by Angela Brommel
– for Rovana DeBorde 1900 -1954
My grandmother promised if I was good:
a cathedral wedding and a glass bottom boat.
She loved the sunny blondes; the musical blondes.
I’ve got the kinesthetic memory of a flapper.
Turn on Jack Benny and I channel a dead woman.
My great-grandmother Rovana was a chorus girl at the Princess
Theatre. She served Jimmy Durante tea with lemon, collected
cocktail rings, stagehands— boyfriends. She tried.
She was disowned for trying too much. She tried college.
She tried modeling at the art school, wartime spot welding,
tutoring and afterschool arts. She tried marriage and babies.
I was the co-ed who instigated semi-nude cartwheels
in moonlit parks, an October jump into a library’s
fountain—and a few other public fountains and pools. Most likely
to kiss some boy with a bad ID who said he was nearly
an astronaut. Who missed her Movement for The Actor final
while restlessly losing her underwear in Hebron, Nebraska
during a snow storm. I tried.
I tried to start over by moving to a city of show girls.
This time I would try to be good.
This time I would try to be sunny.
I try and I try and I try, but all I want to do is play Jack Benny.
* * *
Featured in the forthcoming chapbook, Plutonium & Platinum Blonde, spring 2018. This piece originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of North American Review.