Gerry LaFemina is the author of several books of poems including 2011’s Vanishing Horizon, three books of prose poems, In 2014 Stephen F. Austin University Press released his newest poetry collection, Little Heretic, and a book of his essays on prosody, Palpable Magic. New work has recently appeared in The Sun, APR, Gettysburg Review and other journals. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he is an associate professor of English at Frostburg State University and serves as a poetry mentor in the MFA program at Carlow University.
Chaplin, Modern Times, Lincoln Center, Autumn 2015
A late birthday present, even the way you adjust my tie. Like many silent films, it’s a love story, just listen to the orchestra playing the soundtrack: “Smile” cascading toward crescendo. And you, beautiful in a gown that touched you like I would touch you. Because these are post-modern times, nothing, not even romance, is so simple, not even the violin at the musician’s chin, not even applause and laughter, not even the way you will lean into me when we walk back to our door. Shipbuilder’s apprentice, factory hand, night watchman—what wouldn’t he do for her? It’s late September, so much ending we couldn’t foresee. At movie’s end the Tramp and the Gamin (Chaplin and Goddard) walk an empty road toward whatever future is beyond the last chord’s waning. Like missing you, the traffic on Broadway is relentless.
It cracks like a mirror, comes with its size seven years bad luck. It breaks and splinters. There’s the fear of it becoming ingrown, of it just being gone (the way my mother’s is just gone, and how, in her vanity, she paints the skin where it once was red). But it remains, split like a windscreen hit by gravel. I’m no podiatrist. No pedicurist. I’m not pedantic in the least. Give me a foot, and I might take a yard, of course–that’s the type of guy I could be.
Yet the nail dangles like a tossed rag, the cleaning crew having called it a day. It won’t slough off, what with the bandages and superglue. But the whole toe, the bigness of it? You never know when it might vanish, taking the nail with it. That’s liable to be a bigger problem, a more pronounced limp.