poems by Frank de Canio

        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.




                                Going Psycho


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.




                Philosophical Rant 


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

  1. 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.

poems by Frank de Canio

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