Jeffery Conway, Gillian McCain & David Trinidad


Canto Four (from Descent of the Dolls)

Navigating their way through the most innocuous of scenes, the three poets descend into the abyss.  McCain calls upon her guide, Sharon Tate, for advice.  Conway and Trinidad plummet down a series of rabbit holes and time tunnels, where they revisit first meetings and mass murders, and ponder the contents of Anne’s purse.

A thunderclap awakens me; lightning streaks

the Provincetown sky beyond the fluttering

sheer white curtain on my bedroom window; shrieks

of seabirds mix with wind, fuse with the spraying

soda water into Lyon Burke’s drink as

Miss Anne Welles walks in unannounced, saying

she doesn’t want the job.  He introduces

himself suavely to the raw recruit, who’s just

come from the Vestibule.  On the shore across

the street, David, Anne, Gillian, and Sharon are just

coming to in the rickety old boat; Anne

slurs “I am rowing, rowing,” lets out a robust

laugh, unfazed by the tempest.  Jacqueline Susann

scurries down Cottage Street in a rain slicker,

shielding her wig with a newspaper.  Gillian

helps a teetering Tate to dry ground; they wander

off down Commercial Street.  Frank pounds at my screen door,

“Hey brother, the rain falls, it drops all over

the place—let me in!”  Grateful he’s come ashore,

I put on a pot of coffee.  It’s good to

have a guide in times like these.  “Frank, I need more

info about the other side—what can you

tell me about Limbo?”  “My dear Jeffery,

we are upon the brink of an abyss, view

the melancholy Valley containing very

loud, thundering, unending wailings.  I shall

go first and you will follow me—it’s scary,

I know, but just trust me.  In this dark locale

we’ll find those who lived before the first Hollywood

feature film was made in 1914.  Shall

I tell you the title?  The Squaw Man.  You should

try and Netflix it sometime!  Anyway, here

we find the souls who lacked baptism, those who would

never have the chance to find salvation, revere

the gods and goddesses of the silver screen.”

Great sorrow seized my heart, for this was hard to hear.

As is Barbara Parkins’s commentary on the Special Edition

DVD of V.O.D.  “Now look at this guy,” she says dismissively,

as her love interest, Lyon Burke, makes his first onscreen

appearance.  “When I was in London I’d gone out

with Cat Stevens for a while,” she tells E! Entertainment’s

Ted Casablanca, “so I’d put the image

of him in my head before I had to do scenes

with Paul—who I thought was just too old

to fall in love with. . . .”

“People can’t help who they fall in love with.”

            —Edward G. Robinson, The Stranger

How did Paul Burke end up in this picture?

Was he under contract at 20th Century-Fox

and thus simply convenient?  Except for

supporting parts in Valley, The Thomas Crown

Affair, and a few other movies, he enjoyed forty

years as a solidly competent, if somewhat bland

television actor, most notably in the series

Naked City.  Factoid: Burke was born on July 21,

the day after my birthday—twenty-three years

earlier than me, of course.  Cancer on the cusp

of Leo.  The crab and the lion.  Inwardness vs.

the outer.  Feelings vs. action.  My guess is Burke

was a man of depth.  But an Adonis?  Lyon,

according to Susann, was toweringly tall, had

Indian black hair, skin that “seemed burned

into a permanent tan,” and a disarming English

accent.  Anne, when she first meets Lyon, is calm,

her New England iciness an asset; she doesn’t melt

like the other secretaries.  So whatever happened,

Hollywood, to Lyon being British?  Was Dirk

Bogarde already too old—we know he was too

highbrow—for the part?  (Though he had, the

year before, delivered a camp performance in

Modesty Blaise, a pop-art, comic-book-inspired

romp about a female “secret agent whose hair

color, hair style, and mod clothing change at

a snap of her fingers”—sounds right up my Alias

alley, actually. . . .)  In the mid-nineties, when

Pierce Brosnan emerged as the new James Bond,

I thought he would make a perfect Lyon Burke.

Am I always casting a remake of Valley in my

mind?  No one at Fox paid attention to Jackie’s

wish list: she wanted blond, all-American Robert

Redford to play her black-haired, British Adonis. 

