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Reeves Keyworth

Audition for a Commercial, West Los Angeles

A heavy grey weather heaves in from the ocean

and mottles the exposed limbs of the Beautiful Women.

Most have lank blonde hair and are not beautiful.

They appear to disdain themselves

but a small tightening around the mouth

gives away their lifelong desire to be visible.

Among the Money Men in suits, older,

handsome: my husband in a red silk tie.

He's an old hand, signs in, skims the script;

we wait in the crowded noisy room where gossip

greetings stories rub off some of the boredom.

The burning aftertaste in the air is car exhaust

and the intimate not unfriendly appraisal

of competitors. The Bartenders, humorous and

big-bellied, hang around each other:

everyone here has their own fellowship.

The Young Guys are scruffy;

the one who books the job will be quirky,

an oddball, not look like an actor.

One lumpish boy reads The Count of Monte Cristo;

another, wry and congenial, works the room.

The casting director's small dog

is going everywhere, sniffing everyone;

he's over-eager, anxious, possibly pathological:

almost too iconic to introduce here,

like the shriveled orange mouths

of the Birds of Paradise that spike and die

against the stained stucco of apartment buildings.

After an hour, my husband auditions

with a Young Guy and two Beautiful Women,

and we're freed into the cold and damp;

it's five o'clock and clouds are still jamming

the sun. With grey skies, this town's

flash and dash get soggy, and it's easy to feel

that we're all sliding toward the restless edge

of ambition, the continent's cluttered drawer

being emptied into the ocean.

That tipping motion gives me vertigo,

I say to my husband as we're driving back

to the Valley. I tell him that I think

the tall and tatty banana trees are sad,

the jabbering boulevards are dislocating,

the renters in the stucco must be ghosts.

The Beautiful Women weren't beautiful!

He understands, but he's been in the business

for thirty-five years and knows L.A.

He points out a momentary slash of light on the hills

—the chaparral turning gold—and slips neatly

into the one lane still moving over Sepulveda Pass.


Four of Reeves Keyworth's poems won Honorable Mention in the 2001 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and were published in the Fall/Winter 2001 issue of Nimrod.  These poems were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A selection of her poems was a finalist in the 2003 Chapbook Competition sponsored by the Center for Book Arts. She has work forthcoming in Chelsea 75.

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