April 8, 2014
The Lerner Theatre, 1953

             Elkhart, Indiana


When my mother purchased high heels

at Ziesel’s Department Store

and then crossed Main Street

toward a white terra cotta wall

with a marquee that announced,

From Here to Eternity,

it was the beginning of the end.


When she fell head over heels in love,

not just with Burt Lancaster, loping,

bare-chested across the beach,

but with the click of her blue

stilettos on terrazzo stone,

it was the end of the world

as a good Mennonite knew it.


The girl who made a necklace

from safety pins to wear

beneath her dress to school

marveled at the extravagance

of beaded chandeliers. She saw

dancing maids and griffins,

pipes, harps and Grecian urns,

the Turkish screens behind box seats,

the plush gold, pleated curtain.


All of it was worldly.

All of it was good. 


Outside, the city was an oven,

but she slouched in a sanctuary

cooled by the river’s pumped water

sprayed as fine mist into fans.


She loitered with hundreds of other sinners

in a dome of darkness

where she could see distinctly

the complications

a romantic life could take.


There she was: on the deck

with Deborah Kerr, tossing

her lei upon Pearl Harbor,

watching a wave, like a cursive swirl,

sweep the flowers out to sea.


-Shari Wagner (Hamilton County)

from the author’s book, The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana (Bottom Dog Press, 2013)



Shari Wagner lives in Westfield and teaches poetry and memoir writing for the Indiana Writers Center. “The Lerner Theatre, 1953” appears in her book, The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana (Bottom Dog Press, 2013); she is also the author of Evening Chore (Cascadia, 2005) and co-writer of her father’s memoir of Somalia, A Hundred Camels (Cascadia, 2009).

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!

Posted In: Poetry

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