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
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!.