Two Poems by Julie Marie Wade

Issue 92 Cover

Found in Willow Springs 92

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What is Far From Heaven? $800

There's a blue car as long as a boat—Melancholy motorized & sailing. There's a woman in a red coat with a lavender scarf who always looks ravishing, especially when she stands on the platform watching a salient train depart. Ravishing is the word she'll convince her husband to use as she coaxes a dance floor compliment: "It's a ravishing dress & a ravishing girl to go with it," he says, looking the part in his fancy white tux. That's how they ring in the New Year—1958—with a twist & a kiss & a lie. Her husband doesn't want to ravish her, in any archaic sense, & he isn't ravished by her, in any modern. He can see how pretty she is, how worried she is, how much she longs to please him, but as we know too well, it's the body that serves as a polygraph for all of our desires. Not what the words say, not what the clothes say, but how the flesh ignites in the presence, or even at the mention, or one desired. This film came out the same year I did. A friend saw it & said "Don't go. It's so depressing." The star is a woman I'd admired for years, not just with my head but also my body. What was that in the presence, or even at the mention, of men? Of course I went to the movie. When Frank sobs on a sofa in the dark, then tells Cathy, "I've fallen in love with someone," my first thought was How sad to be so sad about love! But hadn't I, just a few months before, wept on a sofa in the dark, then told the man I'd promised to marry, "I've fallen in love with someone"? Another friend said, "You'll really like this film. I mean, you were basically raised in the 1950s, with your family's whole generational time-warp thing." Maybe, in 2002, I wasn't as evolved as I thought. Were any of us then—and are we now? Frank still sobbing in the dark: "I tried . . . I tried so hard to make it go away!" Was it like that for me, too, a conscious denial, detecting my own lies & then grinding them down like guilty cigarettes into the earth? Or was I the Cathy of my story, murmuring "I don't understand" & meaning it. She's in the dark, & there's this whole other part of herself she's struggling to admit exists, whether or not her husband ever comes out. Desire, as we know too well, has a way of ravishing us, by rapture & by force. "I think of him, I do," Cathy confides in her friend, & by him, she doesn't mean Frank, & by think, she doesn't mean only with her mind. Anyone watching can feel the swarm of bees humming, can see the hot flush come over her face as she insists, "Nothing happened . . ." And that nothing she protests too much is about Raymond, a Black man in a barely integrated town who becomes her gardener & her friend, who opens the red door of his pick-up for her just that once—the only time he ever picked her up—which led to vicious talk, which led to violence, which led to Raymond & his daughter leaving everything behind as they climb aboard that salient train bent for Baltimore. Cathy didn't seem to know that two men could desire each other, even when she walked in on her husband in another man's embrace. She didn't seem to know that people of different races could desire each other, even when she was one of the ones who desired. On a street corner, uncoaxed by anyone, & harshly scrutinized by a group of white pedestrians, Cathy tells Raymond, "You're so beautiful." This is true, but not the whole truth. She means but doesn't say: "You're so beautiful to me." Afterwards, she runs away weeping. How sad to be so sad about love! I, too, come from a sad, beautiful place. Blue cars everywhere & Fauntlee Hills echoes those homogeneous Hartford vibes, strapped to a past that is perhaps more with us today than we would want, or are able, to recognize. In exchange for the illusion of safety comes that danger Raymond names—"mixing in other worlds." His eyes are wet with tears as he conveys to Cathy his regrets. I wonder: what do we lose, what do we gain, when we realize "things are pretty well finished for [us] here"? And what do we lose, or gain, when we realize here is pretty much everywhere?


What is Rear Window? $1000

Pretend the blinds in the film are theater curtains. They rise at the start & fall at the end, with the smooth efficiency of a stage play. For the audience, everything is clearly demarcated—our living room, his living room; our neighbors milling about; his neighbors mills about. Note elements of the mise-en-scène: Courtyard. Flower bed. Fire escape. Note the extras, whom we now call background artists: Cat scurrying up the stairs. Sleeping man supine on his balcony. Woman brushing her hair before the bathroom mirror. And there's our protagonist in his wheelchair, left leg rigid in a cast. No chance of conflating ourselves with his story, which makes it a safe place to be scared. In fact, it's the kind of place a girl can follow her father to on a Saturday afternoon—popcorn with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spray, Shasta in sweating cans—as they begin to lose their easy way with each other. No need to talk about anything but the movie, & no one in the audience to shush & scold them as they do. It's a grisly tale of dismemberment without a drop of blood. It's a sly romance without nudity; no covers undulating with the faintest suggestions of sex. Most of all—& what the girl won't realize for many years—it's the ultimate adventure in meta-viewing: this prolonged occasion of watching someone who's watching someone who doesn't know he's being watched. Until the final ten minutes, that is. (Talk about a quick climax! But don't.) You could argue that productions of stage & screen are consensual acts of voyeurism. The character doesn't know you're watching, but the actor does. In fact, the actor desperately hopes you are. His success depends on your unwillingness to turn away. But this one's different. The whole premise is how rubbery our human necks are, bendier & bendier until they run the risk of being snapped. Jeffries isn't just bored in his last home-bound week with nothing to do but gawk & stare. HIs long career as a photo-journalist confirms he's a scopophile from the start—just as I am, just as you are. Remember the moment early on when he tells his nurse, "Right now I'd welcome trouble"? (Words he'll shortly wish to rescind.) Well, I wanted it too—that trouble. A mystery to solve. A triumph to claim. Some means of making myself useful. This longing to sleuth was something my father always humored in me. He played along with all the whodunnits howdunnits whys. It was easier, I suppose, than facing our actual mystery (my mother, his wife), the story we were living that we couldn't quite allow ourselves to believe. Jeff's nurse, Stella, tells him in a thoughtful moment I necessarily stowed away: "We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house & look for a change." I thought she meant it as a metaphor: Detect yourself! Maybe even meant it biblically: Take the plank out of your own eye & so forth. But then I recalled those lines many years later, slumped down in my seat, idling in a car outside my parents' house before circling & circling the block. I couldn't go in, you see. I couldn't even consider the possibility of a knock. But I could watch. Around the corner was my grandmother's house. I saw the light on in her den, the room where she played Solitaire, left the television blaring. She was hard of hearing in her old age, & I told myself I didn't want to scare her by pounding on a window in the dark. (Convenient alibi for my own fragile heart.) This film's arc spans only four days while min spans twenty years, continues still without an end in sight. No insight either. So when I say I was outside my own house looking in, I don't mean once, & I don't mean metaphorically. I mean, every time I fly across the country, it's the first thing I do. Rent a car at Sea-Tac. Take the back way down slick, suburban streets, wet light puddling in potholes. No intention of going in. No point rehearsing what to say. Just looking, just scanning the landscape for all the hard familiars—camellia tree in the mise-en-scène, weather vane that bears their changeless names. What if Jeffries's inmost truth is that he actually wants to be seen, which is to say confronted, caught? He'll face his consequence in flashbulbs, a string of frantic lights. At least then, when he plummets, he'll be looking up, gaze locked with a knowing stranger's eyes.

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