Mannequins in Black and White by Ralph Monday

In a time lacking graces where popular culture
has turned from class to tactless infantile
ego expression
there must be models, emblems of stability
and objectivity like the schooldays solar system
facsimiles turning in plastic orbit that I gazed at
in wonder on hot August afternoons.

Nostalgia sinks in, the mind’s return to paradise
that never was like a sunken Atlantis that even
the gods have forgotten.

I find them there, 1940s, 50s mockups in black and white,
primarily now on the internet—the idols of old:
movie stars and starlets, jazz singers, lounge divinities,
all
moving
speaking
singing
dancing
loving

with a sophisticated holiness that worshipping
mortals can only find in the cathedral of the mind,
black pews bound in a box after the great war.

The doppelgangers are there—Norman Rockwell’s
wholesomeness, Ozzie and Harriet, Lucy

and Andy, mannequin menagerie of years when all was black
and white, Christmas ruled the day, families moved
with style and taste.

But it was media elegance, not the grace
of trees effortlessly shedding autumn leaves.
When the channels switched off at midnight,
the national anthem dwindled away,
those graces slept as well.

 

RALPH MONDAY is an Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, where he teaches composition, literature, and creative writing courses. He has been published widely in over 50 journals including Agenda, The New Plains Review, New Liberties Review, Fiction Week Literary Review and many others. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Houghton Mifflin’s “Best of” Anthologies, as well as other awards. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book, Lost Houses and American Renditions was recently published by Aldrich Press. When not gardening, painting, or writing, he listens to the coyotes and owls calling in the woods behind his house, and notes every day that hawks visit him, his spirit animal.

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