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Witness to Murder (1954)

What has Barbara Stanwyck done
to deserve this, what but linger at her curtains

before closing them, as any single
woman might in 1954, in Los Angeles,

as any female interior
decorator might, any mistress of

interiors, lingering with the drapes
between her fingers long enough

to accidentally see George Sanders
in the opposite apartment

choke a woman till she dies.
What has she done

to deserve the cruel attentions
of Sanders’ secretly unrepentant

former Nazi, who tries to prove her
merely hysterical, addled by dreams,

or the attentions of the cop
who names her to Sanders

as the witness (“the girl
across the street thought she saw you . . .”)

then takes her to dinner. Or the attentions
of the psychiatrist at the state hospital

with glasses like the portholes
in a submarine, who grills her

in the long, cross-cut shadows of his
nearly-empty office. What has she done

to earn men like these but not need them?
Only when, menaced on a high roof, screaming

as Sanders closes in, she falls
to a rickety platform just below the ledge

and lies perfectly still
in a perfect pile of womanhood—

only then has she earned the right
to be lifted, drawn up by one slender wrist

by the cop who sent the Nazi down
the elevator shaft, the cop

who loved her all along.

Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)

When finally the hero, Dr. Russell Marvin, buries
his new wife’s feet in Florida sand, it means God
bless America and young handsome love
and untrammeled stretches of honeymoon beach.
And there, in the glow from the screen
of the Montrose Theater, is my father. It’s 1956,
he’s 14, let out of chores for the evening
and driven to town, hair combed but still
smelling of barn. He feels a flutter as Carol
Marvin leans into her husband’s chest. He presses
his fists deeper into his coat pockets. The next
morning, tending the cows, he remembers
the sky above the wreck of the Capital dome
after the last wobbling, shrieking saucer
went down: just a blue sky, clouds
shredded like cotton and fading—nothing
descending to destroy us or steal us away.  


Shane Seely is the author of two books of poems: The Surface of the Lit World, winner of the 2014 Hollis Summers Prize from Ohio University Press, and The Snowbound House, winner of the 2008 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. His chapbook of poems, History Here Requires Balboa, was published by Slash Pine Press in 2012. Individual poems have appeared in Antioch Review, The Southern Review, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He teaches in the MFA program at University of Missouri-St. Louis.