“Lillian Harvey” by Gerald Stern

Lillian Harvey

This is lovesick for you–Charles Koechlin
covering his paper with tears, he shushes his wife
and his children, he is crying for Lillian Harvey–
or this is lovesick–sending his wife to meet her,
he is too shy to go, and he is married;
when she comes back he asks a thousand questions:
What was she wearing? Does she like his music?
How old did she look? Was she like her photograph?
But he never met her, she whose face haunted him,
although he wrote a hundred and thirteen compositions
for her, including two Albums for Lillian,
and he wrote a film scenario and score,
which he imagined, fantastically,
would star the two of them. He was himself
twice in America, both times in California,
but they couldn’t meet–it would be a violation.
I know that agony myself, I stood
on one foot or another four or five times
and burned with shame and shook with terror. You never
go yourself. I know he must have waited
outside her house, a crazy man, he must have
dialed her number a hundred times, even risked
his life for her. But you never go, you never
stand there smiling–he never stood there smiling,
he never reached his hand inside her dress,
he never touched her nipple, he never pressed
his mouth against her knee or lifted her thighs.
For she was the muse. You never fuck the muse.

~ from Lovesick


***Many thanks to Julie for turning me on to this poem!

2 responses to ““Lillian Harvey” by Gerald Stern

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