Betty & The Mortician
from Massachusetts, an aspiring actress with
the looks of Hedy Lamarr or Norma Shearer.
The boys, they liked her minced walk--
those black curls and tight black dresses--
but it was the smile that won you--
an aphrodisiac painted deep red.
The picture didn’t do her justice.
I examined her body--
black curls, upstairs and down, matted with
dirt and blood. Body, cut clean in half.
I bent over to get a look at those eyes--
death had yet to dull their blue.
Folks say she didn’t care for school, but studied
movies religiously. She was determined
to be known by the world--one day,
with bags and ambitions, she fled
to California. Reporters called her a vagabond amongst
other Lost Angels. No permanent address,
though her mother received letters every week.
When the cops brought her in to identify the body,
I pardoned the girl’s condition; I had not yet
stitched up the sides of her mouth.
I hear the leeches got to the daughter first,
Calling up the poor mother
with some cockamamie story that her
Little Betty had won a beauty contest.
The mother answered their questions proudly,
never the wiser, never knowing she was
ghostwriting her own daughter’s obituary.
Betty’s pretty picture was soon plastered across
headlines and the evening news--
I could still hear the mother’s shrill screams
from a few hours before. I had kept the girl’s
severed body draped, to give her
some dignity, but I couldn’t hide
her Glasgow smile.
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