I guess you could smell superstar on Redford

in those days.  She also wanted Mia Farrow to

play Anne, Liza Minnelli to play Neely, Elvis

Presley to play Tony, George C. Scott to play

Henry Bellamy, and Bette Davis to play Helen

Lawson.  Hard to imagine what kind of alternate

reality we’d be living in if Jackie had had her

way.  Or if Claudette Colbert hadn’t injured

her back and been able to play Margo Channing

in All About Eve.  Or if Natalie Wood hadn’t

turned down the part of Bonnie Parker (Faye

yes, but who would want to see Nat riddled

with bullets?)  Or if Orson Welles had been able

to cast (as he wanted to) Agnes Moorehead as

the Nazi hunter in The Stranger (the part went

to Edward G. Robinson).  Or if Joan Crawford’s

“wardrobe demands” hadn’t kept her from

playing the Deborah Kerr part in From Here

to Eternity.  Or her feud with Bette Davis hadn’t

kept her from playing the Olivia de Havilland

part in Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte.  Or if

Marilyn’s overdose hadn’t prevented her from

starring in What a Way to Go!  (Would Jean

Louis—not Edith Head—have designed her

costumes?  What would an entirely pink Marilyn

have looked like?)  Or if Jayne Mansfield had

gotten Lee Remick’s part in Anatomy of a Murder,

a role she desperately vied for.  Or if Bette Davis
had been available to play aging playwright Sarah

Goode in Opening Night (John Cassavetes had

written the part for her because his wife, Gena
Rowlands, wanted to act with Davis; Joan

Blondell was ultimately cast).  Or if Garland

had played Helen Lawson.  Or Parkins Neely:
she’d originally sought the “meatier,” bad girl

role.  And so on and so forth . . . a Yellow Brick

Road of “what ifs” twisting into infinity.  Jackie
didn’t specify who should play Jennifer.  Raquel

Welch had screen-tested but turned down the

film, a decision she later admitted “not awfully
clever.”  Welch, who didn’t wish to be typecast as

a sex symbol, instead starred in Fathom, in which

(according to an editorial review)
“a certain lime-green bikini . . . cling[s] as tightly

to Raquel Welch as those phagocytes that attacked

her in Fantastic Voyage.”

                                            Last night on phone: DT
to JC: “I’m at the bottom of a rabbit hole of ‘what ifs’

with Raquel Welch.”  I could talk about measure-

ments: how Raquel’s were more appropriate to
the character of Jennifer North than Tate’s.  Or

about how, though she missed out starring in this

camp classic, Raquel would, in a few years time,
make the oh-so-clever decision to star in Myra

Breckinridge.  How, like Patty Duke with Neely, she

thought that part would bring her credibility as
a serious actress.  And I could talk about how, as

I fell down this particular hole, I learned that,

in addition to Natalie Wood (for the role of
Bonnie), Warren Beatty had approached Jane

Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret, and Sharon

Tate.  And that Candice Bergen and Marlo Thomas
were considered top choices to play Anne Welles.

And that Robert Forster (the object of Marlon

Brando’s desire in Reflections in a Golden Eye) was
screen-tested to play Tony Polar.  And that

Petula Clark and Barbara Harris were seriously

considered to play Neely O’Hara.  And that
when Garland was let go, actresses considered

to replace her as Helen Lawson included Joan

Crawford, Broadway star Tammy Grimes, and
Ginger Rogers, who hated (clever girl) the script.

Anne charges into Mr. Bellamy’s office, ready to

quit, but is instantly smitten with Lyon Burke.
Might I plummet down another rabbit hole, or

maybe more of a Time Tunnel: a cab pulls out of

an hypnotic black-and-white op-art vortex and
stops in front of The Kitchen on West 19th Street:

it’s a September evening, 1989: Dennis Cooper,

Eileen Myles, and I step out of the cab, join the
crowd mingling on the sidewalk.  We’ve come

to hear La Loca, latest and greatest discovery of

Lawrence Ferlinghetti; her book has just been

published by City Lights.  Dennis introduces me

to Ira Silverberg, cute as Richard Gere, who I

mistake for La Loca’s boyfriend.  “Great,” I say

to myself, “She has a book from City Lights and

a gorgeous boyfriend.”  I later learn that he’s

Dennis’s publicist at Grove Press, and curator

of the reading series at The Kitchen.  Dennis,

Eileen, and I sit in the front row.  Throughout

La Loca’s reading, Eileen huffs and puffs.  She’s

fit to be tied that the cool, avant-garde Pocket

Poets Series, which started with such luminaries

as Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara, should end

with the likes of La Loca and not herself.  I agree:

