Tuesday, June 28, 2005


by Michael Dennis Mooney

In 1950 all the cars were black.
You could see it in the photos
Of them parked along the street.
You might say they were dark blue,
Slate grey, Sherman Tank green?
Perhaps. In the photos they're black.
Also dark, shades of dark chocolate,
The fedoras and overcoats men wore;
Black galoshes had big black buckles.
Ink-dark fountain pens in starchy shirts,
White handkerchiefs in somber suits,
Outfits serious enough to be buried in.
Satchels lugged to the train in the dark
Carried the burden of working at dawn.
Polka dot dresses in dark navy, for women,
Went with white gloves, even a gardenia!
A string of pearls would be more likely.
Rotary phones, desktop radios, clocks were black;
Ditto Remington typewriters, tommy-guns.
Refrigerators, medicine cabinets were white.
Doctor's bags, stethoscopes were black,
Nurses' dresses, their shoes, hats, white.
It was a noir world.

The everpresent cigarettes were white.
The flashing grins were pearly white.
They did not know what they were doing,
Smoking themselves to death happily
In emulation of tough guy Humphrey Bogart.
Here's looking at you kid! Have a smoke?
My chest's getting a little tight -- must be love.
It was also the era of the TB ward.
The x-rays were, of course, in monochrome.
My uncle wed his TB ward nurse;
Their five beautiful daughters are
Blooms from the graveyard's edge.

Cocktails, also everpresent, were silvery.
Straight up? On the rocks? Olive?
The slick silvery rails of a train straight to hell.
Coffee next morning, perked, black, three lumps,
In thick white diner mugs, was a mighty engine
Towing you back to the station for your next run.
If you could stay sober 'til happy hour
You could deny you were a drunk,
No matter how unhappy.

The family albums were in black and white.
(That's where I found the pictures of the cars.)
The Daily Mirror was in black and white.
There was no real TV then, not widespread.
There were the newsreels at the theater,
Then the movie, on Saturday afternoon.
When TV finally did come in big
The newsmen smoked while interviewing celebs
(Hell, doctors smoked while taking your pulse)
The air was grey.

I remember when we got our first TV.
Eisenhower was president, circa '53.
Soon I was full of images of cowboys,
Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy.
Riding white horses, fighting men in black,
Using pearl-handled revolvers, silver bullets,
Playing cards with Bat Masterson.
(The hearts, the diamonds were black.)
I remember I dreamed in black and white.

Years later my kid brother,
Being young and full of it,
Had to be different:
He claimed he dreamed in technicolor.
I had to hand it to him.
That was pretty good.

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