because I’m grading papers
and want a familiar background story
where I don’t need to concentrate.
Something about showbiz people
with nothing better to do
but to wound each other.
Ten papers in, I’m startled
to hear Betty Schaefer,
the cute scriptwriter who’s smart
enough to be 23, say to Joe Gillis
that she’s crying because she loves Artie,
her intended, but she’s not in love with Artie
but with him, Joe, who’s being kept
by a rich and decrepit star who smells
of decayed tuberoses.
And I remember you said
the same thing — the business
about not being in love —
and I think, how can one preposition
hurt so much and for so long?
Joe, I moan, getting into character,
won’t you love me, like that, like
that, just a little?
Maggie Jaffe, the author of six poetry collections, is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and a California Arts Council Grant, as well as the recipient of several other awards for her poetry. “On Not Watching Sunset Boulevard” is from Flic(k)s, a series of poems about films published by Red Dragonfly Press in 2010. It is reprinted by permission.