La Loca is sophomoric and high-pitched.  But hey,

I’m from New Age L.A. and know that good can

come from more than one source.  The next day

Dennis calls and I learn that Ira is not only single

and gay, he’s attracted to me.  So we begin seeing

each other.  Our second or third date he wears

a blue leather jacket and I’m hooked—we end up

living together for ten years.  And thanks to La

Loca, my poems wind up being translated into

Czech.  So you never know.  That first meeting

with Ira was at the beginning of my second year

in New York.  It wouldn’t take long—the Time

Tunnel begins to swirl—before I, like Anne, began

to weary.  “Po-Biz is cruel,” I’d whine, “People do

despicable things.”  I land back in the present, eight

years after Ira and I called it quits.  I also met Doug,

the last man I dated, at a poetry reading, this time

one of my own.  Chicago: March, 2005: Big Star Café

(“Yeah, I’m a big star,” Neely bitterly intones): I go

up to the counter to buy a bottle of water, look to my

right, and there he is: “Did I cut in front of you?”  And

there you have it: smitten.  The other day, sitting in

my therapist’s office, I read a poem by Louise Glück

in The New Yorker.  A bitter, “love is only for the young”

take on romance.  I set the magazine down and said

a prayer: “Please, God, keep me from such hardness,

such bitterness.  Let me always remain open to love.”

“It must be a grand feeling to get everything you want.”

                                        —Bette Davis, Three On A Match

In Provincetown, gray again, at the end

of August; it has been weeks since I last

wrote, since I’ve thought about V.O.D. and

Limbo, about Frank O., and the rest—

DT, Gillian, et al.  That’s not

entirely true, as these are recast

(movie, spiritual journey, guides, friends) as subplots

in my daily life as of late.  Last week

I spent the night on the Point with friends and caught

a glimpse of the souls in Limbo—a freak

occurrence, maybe, or a dream?  I was

half asleep as I got out of my tent to peek

at the moon after midnight.  There was

an inlet next to our “camp,” so I took

a walk to pee.  Frank appeared “mid-stream” in gauze

of night, pointed across the dune, and said, “Look,

there are the poets who died before The Squaw Man:

Walt Whitman in his scraggly beard . . . and look,

Emily Dickinson—a crazy woman,

dancing around and howling at the moon!” 

By the counterfeit light, I think I can

see what Frank is pointing out!  Under that moon

I saw the scene as plainly as a show at

The Hall of Presidents in Disneyland.  Soon

I could see old Walt take off his hat

as Emily twirled in the sand—perfect

specimens of Audio-Animatronics that

recited poems as they moved.  They frolicked

for many moments before the vision

evaporated, and I quickly zipped.

Whenever Three On A Match plays on television

(e.g., on Turner Classic Movies), it plays

as a Bette Davis movie.  Her role as the driven

secretary is the smallest, and weighs

the least on the plot.  The other two female

roles belong to Joan Blondell (who plays

Mary) and Ann Dvorak (as upscale

Vivian Kirkwood).  In this eeriely

prescient 1932 “three female

roles” movie, we get a kind of kooky

inverted fame pyramid: as we peer

down this rabbit hole, we can see that Bette

Davis is the actress who, by the sheer

weight of her fame, is best remembered; Joan

Blondell is next, then the wonderful, but near-

forgotten Ann Dvorak—the lone  

star of the film.  The story also offers

us a perpetually shifting cyclone

of the archetypes portrayed in each of the roles:

young Mary (Joan Blondell) is a self-destructive,

wild, hopelessly troubled teen who trolls

the streets of the big city and ends up captive

of a reform school.  Later, she meets up

with her old grammar school friend (Vivian)

at a beauty salon (shades of The Women) as an up-

start actress stuggling to make it.  A change

occurs, however, and Mary turns from trollop

into goodie-goodie; Vivian changes

from high society wife and loving

mother into a reckless bitch, deranged

and hell-bent on alcohol, drugs, and sex-seeking.

