Talkback to Sinatra: My Poem “I Wish I Were in Love Again”

My poems “I Wish I Were in Love Again” and “third day” have just been published as contest semifinalists in Issue #7 of OSA Enizagam, the magazine (get it?) of Oakland School for the Arts. “I Wish…” is a critical gloss on Frank Sinatra’s ballad of the same name, which romanticized a violent conflict between lovers. This poem originally appeared in Atlanta Review. (That’s right, OSA E will take previously published work. How cool are they?)

“third day” is a collage poem using phrases from a news story about the desecration of a gay man’s corpse in Senegal. The formatting can’t be reproduced in this blog template, so you’ll just have to go buy this great magazine, which features work by Donna Steiner, Anneliese Schultz, Linda Leedy Schneider, and many other accomplished poets and storytellers.

I Wish I Were in Love Again

When Sinatra sings,
I wish I were in love again,
I imagine Love is the name
of a violent town in Texas
where the one stoplight
took a bullet long ago,
dusting the dry street with ruby glass.

Where the sheriff,
big-bellied as Cupid,
didn’t see the evidence
of the split rope, the double-smudged lipstick,
the blacksnake-cold gun under the belt.

Sinatra’s voice pours the golden
whiskey of nostalgia to shimmer
over the icy rocks, like the foothills
outside Love where nothing
lives but tumbleweeds and chicken thieves.
He misses the spat of cat and cur,
the flying fur, the sparks
that burned down Love’s one church
when the preacher’s daughter
fell asleep smoking.

Lucky in Love
is the man who didn’t miss the train
in or out of town.

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,
the mayor says,
hoping to attract
a branch of the Houston bank,
a brassworks factory or even a circus
to settle in Love,
create jobs for the men
and scarcer women who lie
in saloon alleys all night clutching
souvenirs of Love to their hearts:
a postcard, a clump of red dirt.
Who wouldn’t want such a loyal workforce?

Love is just around the corner,
if you’ve got a first-class horse.

City-trippers in the mood
for the blackened eyes
Sinatra sighs for
take the spur line to Love
en route to Laredo or Dallas.
Fanning themselves with transfer tickets,
the ladies breathe,
I’ve never been in Love before,
mistaking the crash of plates
for an emphatic whorehouse piano.

The general store hawks banjos
with one string, plasters for the knees
of old folks who fall in Love too easily,
and of course, bullets.
If you break a hip in Love
you know what happens.

Despite the weather,
Love’s no place to retire.
The all-you-can-eat buffet closes at five.
When the moon climbs the sky again
like a drunk husband going upstairs,
the city ladies take their seats
in the second-class carriage,
each with a purple bloom
aching under her blouse, or against her cheek.
It won’t fade for days.
It’s almost like being in Love.

2 comments on “Talkback to Sinatra: My Poem “I Wish I Were in Love Again”

  1. Nancy White says:

    This poem gave me goosebumps and the so-stark-they-become-almost-gallows-humor details create an irresistible texture.

  2. Jendi Reiter says:

    Thanks for reading and enjoying!

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