A Poem By James Cihlar

Bang, Bang! Yip, Yip!

I came late to the party of Judy, shy of all the corollaries,
not just the closet, queen, and hag, but the dolls and sketch,
the kitsch und drang. The Bijou at the Student Union, Easter Parade, The Clock,
Meet Me in St. Louis, A Star Is Born, The Harvey Girls, Summer Stock
I put them in the bank, saved them for when I’m old

and gray and settled down, if I ever got the chance
to sneak away from town. Arthur Freed recognized the woman
who had come unstuck in time, Judy Pilgrim. Who’s to say
we’re born when we should be? The window of the body
is open for only a little while. So he festooned hers

in a Technicolor Victorian habit and set Monument Valley rolling
on a green screen behind. God bless Hollywood, God Bless Chimney Rock.
If art lives outside of chronology, why not costume it like a Harlequin?
Her wedding dress is made of clouds. It can’t be seen, only imagined,
like the color of the eyes of her fiancé. Most girls coming West

to get married would wear a blue serge suit. God bless organza,
God bless taffeta. She has always wanted to try a Chillicothe sandwich.
We love to honor and oh, baby. Every chorine on Freed’s immaculate set
is prettier than Judy, but when the music swells, they all array
their visage toward her, as if in hive mind. We know life by death.

We are wiser than our actions. When Judy hits her marks, she is
eternal recurrence. We see that now is always happening, it never ends.
Pulling her bustle to the side, she glides around the cowboys as if on wheels.
Community becomes architecture. They hoist her on their shoulders
to crown Brueghel’s Tower of Babel. She views us from the window of a mansion,

sleeps next to our corpse like Faulkner’s Emily. So this is the wild and woolly West.
Her vibrato trills beyond recognition, the harmony of the spheres our ears can’t hear. When her voice goes outside of range, the orchestra changes key to catch up.
When she kicks up her chin with a smile and a sniff, she’s won.
Then I’ll spend my busman’s holiday on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.


James Cihlar James Cihlar

James Cihlar is the author of Undoing [Little Pear Press, 2008], and his poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Quercus, and in the anthologies Aunties, Regrets Only, and Nebraska Presence. His reviews have appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and on the poetry site Coldfront. The recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for Poetry and a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, Cihlar lives in St. Paul.

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