D.O.A.

By Tim Dlugos 1950–1990 Tim Dlugos
“You knew who I was
when I walked in the door.
You thought that I was dead.
Well, I am dead. A man
can walk and talk and even
breathe and still be dead.”
Edmond O’Brien is perspiring
and chewing up the scenery
in my favorite film noir,
D.O.A. I can’t stop watching,
can’t stop relating. When I walked down
Columbus to Endicott last night
to pick up Tor’s new novel,
I felt the eyes of every
Puerto Rican teen, crackhead,
yuppie couple focus on my cane
and makeup. “You’re dead,”
they seemed to say in chorus.
Somewhere in a dark bar
years ago, I picked up “luminous
poisoning.” My eyes glowed
as I sipped my drink. After that,
there was no cure, no turning back.
I had to find out what was gnawing
at my gut. The hardest part’s
not even the physical effects:
stumbling like a drunk (Edmond
O’Brien was one of Hollywood’s
most active lushes) through
Forties sets, alternating sweats
and fevers, reptilian spots
on face and scalp. It’s having
to say goodbye like the scene
where soundtrack violins go crazy
as O’Brien gives his last embrace
to his girlfriend-cum-Girl
Friday, Paula, played by Pamela
Britton. They’re filmdom’s least
likely lovers—the squat and jowly
alkie and the homely fundamentally
talentless actress who would hit
the height of her fame as the pillhead-
acting landlady on My Favorite Martian
fifteen years in the future. I don’t have
fifteen years, and neither does Edmond
O’Brien. He has just enough time to tell
Paula how much he loves her, then
to drive off in a convertible
for the showdown with his killer.
I’d like to have a showdown too, if I
could figure out which pistol-packing
brilliantined and ruthless villain
in a hound’s-tooth overcoat took
my life. Lust, addiction, being
in the wrong place at the wrong
time? That’s not the whole
story. Absolute fidelity
to the truth of what I felt, open
to the moment, and in every case
a kind of love: all of the above
brought me to this tottering
self-conscious state—pneumonia,
emaciation, grisly cancer,
no future, heart of gold,
passionate engagement with a great
B film, a glorious summer
afternoon in which to pick up
the ripest plum tomatoes of the year
and prosciutto for the feast I’ll cook
tonight for the man I love,
phone calls from my friends
and a walk to the park, ignoring
stares, to clear my head. A day
like any, like no other. Not so bad
for the dead.

Tim Dlugos, "D.O.A." from A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos. Copyright © 2011 by Tim Dlugos.  Reprinted by permission of Nightboat Books.

Source: A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011)

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Poet Tim Dlugos 1950–1990

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Life Choices, The Body, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

 Tim  Dlugos

Biography

Poet Tim Dlugos was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. From 1968 to 1970, he was a Christian Brother at LaSalle College in Philadelphia. He left LaSalle and moved to Washington, DC, where he participated in the Mass Transit poetry readings. In the late 1970s, he moved to New York City and was active in the Lower East Side literary scene, where he was a contributing editor to Christopher Street . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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