My Stepmother worshipped movie magazines.
She wanted to be a star,
almost auditioned for Gene Autry
with her country band,
The Apple Blossom Trio,
but a member got pneumonia
and the cowboy never saw her.
She married my Father,
under the safe umbrella of his adultery,
shading her eyes from what was obvious to all,
Hollywood dreams, the slick pages of those mags
muting her pain.
She left those glossies lying around.
A curious teen ,
I took them to my bedroom
and fantasied over and over like all boys do
eyeing the ingenue Debbie Reynolds
as The One.
There was an actual diminutive girlfriend Bonnie,
heart trysts with Margaret O' Brien and Shirley Temple,
later Sandra Dee,
but sparkling Debbie sang and danced
her way into my heart and libido
more than any of them.
She was Tammy and I was in love.
I grew up, went to college.
Dad and Stepmother divorced.
The VietNam War started.
I got radical, marched and protested,
read the Guardian instead of the Hollywood Star.
One day flipping through that Leftist rag
beautiful Debbie's picture danced off the page.
My heart remembered her,
my teen angst throbbed.
I knew vaguely of her bad marriage to Eddie,
how Liz Taylor cleopatraed her,
America's sweetheart trashed like my Step-Mother.
The caption skewered Debbie, complained
she owned 2,000 pairs of shoes and buying more.
Said she wanted to own the world’s largest collection.
2,000 pairs—pumps, espadrilles, kitten heels,
winklepickers, ankle straps—etc., etc.
Silver, mauve, yellows, turquoise, reds,
a rainbow of shoe colors,
a display of wanton, uncaring wealth,
shoes of clay.
Ms. Reynolds was still attractive in that photo,
the dazzling, dimpled smile faintly there.
I remembered my crush.
But the web of the Tender Trap was rent.
My heroes now Che and Fidel,
she the enemy, the ruling class.
A child of poverty,
did Debbie forget that no one dated her
because she didn’t know how to dress,
wore ratty jeans, a country shirt and tennies?
Is that what made her feet crave
the feel of slipping on shoes,
one after the other
while children starved?
Debbie is gone now,
stroked out the day after her beloved daughter died.
What kind of shoes did she wear in her coffin?
I fell out of love and into reality.
I fell in love with my wife,
marches and protests,
beside my own worn down boots.
Originally published in Broadkill Review