The Tower Journal

Rustin Larson


Mysterious Island

for W. E. Butts “…when the hero we thought was doomed survived after all,/ the whole place lit up, and we remembered who we were.” (Movies in a Small Town, 1957)


They put on their swim trunks
And stole a Confederate balloon
And met Captain Nemo
And ate a giant chicken with a bullet in it.
I watched that movie
On the late late show at least five times
Over a course of years
Before I turned fifteen.
The television contained a world
Of cheap adventures
And escapes,
Giant crabs and submarines.
The national anthem played
To the flight of Saber jets
Protecting the blue,
And then the screen went all snowy.

I opened a pasteboard box
My mother had saved
Full of old photographs.
One: my mother, barely sixteen,
Looking sly and beautiful.
Another: someone unknown to me,
A beautiful friend of my mother’s,
Reclining on the grass,
Her rippling dark hair flowing on the ground.
On the reverse of the sepia:
“This is Heddy Lamar.”

In the real world, Hedy Lamarr was both an actress
And a mathematician. In close-up,
Her face was filmed in the throes of orgasm.
Let’s all say that together, “Throes of orgasm.”
This was in 1933, in the film, “Ecstasy.”

It snowed nearly a foot in some portions of our state,
The first snow in May since 1944,
Back when Hedy Lamarr was still the talk of the Hollywood
Magazines, and there was a war going on
(That people today still haven’t quite gotten out
Of their systems, although some college comp students
Mistakenly refer to it as World War One).

The giant crab was created with stop-motion
Animation. He kept trying to stab our young Confederate
Friend with his claw. There were commercials
For milk and bank loans. I drank Pepsi
And ate popcorn from a Bakelite bowl
Cast to resemble teak wood.

Hedy Lamarr would never have been
In a movie like that. They ate the giant chicken
And someone found a bullet in a drumstick.
It left logic behind the way a twig
Drifts down a river. I lay awake
All night waiting for the clock to cuckoo.
In the morning we dipped toast into mugs
Of hot cocoa, and someone sprayed
The side of the house with a garden hose.
It was summer. The thirsty earth lay cracked
Remembering the Great Depression.
We cooked hamburgers on twig-fired coffee cans.
We threw rotten apples at cats and raccoons.
Mysterious Island breathed in the season
Of the seventeen-year locust. We talked
To each other like Hollywood Apaches.
Ungh, no good. White man speak with forked tongue.
Brave go crazy with fire water.





Copyright © 2016 Rustin Larson


Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, and The American Entomologist Poet's Guide to the Orders of Insects. He is the author of The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009), Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005), Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning, winner of the 2013 Blue Light Book Award (Blue Light Press, San Francisco), and The Philosopher Savant (Glass Lyre Press, 2015).


The Tower Journal
Spring 2016