Ruth (Bette Davis) transforms from bitter

girl, angry at Vivian for getting

everything she wants, into a nobler,

generous friend who, as an adult, helps to

save Vivian’s endangered child, Junior.

The gray has just broken here—there is blue

oozing out from the clouds, and pink worthy

of even DT’s praise.  I think of the two

of you—my collaborators—doing suavely

whatever it is you might be doing.

I’m wondering if the “tropology of threes”

is operating in your unconscious as we

(three) collectively watch this movie over

and over, searching . . . for what?  Clues?  Do we

seek understanding of our own psyches, or

perhaps windows into our pasts?  The Time

Tunnel begins to swirl—and I, like Anne, or

maybe more like the reflective DT, am

beginning to weary.  “Po-Biz is cruel;

People do despicable things.”  A long time

ago, I’d say late ‘90s, I did an April

reading at a New York Public Library

for National Poetry Month, a genial

event for Gay and Lesbian poets.  Happy

to participate, I arrived and discovered

that there were very few men present—a mostly

Lesbian audience.  That evening I read

selections from my long poem “Starstruck”—

a piece that had always gotten lots of good

laughs.  The Lesbians, however, weren’t awestruck:

when I’d glance up, I saw nothing but barber

cuts and blank faces.  There I was, stuck

at the podium with only a few

timid chuckles from the gay guys to my

right, toward the front.  The only other

sound in the room came from Eileen Myles:

Throughout Jeffery’s reading, Eileen huffs and puffs

I was so shocked by her behavior, but my

only reaction was laughter: Jeffery rebuffs

Eileen’s huffs and puffs by laughing hysterically,

which made it seem like I was amused by the stuff

in my own poem—vignettes of funny

encounters I’ve had with celebrities.

Afterwards, in her dressing room, our surly

Po-Star, angry and annoyed, barked obscenities

at her press agent: The poem goes, and the Gay poet with it! 

She’d had it, for quite some time, with niceties.

I was the young, bitter Ruth: How grand it

must be for a poet to get everything she wants

Now, an older, nobler Ruth, I am free in generous spirit.

“Enough has now been said to show that the bloody sacrifice

has from time immemorial been the most considered part

of Magick.  The ethics of the thing appear to have concerned

no one; nor, to tell the truth, need they do so.”  Quote

by Aleister Crowley taken from Anger: The Unauthorized

Biography of Kenneth Anger by Bill Landis, page 69.

Let me explain.  Anxious about writing, I decided to call up

my muse and ask for advice.  “I was wondering where the hell

you’ve been,” Sharon teased.  “I was beginning to think

you’d decided that I was just another dumb blonde.”

I could hear her take a deep drag off of a joint.  “So, what’s up?”

she asked squeakily.  “Stuck,” I answered.

“These swells I’m collaborating with, I’m just not up

to their level.  They’re gonna be on to me in no time.”

 “Get over yourself,” Sharon scoffed (on the exhale).

“How do you think I felt trying to keep up my side

of the conversation with Jerzy fucking Kosinski?”

I laughed.  I was seeing a different side of my muse

and I was liking it.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be harsh,”

she apologized, “but have a little faith.  Your career

may be in limbo now, but at least you’re running

in some fabulous circles.  Who knows what kind

of impact you could be having in the grand scheme

of things?  Take me for instance.  Bet you didn’t

know that I was the one who gave Roman

the copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles that inspired

him to make the movie.  By the way,

seen any good ones lately?”  I thought for a second.

“Yeah, actually, I did,” I replied.  “A documentary

called Anger Me, about the avant-garde filmmaker—“

“I know who Kenneth Anger is,” Sharon snapped.

