Suzanne Burns >

A Jury Member Dreams
of Taking the Manson Girls to Cocoanut Grove

I buy Leslie a virgin daiquiri. She accepts with the grace of a daughter on graduation day. Puts up with my adoration, how a smile shutters open my face. This place remains the club where mortals and constellations meet. Legends swell from margarita rims. Palms boast their fronds. Twinkle lights tease the girls towards a dance floor teeming with stars. Susan winks, sips a Shirley Temple. Soda bubbles her teeth, mouth not red from starlet's blood but grenadine. Patricia, too, is tipsy on cherries and crushed ice. The guise of a triple date. I'll treat them all if that's what it takes. Compliment details. Their preference for beads over Beatle boots. Nostalgia draped over jail-blue suits. In my dream I tend their impression of men. Maybe they pick me to follow instead? Their father doling out keys, dishing Christmas bread pudding. Or I could be a decent mate. I won't take them to bed and swear I'll pull or feed them failed folksongs and Percoset. Susan points to the stage, luminescent neon scene. Asks why we become so used to things. How kissing and killing bring the same release. I pretend Charlie never lured them away. Imagine the White Album came out late. I steal Birds of Paradise from tables where Gable and Lombard once compared lips. Arrange tropic stamens in the girls' hair. It's still there, not shorn like victims of the Third Reich. We glide on gilt as I invite the girls to dance. We move to the music without knowing the steps.



No Chaser
For John Belushi (1949-1982)

This is how a white boy breathes the blues. He blows the soul midnights, noons. Exhales behind sunglasses, molasses moans on turntable. Illinois all-star with Clarksdale blues, too soon a man regarding truth. Robert Johnson jazzed juke joints decades before with no limo or road crew. A black man bidding a white boy from a grave in the unnamed valley where skin the hue of ripe fruit is left to rot, drop below the deeper blues. "Bury my body by the highway side." And this boy who sipped cider in cool Octobers and cordials in colder Decembers, who was never allowed to revel in his own grief, folds his jeans, packs his joke timing. Barters tuition for bus fare. Forsakes corn horizons for the city gray beneath all blue. Too late for Benzedrine, making the poet scene, he blazes memoirs in white powders and silver screens. The black suit savior self-anointed. Soul man singing while crowds applaud, then thin. Singing. Drinking. Joking. Eating. Shooting-up so late even whores pay their debts and flick off the lights. Bars burn out neon as he gazes in drained glasses. Blowing. Blowing. Stragglers begging him to make them laugh. Famous pink faces aching for his blue. How his voice purifies their fate, sways their L.A. sadness east to fertilize mid-west fields. And he jokes. Blows. Follows the blues that open his cuffs, roll up his sleeves, ease through his veins to sing him back home.



The Rise and Fall of Bad Girls
After Nancy Spungen (1958-1978)

Death brought these words. These wounds longer than letters sealed tongue to tongue with an aftertaste of black sugar and ash. These headlines: Groupie Slashed. Chelsea Angel, Wings Stippled in Lice. These directions swerving by paradise. These mourners of punk, needled alms pricking my feet. These mothers of late seventies dragging Virginia Slims, still starching shirts, wearing bras, when all they wanted was to kick out TVs, burn husbands with coffee pots, stain strange collars with the gloss of my mouth. Death brought these words. These authors scratching bios in my blood. Debating the rise and fall of bad girls from Oregon to Maine. Thrown from school. Sheltered in back seat steam. Clean when rivers pour from us, settle on vinyl in a glistened stream. Who doesn't want to be a muse? The pay-off for being used. Death brought these words. These escapades, escapes. I ran from homes where dessert followed meat and the lights stayed on. Stalked CBGB's icons until the one with motorcycle boots bought me tickets to crash in soiled spaces. Death brought these words. These rock star smirks. How they expect you to hate the government and your father. Masturbate to their album covers. Death brought these words. These wounds. My belly dropping its nectar. My hair undone, make-up on. Swan song stifled as aviaries swell with smoke. Death brought these words. This voice when nobody listened but a boy lighting matches and carrying knives. The one crossing against traffic. Scrounging for thighs and hits and coins. Begging me to lounge in the lap of nothing, at the same time knowing just what to give.