James Dean – Cloud One Billion and Nine

When the star of the silver screen comes to, he anticipates
another triumph, as spectacular as a starlet’s hair
dyed platinum blond, but by midmorning he’s still
spread eagle on a pillow-top, lifeless as a bad take.
He stares at a limitless blue ceiling, and imagines
he has checked into some grand hotel that broadcasts
lethargy. The day before, he’d prepared his car
for an upcoming race, working for hours with a crew
of grease monkeys, and he’d not felt like a star
but a grip or best boy. He wonders if his mood
is a hangover from speeding up the Golden State
like a filmic Hermes. Because he cannot lift his head
or curl his lip or squint his eyes at unseen cameramen.
The world is an empty swimming pool infused with ether.
Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson and Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo
have gone back to their untidy lives. The films are wrapped.
There’s no director to tell him what to do. No makeup artists
or hairstylists. Solitude is what he thought he wanted,
but why does solitude feel so alone? Does the script girl
feel this lack, this dearth of attention when she returns
to her bungalow? Does she forget dialogue and missed lines?
Does the key costumer abandon fastidiousness and loll
in stained jeans? Does the soundman broadcast silence
on a tinny radio? Jimmy wants a masseur to rub his numb limbs,
to salve the cigarette burn on his left pectoral, to stimulate
the nerves in his static back. He wishes he could lift his arm
and reach a cold white telephone, that room service
would bring him eggs and bacon and strong coffee,
maybe the James Dean Special he saw on a menu not long ago.
But there is no knock on the door. He hears nothing
and cannot move. He closes his eyes and drifts
into something like sleep – a slow fade –
as his cloud carries him into a starry heaven.
Somewhere else, headlines scream the news of his passing,
and cans of film burst forth images.
–Geer Austin

Geer Austin is the author of Cloverleaf, a poetry chapbook from Poets Wear Prada Press. His poetry and fiction has appeared in MiPOesiasThis Literary MagazinePotomac ReviewBig Bridge, and Ganymede Unfinished, among others. He is the former editor of NYB, a New York/Berlin arts magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Follow Geer on twitter: @Geer_Austin

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