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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.

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