Nebraska Center for Writers

Bess Houdini Remembers Night Before the Modern World
by Sandra Yannone

This is where we should have
made love: my body flat
against the back lawn of this summer
house once visited, the grass green
and cut like the nape of your neck
after the barber's trim. I don't move
except my eyes which roam
through neighborhoods of stars. Framed
by pine trees, I can almost reach
their needles grazing the night.
But the porch light is just slight
enough to fix me here. The whir
of the washing machine escapes
the screen door, and a telephone
line, strung like those taut velvet
ropes in wax museums, keeps you
from this world. My body now
with the urge to make wingspans,
a flash of divinity children mark
in snow. It's what we attribute
to that split moment of a star
we know to be dying, or worse,
and don't mourn, but gasp
for the way it leaves itself
sexless. We should have died here.

Reprinted with permission
from Ploughshares
Copyright © 1992
by Sandra Yannone


My Date With Elvis: Cybill Shepherd, 1973
by Sandra Yannone


He said he'd meet me at the theater,
and since the boy in the ticket booth knew
Elvis bought all the seats for the late show,
he didn't bother to ask if I was Elvis's date
or to notice I was the pretty face
on all the magazine covers
the girls he was too afraid to ask out
read for makeup and dating tips.
He simply pointed at the metal doors.

Only the dull yellow of the midnight
popcorn machines lit the center
of the lobby, the gleaming candy
counters, abandoned like carnival rides
in the summer evening rain. Inside,
the houselights had just gone down.
I peered through the portholes
on the red plush doors to see if he glowed
over his friends. No one resembled him
in the sporadic dark. There was just
the noise of the projector shuffling
its images against the wide screen
and the occasional moans of muffled
back-row love, and I thought I would cry
if he stood me up, a twenty-three-year-old
Memphis girl gone Hollywood
and come home, now waiting
in the eighth-row center for Elvis.

The opening credits began to unravel
their large cursive names, and I felt
someone watching me against the backdrop
of the screen. I turned around
and in the doorway saw his silhouette
looming larger than he looked
on the big screen in Blue Hawaii.
He was a whole parade
moving down the aisle, waving
to his small clusters of friends
in the dark. He handed me
a large bucket of popcorn and settled down
for the film, and when he brushed
his buttery hand across my right cheek,
he smelled wonderful.

Reprinted with permission
from Ploughshares
Copyright © 1991
by Sandra Yannone


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