April 12, 2016 - sid branca

In Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
                                       (spoiler alert)
we learn about a man, his wife, and his mistress
(Dick, Nicole, and Rosemary)
and when I first read it, years ago
infatuated with a taken actor
who named this as his favorite novel
I thought I liked it because our phallic leading man
was the type I am often drawn to:
floating through life on a cloud of charisma
receiving accolades but still forever restless
a tendency to get too drunk and a little mean
that a portion of that savory attention could somehow fix
because we all felt anointed under that gaze
but now, oh, what, perhaps six years on?
I know that these two women are the book’s true heart

Rosemary: an actress, young, beautiful, unsure
watching him watching her on the screen
projector light catching in his hair
a perfect carrier for lust by virtue of his distance
a perfect excuse to blossom into some form of agency
no longer the star of Daddy’s Girl
but a different sort of daddy’s girl entirely

Tender is the Night is a novel about transference
and of women realizing that their imaginings are often stronger
than the men they project them upon

Nicole: an invalid of sorts
who learns to reign her mania in
because when your family buys you a nice young doctor
you graciously accept
you do not weep on the bathroom floor
you do not climb hay bales in thunderstorms
you do not run off with tempestuous soldiers
you do not let the sob wrench its way out of you
the one that has been growing up with you since childhood
(a different sort of daddy’s girl entirely)
you do not let the high clear laugh ring up from your ribcage to frighten all the boys
because oh, poor men, they are so afraid of you
so they had to call you sick.

(a poem I wrote that is mostly a series of notes for a non-existent essay on a Fitzgerald novel)