Big Hair - Poem by David Lehman
Ithaca, October 1993: Jorie went on a lingerie
tear, wanting to look like a moll
in a Chandler novel. Dinner, consisting of three parts gin
and one part lime juice cordial, was a prelude to her hair.
There are, she said, poems that can be written
only when the poet is clad in black underwear.
But that's Jorie for you. Always cracking wise, always where
the action is, the lights, and the sexy lingerie.
Poems, she said, were meant to be written
on the run, like ladders on the stockings of a gun moll
at a bar. Jorie had to introduce the other poet with the fabulous hair
that night. She'd have preferred to work out at the gym.
She'd have preferred to work out with Jim.
She'd have preferred to be anywhere
but here, where young men gawked at her hair
and old men swooned at the thought of her lingerie.
"If you've seen one, you've seen the moll,"
Jorie said when asked about C. "Everything she's written
is an imitation of E." Some poems can be written
only when the poet has fortified herself with gin.
Others come easily to one as feckless as Moll
Flanders. Jorie beamed. "It happened here,"
she said. She had worn her best lingerie,
and D. made the expected pass at her. "My hair
was big that night, not that I make a fetish of hair,
but some poems must not be written
by bald sopranos." That night she lectured on lingerie
to an enthusiastic audience of female gymnasts and gin-
drinking males. "Utopia," she said, "is nowhere."
This prompted one critic to declare that, of them all,
all the poets with hair, Jorie was the fairest moll.
The New York Times voted her "best hair."
Iowa City was said to be the place where
all aspiring poets went, their poems written
on water, with blanks instead of words, a tonic
of silence in the heart of noise, and a vision of lingerie
in the bright morning -- the lingerie to be worn by a moll
holding a tumbler of gin, with her hair
wet from the shower and her best poems waiting to be written.
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