Poetry: Former Flapper

 

By Janis Gingermountain

 

Bebe, that piano-tinkling
flapper with marcelled curls,
gay center of any shimmying crowd,
dancing out in brighter and brighter patterns,
could make a uke
sound like an alley cat.
Caught the eye of a suave four-letter man
in knickers and argyle socks.

 

In the midst of everything delicious
her mother’s kidneys failed,
her shining world turned black.
Plans for interior design dashed,
she turned to teaching Latin, the unthinkable,
took a streetcar to work,
settled into her proper name,
Eloise.

 

One last desperate fling seemed worth a try.
Wisps of the old Bebe escaped
like curls from a cap.
Music began again, a wrenching
start-up from a tune half-played.
She eloped, did it all in style,
became Mrs. Four-Letter Man,
threw a gala for her friends:
“…tables appointed in green and cream,
tea roses for a centerpiece,” the paper said.
Bebe, yes! Bebe, shine!
Bebe, play that uke!

 

That May sixteenth the music faded out,
this time for good.
What remained was still a pretty life,
but somehow all downhill:
babies, headaches,
plans for a dream house of their own,
teaching Latin, murmuring prayers in church,
fifty-buck piano, playing classics now,
yelling for the team and pinching dimes,
eating out reserved for once a year,
the Clampitt’s Restaurant
thirty-nine-cent
chicken boiled and creamed,
and sometimes secretly
slipping to the attic
to finger flapper outfits in a trunk.

 

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