The Silent Movie Queen,
Adored by millions,
Attends the opening of her latest melodrama.
She gives birth out of wedlock.
The dialogue card reads,
"Have mercy on me, a sinner."
On the screen, her famous eyes look Heavenward as she holds the child wrapped in a blanket. Snow falls as she arrives outside St. John's.
A priest takes the child inside the sanctuary and closes the church door, leaving her to sink, alone, onto the stone steps.
She reaches out one famous slender arm;
The Silent Movie Queen is known for both her curls and her clear pure waves of emotion.
The people in the audience rise and sink at her every expression and gesture.
She gathers their hearts,
And does with them what she will.
The Silent Movie Queen arrives at her apartments and says goodnight to her escort, the faded matinee idol who played the priest. She goes inside and takes off her heels and fur.
The floors are marble.
The bed is empty.
Only that morning, a slender arm, not her own, had hung limply over the side.
Her heart is like a cut glass vase,
Holding flowers with sharp stems.
She never said, "I love you. Please stay."
She never said, "I am the pitcher, painted and beautiful,
But empty without your grace to fill me,
Touching me everywhere with gorgeous sweetness from within."
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
It is New Year's Eve, 1923.
The Silent Movie Queen makes no sound as she sits down on the bed,
Knowing she cannot break character,
Knowing she cannot change the script
Because she loves the life that goes with the image,
Even though it leaves her like this,
A little ridiculous
And forever damned.
Photograph: Mary Pickford