Robert D. Sutherland


(for Jim Scrimgeour)


Here, under newsreel cameras’
telescopic eyes,
the stars stepped down
from chauffeured limousines
to set their feet in wet cement:
a concrete monumental proof
of their prime magnitudes.

Now, betweenwalls
in this very public place,
matched pairs of footprints
trapped in stone
catch evening shadows.

Unlike the jumbled tar pits of La Brea
down the street,
things here are ordered,
like a mausoleum:
row on row, each set of prints
enclosed within a square;
each square could be the cover of a crypt.


In baseball caps & flowered shirts
pilgrims swarming to the shrine
flit like Mayflies
among the monuments.

At Mother’s sleeve, a nine-year-old:
“Hey, who was Eddie Cantor?”
While trying to explain, she moves him on;
the click of heels on pavement.

The fossils tell as much as fossils can:
Harpo Marx took off his shoes.
Jack Benny’s heart belonged to Mary.
Durante left the imprint of his nose.

To the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre
come Kansas, Delaware, Montana, Tennessee.
Cameras click, preparing slides
for hometown silver screens—
& Dallas & Peoria will be amazed
that Rita Hayworth had such little hands,
and Bette Davis—oh, such tiny feet.


Frail as a fallen leaf two autumns old,
past brittleness and softened to a netlike
web of veins,
she leans upon her gray-haired nephew’s arm
and lets herself be taken through the gates.

She pauses to see if any homage comes,
then slowly moves along.
Tourists eddy aimlessly like swarms of gnats.
She points. “I think it’s over here.”
Her nephew follows as she threads and searches
through the jostling crowd,
then stops confused.
“I don’t remember now,” she says, “and see—
there are so many new ones!”

Panic strikes, as sudden as a breeze.
She flutters like lace
and grips his arm:
“I’ve seen enough! Please take me home!”


Outside the gates, on Hollywood,
the sidewalks gleam with golden stars,
each identified by name.
On Ronald Colman’s star,
a glob of spit;
a dead cigar on Betty Grable’s.

Adjacent to this galaxy, the shops display
cheap suits & filmy lingerie,
books & magazines for every taste,
magic tricks & novelties & gifts.
Not looking underfoot,
the natives briskly go about their business.
A pair of women almost young
with swinging hips, brief skirts,
& shoulderbags
quickstep through intersections,
looking left & right;

smiling as though he owned the street,
a man of fifty saunters plump & graying,
self-aware in undershorts
& white lace suit;

gray hair stringy beneath her crumpled hat,
an old bent woman in a winter coat
shuffles along between two shopping bags,
toes poking stubby from her broken shoes,
a dark scab crusted on her thin left cheek;

a youngman with a large gold ring
on his bluejean belt-loop dangling keys
pauses in the doorway of a magic shop
to light a cigarette
& scan the tricks.


Copyright © Robert D. Sutherland, 1978




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