For a Would-Be Actress
by Lisa Romano Licht
My six-year-old self runs, Chaplin-like,Second Place Winner
toward the movie camera,
with a black wig and boy jacket —
no store-bought costumes for me.
You created the illusions:
weaned on '40s happy endings
and Big-War bravado
at The Paradise two nights a week,
Nursing your Hershey bar,
dreaming in the dark
of the actress you would be:
no silly Shirley Temple
but a real woman like Ava Gardner.
I think it was then you learned
the subtle art —
to arch an eyebrow
and drape a cape,
what kind of purse a starlet held and how,
Why in mother-years you could finesse
pirates' pasty jewels or gypsies' spangles
from your brimming drawers,
find a flapper's fur or witch's shoes
beyond your closet door.
You step into the camera's frame,
unyielding '60s hair,
so young, so beautiful —
My bunny brother and Beatle me,
your designs of substance wave,
then recede into a sea of
You created the illusions
but you had no illusions.
We had become your dreams.