I glimpsed her through the exact frame of ferns that you imagine—
algae’ed sludge-water sucked at my ankles when I leaned forward.
Bog-stink makes people like you wince, no matter how shallowly
you try to inhale, but biodegradation’s smell never once infringed
on our scene. Our prelapsarian world was always black & white,
but she stood there in the chlorophyll’tered light, & when she turned
to see me her face lit me up like a switched-on klieg in a dingy warehouse
just before a sceneboy snaps his chalked-up clapboard. In California,
I’ve long since learned, the man with the whitest teeth will be the lead,
& each frame of film is its own blazon for his strong jaw, his dimple’s depth,
or for the curve of his leading lady’s thigh under impractical silk,
her hand to her open mouth, hair falling loose as she swoons
before the single vaseline-smeared lens. My own shoulders have a heft
that strains a linen shirt, & where I’m from, every audition opens & closes
with a single display of claws. I’m the biggest predator there is.
That white-coat cheats out to the audience every time he talks to her—
he’ll never tear a hole in a car for her, never soften her pallet with Spanish moss
or cattail rushes, never bring her a baby alligator or wrestle invasive snakes
tired of cooling themselves on branches above her bed. But even I, web-handed,
scale-scalped—even I can take a note: she screamed as my calloused hand
reached to steady her, & when she flinched at my fen’s softest fronds . . . ah.
I have my complimentary ticket in hand. I’ll cash it in, sit in the velvet dark.
Listen to frames click past. Let her celluloid negative cast me in shadow, instead.