Troy Schoultz

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Best Wishes, Janet Gaynor

Old-timer Lyle visits me Artwork by Gene McCormick
at work on rainy Sunday afternoons,
bringing postcards, sports cards,
newspaper clippings,
spilling nicotine-tainted artifacts
into the guard station.

His auction sale conquests are bound
scrapbooks, wide as coffee tables,
auction bought, on sight,
regardless of contents.
Most lithographs of windmills
and children, depression-era Halloweens,
magazine ads from the 1950’s and ‘60’s,
movie magazine icon photos
with autographs and captions:
Carol Lombard, Clark Gable, Shirley Temple,
Janet Gaynor offering up best wishes
from fading sheets of cardboard.

“I imagine she was an old woman,” says Lyle shrugging,
his face a relief map of third shift survival.
“Maybe sometimes that’s all they had, a bound book
of things they liked to sit and look at.”

I imagine her as well,
house or even chair-bound.
Her milky eyes taking in the joy
of soup and dish detergent without
the distraction of text, daydreams of possessing
alabaster shoulders and pillar sexuality
of Lombard, wishing Clark Gable would
wink at her, awakening
her private Janet Gaynor in hibernation,
asking for a dance on a rotating platform
just like during the filming
of Gone With The Wind, because Gable
couldn’t dance to save his life.

Christmases at the Turn of the Century

My ex and I strung the lights on the tree,
Drank tequila and listened to Queen’s Greatest Hits
I cannot tell you if it was forty degrees or forty below.
Previous summer she kicked me out.  I moved
In with a junkie/alcoholic friend who wrote poems
And made portraits of Jesus out of colored tiles. 
His place was all chipped paint and bad plumbing.
She invited me back at the dog park.
Said she missed me.
By the following summer I moved into
A chipped painted structure with bad plumbing
All of it’s own.

Noon hours, downtown Oshkosh, all gray skies
And slushy sidewalks.  I met this Earth Mama .
We’d attend organ recitals each Wednesday
At whatever churches housed pipe organs.
She gave me an E. Powers Biggs CD. 
I gave her my indecision.  Previous August she
Gave me homegrown tomatoes.  December,
I gave her the one line that makes even
The kindest and best of women disappear;
“Let’s try to stay friends.”

I stared into the blizzard and thought
About dying.  Nothing suicidal, just
What it would feel like to disappear
like an owl among barn rafters. 
Brandy was like water or milk to me. 
Bubbling lights lined
The window sills held with Scotch tape.
I was turning grey already,
Over the threshold of thirty,
Trying to convince myself
That I didn’t fuck up beyond repair.
And no,
If you were willing to ask,

I didn’t bother with a goddamn tree.


Troy Schoultz is a lifelong Wisconsin resident. His poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in Seattle Review, Rattle, Slipstream, Chiron Review, Word Riot, Fish Drum, The Great American Poetry Show, Steel Toe Review, Midwestern Gothic and many others since 1997. His interests and influences include rock and roll, vinyl LPs, found objects, the paranormal, abandoned places, folklore, old cemeteries and the number five.