First draft in a drawer
— After Now, Voyager (Warner Brothers, 1942)

is like Aunt Charlotte moldering in her attic,
the paper like the cigarette she rolls and in secret smokes,
writing hidden as the detailed wood boxes she carves for no one,
save Dr. Jaquith, who informs her dominating Brahmin mother that
Charlotte is having a breakdown, and takes her to his retreat where she
goes from rotting peony to powdery orchid, urged by Jaquith quoting Whitman,
to sail forth—and she does, an ocean cruise, the toast of aristocratic couples,
and a married man, Jerry, with whom she’s stranded after a car crash in Rio leads
to a wild tryst, transforms this woman with an attic past to a more sensual
present, proving an initial draft needs care, questions asked by a skilled
professional, exposure to revered poets, the wide Atlantic, salt air, and
above all, proscribed love, to risk its truest self.


Discard the passionless poem
– After Now, Voyager (Warner Brothers, 1942)

Charlotte, back in New England with her antique
mother Vale, attracts eligible Elliot Livingston—and soon
they’re companions; theater, parties, races, when finally reticent
Elliot proposes, Charlotte, whose secret name Camille evokes in her
married lover’s heart primitive coupling in a South American rainforest
on their recent cruise, suggests she and Elliot might indulge newlywed lust,
the man recoils, she repents; later, both speak at once, breaking off
engagement, relieved; so you, poet, must lose the tuxedoed lines
of high society, and drum onto the page the voodoo Brazilian vibe
of two in the moist broadleaf clawing one another alive.


A poem chooses its own ending
— After Now, Voyager (Warner Brothers, 1942)

You expect Camille, excuse me, Charlotte, and
lover Jerry to end up together; after all, Paul Henreid lights the pair
of cigarettes in his lips, hands one to Bette Davis; dream of smoke mounts
the night outside Charlotte’s party of Boston swells; test for ex-lovers per
Dr. Jaquith, shrink who insisted affair end; and who could say no to Claude Rains?
They’re on probation; if respected, Charlotte may keep Jerry’s daughter,
the myopic Tina, whose mad mother cannot give the needy tween
the love that recently opened its silky blooms to Charlotte—so,
gazing on garden, these two rekindle ritual smoke, contemplate
that little strip of territory that’s ours; see, poet, how your poem
voyages on light. Don’t inquire, like Jerry, Will you be content?
Don’t let’s ask for the moon, Charlotte sighs.
We have the stars.


Ann Cefola loves the movie Now, Voyager for too many reasons to enumerate here. When not mesmerized by 1940s melodramas, Ann writes poetry and translates the work of French poet Hélène Sanguinetti. Ann’s most recent books are Free Ferry (Upper Hand Press, 2017) and Face Painting in the Dark (Dos Madres, 2014). Forthcoming translations include The Hero (Chax Press) and Alparegho, like nothing else (The Operating System).