Ursula (Film-Poem Online)

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Ursula

Black hair. Red claws. That’s all
you need to know. She left
the cubs a long time ago,
and now all she wants is a man
to drink gin and play snooker.
She keeps a gun in her purse
and two ex lovers in jail,
signs her letters with a kiss
and a dab of cheap perfume.
She knows how to use a letter opener,
walk upright like a lady,
forage berries in the forest,
bandage a gunshot wound,
claw her way out of the trunk
of a speeding car, and roll away.
She’s on the hunt when hunted,
growls obscenities when hit
by a tranquillizer dart.
In this city full of garbage,
she knows you by your smell.

Behind the Poem

The BearPaul Stephenson and I have been sending each other postcards with the implicit dare to try to write a poem about whatever is depicted — the stranger, the better. When I received this postcard advertising some kind of noir West End stage production called “The Bear”, it set my head spinning.

I wrote a very different kind of poem about a bear several years ago, a lament that became part of my first short collection Human Shade. But the more I stared at this “dame” with a pistol in her hands, the more she and the bloody-clawed bear behind her seemed to fuse in my mind.

Valerie and I found some old excess footage, now in the public domain, from a Los Angeles film studio in the 1950s, and we put this together with road, wind, and bear noises as accompaniment. So this new film-poem was born.