“Roman and I tripped with him in Frisco, on 9/21/67,

the night of his Equinox of the Gods celebration

at the Straight Theatre.  A band called The Magick

Powerhouse of Oz headlined.”  She paused.

“I’ll tell you about them some other time.

Now, here’s what I want you to do.  Go grab

some biographies—Anger, Susann, whoever;

and a copy of Hollywood Babylon while you’re at it.

Then you’re going to check out all the page 69s,

which just so happens to be the year of my untimely death,

and all the 169s, and synopsize.  I would add the 1069s,

but as you know, we dumb blondes rarely go for tomes.”

“Except for Thomas Hardy,” I corrected her.

“Yes, except for Thomas Hardy,” she replied, wistfully.

According to alchemical legend, if a man

and a woman, both initiates of Aleister Crowley,

perform certain sex rituals, it could result

in the birth of a homunculus, much like the spawn

of Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes in the Roman

Polanski film Rosemary’s Baby.  In 1926, starlet

Barbara La Marr, once known as “The Girl Who

is Too Beautiful” ODed at the tender age of 26.

Although it was well known that she stored

her cocaine in a golden casket (which she kept on top

of her grand piano), the studio cited “vigorous dieting”

as the “official” cause of her untimely death. Her tombstone

read: “with God in the joy and beauty of youth.”

A topless Peg Entwistle, standing defiantly,

appears on page 169, wearing only a parure

(possibly diamonds, but probably paste), and

a long black skirt, its waistline cut into a ‘V,’

highlighting her taut stomach.  The starlet who once

had a bit part in the film Thirteen Women climbed to the top

of the thirteenth letter of the famed Hollywood sign

and jumped to her untimely death.  “When Flaubert wrote

Madame Bovary, twenty women in town said they were Emma,”

Jacqueline Susann once told a reporter.  Around the time

of Susann’s death, Christian Scientist Doris Day flew to New York

to visit her new best friend in the hospital (they had recently forged

a deep bond over their mutual love for dogs), but soon had to return

to L.A. to testify in court against the business manager “who had allegedly

mismanaged her finances causing her to lose several million dollars.”

(Ed. Note: Doris Day is the mother of the late music producer

Terry Melcher, who sublet the Cielo Drive house to Sharon

Tate and Roman Polanski in the spring of 1969).  After starlet

Sharon Tate wins the part of Jennifer North in the film

adaptation of the best-selling novel Valley of the Dolls, she tells

a reporter: “I was just thrilled to get the role.  I liked Jennifer

as I read the book.  I think she is the most sympathetic girl

in the group.  She’s sweet, unspoiled, and unselfish.

She doesn’t mean anyone any harm, and yet terrible

things keep happening to her.”  Roman Polanski wanders

through the rooms of his rented home, now stained

with the blood of his wife, unborn child, and three

close friends.  Accompanying him

are freelance photographer Julian Wasser, celebrity clairvoyant

Peter Hurkos, and a reporter from Life magazine.  A distraught

Polanski says in reference to his houseguest, Voytek Frykowski:

“I should have thrown him out when he ran over Sharon’s dog!”

When asked how long the murder victim had been staying

at Cielo Drive—its name meaning both “sky” and “heaven”—

the bereaved film director replied simply, “too long I guess.”

“It’s the nature of all tragedies: the hero dies, but the story lives on forever.”

                                 —Dustin Hoffman, Stranger Than Fiction

How easy it is for me to fall into the Tate-LaBianca

rabbit hole.  How all the haunting details swirl around

me as I descend: the beautiful people’s last meal at

El Coyote Café; the Christmas lights (strung by previous

tenant Candice Bergen) twinkling along the edge of

10050 Cielo Drive; the fact that, an instant before she was

stabbed, Abigail Folger stopped struggling and said,

“I give up, take me.”  How easy it is to get lost in the

ghoulish minutiae.  The last couple hours spent surfing

the Internet—in particular, the Official Tate-LaBianca

Murders Blog—and researching House at the End of the

Drive, a film I hadn’t heard about.  A horror film in

which a “time vortex” transports four characters back

to 1969, midsummer, the anniversary of a ritualistic slaughter

at a nearby mansion.  I myself was unprepared to time

travel this morning, once again, back to the real night

the murders occurred.  And it does seem a bit premature

(Jennifer hasn’t even been introduced, though in

a matter of moments she’ll glide down the stairs in her

huge blue six-hundred-dollar headdress—the one no

one will see because they’ll be too busy gaping at her tits).

