by Austin Alexis
IN FRONT OF A THEATRE
In the river bordering this northern city, ice breaks in huge cloud-like sheets. The sound of the ice breaking is a non-sound, a shhhissss, a subtlety, almost as delicate as when a cloud parts itself, mindlessly, in a hush, like a microscopic organism. The woman leaning on the front of the theatre three blocks from the river is the opposite of ice and clouds. Consciously, she has perfected a strident laugh. She is a car horn. She is an elephant’s trumpet. She’s a blast of colors in her canary-yellow blouse and her mostly fire-truck-red ankle-touching skirt. No thick coat? You get the feeling her coat is mucho close, draped on an usher’s arm in the lobby, or sprawled in a near-by car--and she’s too vain or too lazy or too whatever to trudge it around, let alone put it on. Just back from a jet set jamboree in Acapulco, is she? Her skin is tinged a mulatto gold, or maybe she is a mulatto, if that’s the correct term--or it better to say mixed blood? Whatever she is she is as thoroughly as marble is marble, maple trees are maple trees, mandarin spice is mandarin spice. She doesn’t question her right to be here, shouldering the building, looking at the name of the theatre beamed by laser onto the sidewalk. She owns the edifice, so to speak, slouching in debutante style on its bed of manila bricks, her head of hair—part corn rows, part Jackie O page boy—blooming next to a futuristic-looking box that plays silent videos: previews of the theatre’s season….Listen. Her strident laugh again, again she is all vocal chords exposed as she converses with someone on the other end of her microphone. It’s attached to her cell phone hidden in the bowels of her shoulder bag. Hardly ever, never, oh no never would she be caught without the accessory of her bag, dangling along her side like a servant, a page. It’s like apricot lipstick: a necessity: accessory necessities, the holy water of today. The correct suffix hooked to a noun—that sort of thing. Without the right props you might be doomed. Purchase some Prada or damn you to hell. Develop a taste for bitter-sweet imported truffles and, voila, the waters of the Nile part for you—a touch of Eden. Scrumptious, no? Or should one say succulent? They tingle on a tongue like mini bells. Just like her. Just like the way she excites the air with her delicious pose, with her laugh (which is perhaps not strident but merely confident), with the resonant organ-chords of her presence.
The movie star wearing chic, oversized sunglasses and a sleek, black raincoat. The movie star being herself. The movie star living a life that requires underscoring, italics, emphasis. She saunters through an airport, using the space consciously (like a choreographer), avoiding/attracting photographers. At her shoulder, she carries her out-of-wedlock child like a badge, a corsage, a medal. Her hair glows; her face glistens. She communicates by way of glitter. There is something she wants us all to know.
Austin Alexis has published in Barrow Street, The Journal (Ohio State University Press), Red River Review, The Cherry Blossom Review, Poetz.com, the anthology Off the Cuffs and elsewhere. His chapbook, Lovers and Drag Queens, is forthcoming from Poets Wear Prada Press.