Wednesday, April 12, 2017

National Poetry Month: Nicholas Christopher

"Film Noir" 
for Paul & Alison
(Nicholas Christopher)

The girl on the rooftop stares out
over the city and grips a cold revolver.
Laundry flaps about her in the hot night.
Each streetlight haloes a sinister act.
People are trapped in their beds, dreaming of
the A-bomb and hatching get-rich-quick schemes.
Pickpockets and grifters prowl the streets.
Hit-men stalk informers and crooked cops hide in churches.
Are there no more picket fences and tea parties 
in America? Does no one have a birthday any more?
Even the ballgames are fixed, and the quiz shows.
Airplanes full of widows circle the skyline.
Young couples elope in stolen cars.
All the prostitutes were wronged terribly in childhood.
They wear polka-dot skirts, black gloves, and trenchcoats.
Men strut around in boxy suits, fedoras, and palm-tree ties.
They jam into nightclubs or brawl in hotel rooms
while saxophone music drowns out their cries.
The girl in the shadows drops the revolver
and pushes through the laundry to the edge of the roof.
Her eyes are glassy, her hair blows wild.
She looks down at her lover sprawled on the sidewalk
and she screams.
A crowd gathers in a pool of neon.
It starts to rain.

"Film Noir" by Nicholas Christopher appears in his collection A Short History of the Island of Butterflies (1982). His verse novel, Desperate Characters (1988), was described by the New York Times as “a lurid, hallucinogenic (and, of course, noirish) 68-page free verse romp by a nameless hero and his ravishing chauffeur-bodyguard through an overripe California landscape.” Christopher studied poetry with Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, and his other poetry collections include Five Degrees and Other Poems (1995), The Creation of the Night Sky (1998), Atomic Field: Two Poems (2000), and Crossing the Equator: New and Selected Poems (2007)

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