It’s still the present of the movie, and Anne’s still fumbling

her first encounter with her dream man.  In the real present,

it’s September 1st.  August, that death month, has passed.


“The blonde bombshell’s career was prematurely nipped in the bud by a suspiciously violent critical reaction to her performance as an on-the-rise showgirl.”

            —Noel Burch on Elizabeth Berkley in “Embarrassing Showgirls”

It’s September 1st.  DT and I on

the phone as I walk up Barrow, cross

West 4th, discussing the difference (yawn)

between “ritual” and “ritualistic,” when loss

of concentration is furthered by the

appearance of Elizabeth Berkley, who crosses

my path.  Me to DT: “I think the

weirdest thing just occurred, Elizabeth

Berkley just passed me on the street, at the

corner of Barrow and West 4th.

Oh my God she’s huge, like a Plasticine

Barbie.  She got into a car; her head’s mammoth.

She looks pancaked, like she does on film.  Is this a dream?

Wow, what a trip.”  DT: “I’m writing this down.” 

I proclaim that I’ve no idea what this means,

but it makes sense, I guess, that, stuck downtown

(in Limbo) this Labor Day weekend, my

guide should put E.B. in front of me, omen

of shocking showgirls to come, quasi-

Jennifer North, evil mutant offspring

of beloved Sharon Tate, whose (soon) entry

into Valley of the Dolls is sparkling,

so unlike Miss Berkley’s in Showgirls, she who sets

the tone for her performance in an early scene

in which she expresses fury by vigorous

shakes of a Heinz bottle, spewing ketchup

all over her French fries, the table, and numerous

nearby diners, splattering it like fake blood from cut up

people in movies.  Confession: back in the ‘80s,

when I lived in L.A., I’d often wind up

at El Coyote Café for double margaritas

on the rocks with salt.  You’d have to put your name

on the waiting list for a table, as it was

always packed.  In the bar, you’d hear a name

called over the loudspeaker every now

and then.  As a joke, I’d always give the name

“Tate,” a nod to Sharon and her last meal.  I’ll allow

that it was rather sick, but back then, being

as drunk and out of it as I was, it somehow

amused me and my death rock coterie

of friends.  Meanwhile, Anne pick up that junk spilled

from your purse and say good-bye, so we can move on.

“Barely Pink” is the name of the lipstick

that toppled out of Anne’s pocketbook and landed

at the feet of Mr. Lyon Burke (standard Hollywood

technique used to foreshadow a future love affair),

followed by the actor and actress scooping up

the spilled contents (which unlike real life, never includes

a half-wrapped tampax).  Task finished, they look up

from the carpet and into each other’s eyes, until finally,

one of them blurts out something banal.  ”I’m afraid

I haven’t made a very good impression,”

Miss Anne Welles says coyly.  “Quite the contrary,”

responds Mr. Lyon Burke.  “You’ve made an indelible one.”

“You have painted your toenails Car Hop Pink,

A clear choice against the sky’s transience.”

                —Ann Lauterbach

Curatorial students in the Visual Arts Department at the University

of Western Ontario have produced a multi-sited exhibition which

interrogates the purse as a cultural artifact and gendered icon.

Slung over the shoulder or clutched between fingers, the purse is

a container that conceals from view confidential information about

its owner.  It is a private space which has been designed specifically

as a means for transporting the personal through public space.

The purse . . . contains highly personal items; it is a time capsule

which represents the owner’s identity, diverse interests, and activities.

Photographs, keys, objects plundered from restaurants, sexual aids,

medication, ticket stubs, makeup, address book, identification, cheque

book, and wallet are all hidden within its interior.  The purse is

a microcosm of the self which is as unique as a signature or finger-

print.  The contents of no two purses would ever be the same.  The

purse is the ultimate voyeuristic device, as its mere presence attests

to secrets that are held at bay from the viewer’s inquisitive gaze.

