This Movie Heiress
(is bequeathed her agency)
“Yes, I have been taught by masters,” she says
when her aunt asks her, “Can you be so cruel?”
Indeed, cruelty becomes her like fizz
champagne. How droll she looked under the rule
of her father when she meets gigolo
Morris Townsend, Clift’s character, who wants
her money. Her demeanor’s soon aglow
before her ruthless father’s anger taunts
her with affronts that she’s pedestrian,
and worth no more than her inheritance
accords her. Ever the chameleon,
her faux beloved takes another stance
when he assesses that she’s been disowned,
whereon his rapt avowals are postponed.
In fact, her nature’s disinherited
And boy does she become alive. For, stripped
of the respect her duty merited,
she’ll hastily rewrite the gendered script
society had given her, and spurn
her father even to the day he dies.
And when her lovelorn gigolo returns
to plan for the elopement he decried
originally, she becomes as deaf
to his repeated knocking on her door –
to consummate the tryst – as when he left
her in the lurch to sadly play the poor
abandoned lover. How she blossoms like a rose,
with all the prickly thistles on its stem,
when she assumes this passion-driven pose.
Indeed, a bit less ladylike than femme,
her flowering becomes a stiff rebuke
to predators who’d stalk her foliage.
Her scent’s for honeybees, but thorns to spook
those who would compromise her personage.
For pollen in her stamen’s filled with bile
that doesn’t reach her less receptive style.
It wasn’t just Marion’s shower scene that made the viewer crane forward with bulging eyes, but all the speculation leading up to it. For she was the protagonist who functioned as our surrogate. And Hitchcock was a master of suspense; MacGuffins that would leave the viewer tense with expectation. But we would garner produce from the seeds he sowed for us. The forty thousand dollars that she stole from her employer? Surely the police were on her tail. The used car salesman who sold her the getaway vehicle would have talked them into following her. Maybe Norman, the proprietor of the Bates Motel, where Marion had checked in for the night – before deciding to face the music – would grow a bit suspicious and turn her in. And the conversational chagrin she’d mustered from him, suggesting that he put his mother away someplace, set the pace for anticipating the master’s next moves. Perhaps Bates would blackmail her to share her bounty with him in lieu of going to the police; or they’d elope together and leave Sam Loomis, her luckless lover, in the lurch. We carried this baggage into the bathroom’s shower stall, where it’s clear Marion was going through a spiritual cleanse, a symbolic renewal, as it were, only to have the rug pulled out from under us. We all had our narratives. And we were all wet!
Foiling Fraulein Fate
My dear. You can’t force me to play the game
according to your arbitrary rule;
as though you had proprietary claim
on me who’ll stay accommodating fool.
I realize now that you’re a heartless dame
who takes your well-tooled laborers to school
and makes robust, conditioned athletes lame
until, without regret or shame, they pule.
But I will soon go back to where I came
from; scorning need to bicker or to mewl
like some spurned love imploring his ex-flame.
I’ll feel your angling line rewind its spool
before I take the bait that fixes blame.
Let others sue for arbitration who’ll
have grit enough to harness and to tame
your fickle doings – prone to ridicule
the just and give the superficial fame.
Confronted by the evidence that you’ll
maintain for good or ill that fateful frame
you weigh on me, I play my hand with cool
disdain, assured your aimless game’s the same
though men proclaim you goddess, gal or ghoul.
For Their Sport
What cruel, indifferent gods are these
who watch our means depreciate.
Like wanton children on their knees
who pitilessly agitate
belabored insects in a jar,
they mock our slippery ascent
toward peaks we travel long and far
to climb. Indeed our lives are spent
on this. Just when we reach the rim
of our pursuit, we’re knocked back down
where former vantage points give grim
rejoinders, making smilers frown.
For that brief windfall that we got
brings in relief our lesser lot.
Let ravages of sickness lay me low,
while I endure it with a sober mind.
Let all the fickle fates and furies know
that tense encounters scarcely will unwind
- Able to maintain a steadfast heart,
I shall consider I’m a lucky man
if self-destructive urges don’t impart
far worse than any act of Nature can.
If I secure integrity intact,
should all society impugn my name
or taunt my steps, their venom won’t distract
me, or extinguish my ambition’s flame.
But woe to those who, lucky or bereft,
abandon self-restraint, till nothing’s left.
Let every girl I dote upon rebuff
my amorous advances as a key
I’ll stand before life’s sterner stuff.
For unrequited love may sadden me,
but not destroy the fabric of the clothes
my biologic nature dressed me with.
Nor will I rend them with a caustic pose.
Let storms be metal for my bustling smith
to forge into a more effective sword
that I can wield against adversity.
Let tribulation be my treasure hoard,
and I’ll brook shame and poverty with glee.
But woe to those who use their privileged birth
to wallow in the entrails of the earth.