James Dean’s Pants

I always wanted to wear the pants

James Dean wore, and Rebel

taught me he was all wick and no wax—

ghost-riding his way off the bluffs

because you know that he didn’t

make it out of that car wreck,

not really, not in the cold, rehearsed

way his total soc counterpart did,

when he cowered before the onslaught

of fragrant light beams or

fictions, projections on canvas,

but never the real fear, real

darkness, no. Instead: two tons

of steel clasping him like a baby

bird in a broken nest. That day,

pretending to fly off the cliffs,

he gripped tight the wheel—

white knuckles, greased hair,

creased brow and grimace

grown around the stubby butt

of a cigarette—he gripped tight

and slammed the gas as though

the treads could peel back the future,

the Porsche 550 and 49 Mercury,

the lot and US Route 466

playing tug of war like two groups

of children unlikely to ever let

the sun go down. And James,

having seen the future and the past,

bit down hard on the smoldering

tobacco and shut his eyes, because

in that moment he was unsure if

he was about to die, or push through;

and the potential was in the engine,

potential in the pedal, potential in his feet,

in the rawhide stink of leather, in the smoke

and heat of gasoline, in the bristles

of his comb; and now that he no

longer knew which car he was in,

he flinched, and death caressed him

with metallic fingers; and the sun setting

across the desert flats flickered over

the crumpled flesh and steel, and

the bystanders squealed and cried

with excitement, and the ghost of

James Dean walked around the car

and wondered if he were the dream,

or his body. He looked down and thought

stop pretending. Always the actor, always

the hardness of perfection, of dying young

enough to have been everything and nothing

at all—broken bones, crumpled steel,

oil strewn across asphalt and dust, salty

tears, baking sun, acrid smoke, and on

the wind tossed side of perfection,

his cool hair fluttering, timeless.

 

Noah Leventhal

 

Noah Leventhal is a gumshoe literary detective. He recently graduated from St. John’s College -Santa Fe, New Mexico where he managed to avoid nasty juniper allergies for three out of his four years. He enjoys dissolving dream into reality, even when he is talking or eating food with his fingers.

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