville haze.
The yellowing Friday Photoplays burn,
the women’s I dos and I can’ts engraved
in their expressions on the covers--words
their lost, soft tongues never had to crave.
Buster Keaton rows up to the shore,
then suddenly--arm raised, hat cocked--
his peevish “Ladies . . . ” diffracts the sun-glare
from the firmament painted across the backdrop.
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEM
“The Silents” started to take shape after I watched Buster Keaton’s brilliant performance in Sherlock Jr., which provoked me to think about great actors from the first quarter of the century who couldn’t transition from silent movies to talkies. I then pondered how technology changed the aesthetics and craft of movie-making so drastically and how, sadly, physical comedy became obsolete in the new era of language-driven comedy in film.
ABOUT ADAM VINES
Adam Vines is an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and editor of Birmingham Poetry Review. His recent poems have appeared in Poetry, Post Road, Redivider, and The Literary Review. The Coal Life (U of Arkansas P, 2012) was a finalist for the Miller Williams Prize.