What does a woman carry in her purse?  Consult DVD: comb,

compact, powder puff, hotel key, perfume, sunglasses

(in the middle of a blizzard?), mascara, check- and address

books, and crumpled silver chewing gum wrapper scatter

on the green carpet between Anne and Lyon’s feet.  I find

the contents of her pocketbook completely unsatisfying.

Where are the highly personal items, the secrets every voyeur

seeks?  She chews Wrigley’s?  Other than that, nothing new.

So I contacted four women, asking if they wouldn’t mind,

for the sake of art, providing me with an honest and detailed

catalog of their purse contents.  Here, verbatim, are their lists:

In my pink, brown, and orange Timbuk2 bag:

Pocket #1:

Burt’s Bees brand chapstick

keychain attached to plastic red heart with the name of my dad’s old video store
            on it (Ace Video)

CTA card

old CTA card with no money on it

loose movie ticket stubs

Pocket #2:

100 Terrific Poems edited by David Trinidad

high school student poems for class I’m subbing for

4 poetry collections (Manguso, Harvey, Kocot, Fuhrman) to be used in class

manila file folder full of insurance papers/calendars/SPD catalog

black “shrug” (piece of clothing that is just sleeves connected at the back)

pink wallet

empty pink envelope from a birthday card my grandparents gave me

assorted scraps of paper with scribbles and poem drafts

postcard for a self-published poetry book someone gave me at a reading two

            nights ago

beaded square journal bought for $5 at Urban Outfitters

Blow Pop

walking map of Boston & Cambridge

wristband from comedy show (Zack Galifianakis) I saw last week

Pocket #3:
adapter for headphones

hairbands (2)

Pocket #4:

5 pens (blue, purple, red, green, black), one pencil, one orange highlighter, one
            magenta mini-Sharpie

Pocket #5:

Aleve bottle filled with generic ibuprofen


Pseudoephedrine tablet

cough drop

computer flash drive

Pocket #6:

Purple comb

pink ipod inside a brown argyle sock that I cut and sewed to make a case

2 types of powder compacts (Cover Girl)

1 tube lipstick (Lancome, “Jezabel”)

A couple napkins from fast food restaurants

Plastic knife

Pink business card holder with Switchback Books cards inside

Kid scissors with lime green handle


Emergen-C Vitamin C powder packets (2)

Portable plastic wine key with faded Canadian decals

Binder ring from CPR submissions several months ago



Well, I carry a ginormous bag more than a purse, so it’s gonna be a long list!

Here you go:





Two poetry magazines

Bag of Switchback buttons





Business card holder

Makeup bag with makeup

Pencil case with markers, post-it flags, pens, binder clips

Miscellaneous pens

A few emails I printed out




Packing tape (I don’t go anywhere without it, weird!)

Birthday card from my sister



Allergy medication


Preparation H (I just got a new tattoo!)

My mom’s house keys




Spare change

Nail polish topcoat

Extra straps for bag

Empty flask



okay, I brought two bags today, one holding just my food and the other (listed below) is really the everyday, so here it goes, embarrassing and all . . .


Kate Spade pink sunglass case and sunglasses

change purse containing $88.95, debit card, mastercard, school id and driver’s

WW journal, monthly pass and membership book (yes, I came home last night
and stuck it in my bag so I wouldn’t forget it again)

loose kleenex

cell phone

nano ipod

lead refills

mechanical pencil

mini journal

three paperclips (two large, one small)
two tampons

one pair of silk panties

Jane Austen’s “The Complete Novels” (I picked it up yesterday!)

a green thin sweater

well, that’s it...



My so-called “purse” is actually a mini back-pack.  Here goes:

one bunch of car keys attached to a key-chain with a red stuffed mini-bull

one big tube (4.6 ounces) of Aquage transforming paste (hair goop)

one Olay complete all day moisture lotion bottle
one orange highlighter pen

one used white handkerchief

one mini-bottle of Tresemme hair spray
three (unused) Kotex sanitary napkins

Dentyne Ice peppermint gum (5 pieces left)

one silver ballpoint pen

receipts: Jewel, Office Max, K-Mart (all crumpled up)

One brochure: Welcome to the Murphy Guest House Bed and Breakfast, Bristol,
            Indiana — Your hosts: Gary and Ann Andre

One business card: Bristol Canoe and Kayak rental

One ticket stub: Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Sat., Dec. 16, 2006, 3 p.m.
            performance / Holiday Pops Concert

Some old Wrigley Extra gum (peppermint) that I have no intention of chewing . . .

