To Have and Have Not

The screenplay’s Faulkner’s. Beauty: Martinique.
There’s not much Hemingway. All black and white,
you won’t see bougainvilleas wave their red
blossoms around. You must remember this:
it’s after Casablanca. Someone said
he sang for Slim, but lied. The simple sight
of her excites me even now: those lips,

the way she had of swaying narrow hips
precisely in the final scene, no strings
on her or him. Faulkner’s discreet. She earned
her living as she could: with purchased bliss
or lifted wallets. Who knows where she learned
such profitable skills? And when she sings
or tries to sing, the camera’s more than kind

and focuses the falling light. We find
we don’t remember what she sang, but see
her form by the piano, poised and lean.
She has no history to reminisce,
or nothing she will tell. Only nineteen
but skilled in casting charms of ecstasy
with just a whisper, charming any man

or charming me. The lenses frame a span
between her lips and his, the moment swells
impromptu, with no dialogue, their gaze
advancing all the plot: a rapid kiss
and then a moment’s quiet to appraise
the spare effect, to see if all her spells
have conjured the delirium they seek.

by W. F. Lantry

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Poetry at the Movies