"Theda Bara with Butterfly Wings"
The world is a vamp,
and I will continue
to play one as long
as we keep sinning,
draining each other's blood.
Despite all the claims
of my publicity department
I am still just a tailor's daughter
from Cincinnati, not the Sahara,
nor the shadow of the Sphinx.
And even though I'm no
serpent of the Nile, I still believe
I could bite, and you could not
be saved. They say my name
spells Arab Death, but I prefer
to spell A Bad Earth.
"Lupe Vélez is a Hot Spitfire Fit to Burn"
When I'm mad, I spit fire. When I'm in love,
I spit fire. When I'm sad about Gary Cooper
breaking my heart, I fire several gunshots
at his departing train. When I sleep around,
I fuck Robin Hood on Friday and Tarzan
on Saturday. When I come home late at night,
don’t ask me where I’ve been; you can read all
about it in tomorrow’s gossip column. When other
actresses rub me wrong, I do spoofy impressions
of them on stage & screen, and if they’re too hard
to impersonate I can always just sock their pretty
faces. When I look into your eyes, can you see a heart
uncaged? When even friends seem out to harm you,
when time exists to curse you, isn’t it hard to hold
a child in a hot September womb? So when my baby’s
daddy denies fatherhood, I’ll take my final bow & a stomach
full of Seconal. And when I’m dead, please don’t tell the world
I stumbled and cracked my head in the bathroom and drowned
in the toilet, for Heaven’s sake I’ve suffered enough, though I suppose
if that story makes me memorable a few decades longer, I couldn’t be mad at that…
"Josephine Baker Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit"
There's no place to hide when she steps on stage / gives the pit
quivers with her cheetah uncaged / on a leash but just enough
rope, knocks your knees with her banana dance / she scavenged
in the slums and she'll pilfer your intelligence / snoop on Nazi
troops with info pinned inside her underpants / strip search her,
she'll snitch with invisible ink scrawled / beneath sheet music
for "J'ai deux amours" / Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso,
Langston Hughes / Christian Dior all call her muse / Nightclub-
owning racists from Miami to Vegas / all cave to her demands
for integration / Her children the original United Nations / a Rainbow
Tribe of French and Venezuelan / Israeli and Colombian, Moroccan
and Korean / Japanese, Algerian, and Ivorian / In the wake of Martin
Luther King's assassination / Coretta Scott’ll ask her to fill
his shoes in the movement / she’ll regretfully decline over one
simple qualm / her kids are far too young to lose their mom.
Josephine Baker ain’t nothing to fuck with / Josephine Baker
ain’t nothing to fuck with / Josephine Baker ain’t nothing to
fuck with / Josephine Baker ain’t nothing to fuck with
“Theda Bara…” is indebted to The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” lyrics by Billy Corgan
“Lupe Velez…” is indebted to Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine,” lyrics by Axl Rose & Izzy Stradlin, and “November Rain,” lyrics by Axl
“Josephine Baker…” is indebted to Wu-Tang Clan’s “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit,” lyrics by RZA, Inspectah Deck, & Method Man
Joseph P. O’Brien is the managing editor of FLAPPERHOUSE. His writing has appeared in Matchbook, The Alarmist, Yes Poetry, and Entropy. Tweets @JosephPOB. He lives in Brooklyn with his lovely wife & their very popular dog.