Almost forgot the piece de resistance: a newspaper clipping from our local paper, re: “Homewood-Flossmoor music teacher, conductor dies at at (sic) 79.”  I meant
to give this to a friend of mine who was in the choir under this guy, Emmett
Michell Steele. No date on the clipping.

[and in a subsequent email:]


I can't remember if I put down my black makeup bag in my list of purse
contents.  (Mascara, lipstick, chapstick, razor are all in the bag.)



“El Coyote Café on Beverly Boulevard has been serving Mexican entrees since 1931.  On Friday, August 8, 1969, Jay Sebring made an 8 o’clock dinner reservation for Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Sharon Tate, and himself.  After waiting 15 minutes in the bar, the four were seated and unknowingly ate their last meals, leaving at around 9:45pm, heading back to Cielo Drive.”

—from the website Evidence: The Story of the Manson Family and Their Victims

That old Time Tunnel keeps aswirlin’ . . . It’s 1983 and a group

of us are eating at El Coyote: Eileen (in L.A. to give a reading),

Bob and Sheree, Bob’s friend Scott.  Prince’s “1999” is a hit, it

might even have played in the bar while we waited for a table:
We’re gonna party till it’s 1999.  I’m newly sober, so my partying

days are over.  As is my preoccupation with death and dying.

I’m expectant, hopeful, truly excited about the future.  We’re
seated; I order cheese enchiladas.  Because of the Prince song,

the end of the century is on our minds.  The five of us make a

pact to meet, perhaps on an island somewhere, on New Year’s
Eve, 1999.  By the time that date rolls around, Scott will have

drunk himself to death.  (His full name was James Scott; he

was called both Scott and Jim.  Nice guy, and supportive pres-
ence in the Beyond Baroque poetry scene.)  Bob will be dead,

too (from Cystic Fibrosis).  I will not be on speaking terms with

either Sheree or Eileen.  I will spend a quiet evening with Byron
in New York City, Ira and I having broken up earlier that year.

[Gillian: just got goose bumps when I looked at the bottom of

this Word file and saw that I’m on page 69.]  Time Tunnel swirl:

I’m still in Los Angeles, but now it’s about ten years later, the

early nineties.  I’m in town to give a poetry reading at Beyond

Baroque.  Afterwards, a large group of us (Dennis, Amy and

Benjamin, Bob and Sheree, Ira, etc.) sit at an outside table at

a restaurant in a strip mall in Santa Monica.  During the meal,

my eyes fix on a sign in one of the shops: Jay Sebring Hair

Care Products.  I didn’t know that his business had lived on.

(Sebring, I just learned this morning, once told a fellow hair-

stylist, “When I go, the whole world’s going to know about it.”)

Dramatic music announces another time shift: I end up

in the mid-sixties, in the Thrifty Drug Store in Chatsworth,

California.  I walk past the makeup counter, as slowly as

possible, in order to glimpse the Yardley of London products:

lip gloss, eye shadow, mascara . . . the colorful Mod curlicues

and stripes designed to entice teenage girls.  As well as teen-

age homosexuals: at school, I watch the girls take their

pink-and-orange-striped Slicker tubes out of their purses:

they look like little toys, little curios.  Soon I’ll start

Chatsworth High, be a student there when the Tate

murders occur, and find out—after the fact—that the killers

had lived nearby, at Spahn’s Movie Ranch, and that members

of the Manson Family had sold drugs to kids at my high school.

What a trauma that will be for me: the death of the blonde

Doll.  In the meantime I’m in love with makeup, lost in a litany

of shades: Flutter Pink, Fainting Pink, Spellbinding Pink. . . .

© 2008 Electronic Poetry Review