Jack Lemmon in Love

we watch Jack Lemmon and we feel better
coming back from the bar after midnight;
he looks so young, black and white making him
never blonde but paper,
a bowler hat dark against his forehead;
he trips but doesn’t tumble,
his voice trails as he remembers,
he had to walk
through the lobby in an evening dress
or look dapper as he strained spaghetti
through the strings of a tennis racket.
he could hum,
he could dance;
his face open as he paused, feeling
the anxious drift of fingers
that walked across his skin.
we come home and we feel better,
there was a couple fighting in the corner
of the steel-front bar in darkness,
and when they looked up, they both seemed to know us.
Jack Lemmon washed in color
in his Navy tan, under sunlight sitting
straight-thin on the deck and leaning forward
while he reads out Peter Fonda’s letter—
but he’s there in Twelve Angry Men,
the remake and decades later,
and he’s asking them to think,
to stop before they’ve voted
with words they can’t negate,        all the pain
he must have felt while passing
the thin, brass key to his apartment
            or being in love,
her fingers soft through her dark hair
& hurt seeping through their bodies;
she’s there when he gets home,
in bed and she’s swallowed
white pills from his own cabinet,
and all she wants to do is sleep;
we watch his face and it’s breaking,
black dress and she curls up,
and all she wants to do is sleep.

by David Waite

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Poetry at the Movies