Beth Ruscio: "Of matchbooks, phone booths and the loss of Nickodells"
Beth Ruscio’s work has been most recently published in Malpais Review, Spillway, In Posse Review, Poetry Flash, and speechlessthemagazine. Her poems won second place as well as runner- up in Beyond Baroque’s Best Poem Contest last year and this year, her manuscript, Raucous Spell Of Light, was twice selected as a semi-finalist: for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, as well as for The Perugia Press Prize.
Of matchbooks, phone booths and the loss of Nickodells
In those days, when somebody famous
yanked open the bar’s side door off Melrose,
spilling a rectangle of sunny rebuke
on us unknowns ripening
in Nickodells’s night-for-day ambience,
we looked up without looking up
slitting our eyes to the light.
We were dark-clothed theater rats
rehearsing all hours in our black box “empty spaces”
on our wage-less farce, our German Expressionism,
all our daylight eaten, not-from-around-here-pale,
funhouse sweaty with thirst to burn,
but seated in a place like Nickodells
in old Hollywood, on the slightly seedy side
down from local television station K-Cal
and spooned by the back lot of Paramount Studios,
in the hierarchy of regulars, we had rank.
We wanted for nothing.
Nickodells, with a name like loose change,
where dream makers on martini lunches
and newscasters like Jerry “from the desert to the sea
to all of Southern California” Dunphy
could tuck into one of the bar’s red leather booths
and dine in the cocktail atmosphere,
where here’s-mud-in-your-eye nobodies
could have a completely appointed experience,
exchanging numbers inside midnight blue matchbooks
that boasted of air-conditioning,
a smoky topaz back-mirrored bar,
Caesar salads tossed tableside,
shoe-string potatoes salty hot,
dark wood, dark corners, fifteen different bourbons—
back when one-upping the famous
automatically conferred class,
when drinking in the daytime
was the mark of a vivid, lush life,
when you could pick up matchbooks
by the handful, next to the cigarette machine
on the way to the phone booth
acting like you had somebody who loved you
dying for a call.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Ruscio is the daughter of actors, part of a working class family of artists, actors, teachers and writers. She is the current winner of the Brick Road Poetry Prize, and her collection SPEAKING PARTS will be published in Spring, 2020. Her poetry has been Pushcart Prize nominated and won finalist honors for several prizes and awards, including The Wilder Prize, The Sunken Garden Prize, The Tupelo Quarterly Prize, The Ruth Stone Poetry Award, and The Two Sylvias Prize. She was featured poet for the June 2019 issue of Cathexis Northwest Press, and have other recent work published in Tupelo Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, Tulane Review, Spillway, Malpais Review, High Shelf, and have poems in the anthologies Dark Ink: Poetry Inspired by Horror, Beyond the Lyric Moment, 1001 Nights, and Conducting a Life: Maria Irene Fornes, and the upcoming anthology 50 Years with Beyond Baroque. Beth is also an accomplished award winning actress, and a mentor at Otis College of Art and Design.