The Joanna Caper

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The Joanna Caper

The Joanna Caper

The character of Joanna in Bonnie Jacobson’s book, In Joanna’s House, takes on many personas. In this poem, she is the noir client who has just walked in the detective’s door.

"The Joanna Caper" by Bonnie Jacobson

The detective’s mysterious client
is innocent, she purrs, pursued by time
who knew her when. He lights her cigarette,
their eyes write a book, maybe War and Peace
or Paradise Lost. Who is this dame,
the detective is thinking, does she think
she can buy his mind, slowdance with his soul?
Is she Christ in a red silk kimono
or has she iced the detective’s partner,
poor sap, found face down in yesterday’s blood?
Joanna recrosses her black silk legs.
The detective sighs. He’s been through all this
before: these murder mystery trappings
put to metaphysical uses, and where
has it got him — angel or not, the dame
always dies, that’s her appeal, she leaves him
exactly where he expects to be left —
beat-up and alone in a bar, nursing his past
like a hangover. What was it last night,
mother’s milk or a mickey? The detective
forgets, but his past will remember,
his past will fling him like dollars on the bar,
his past will reel him on, to the next past.
She has a plan, Joanna is saying. They
move to Ohio, plant corn and tomatoes;
she disguises herself with five children.

“The Joanna Caper” by Bonnie Jacobson from In Joanna’s House. Cleveland State University Poetry Center 1998. Used with permission of the author.

Bonnie Jacobson has two poetry collections, Stopping for Time and In Joanna’s House and two chapbooks, “On Being Served Apples” and “Greatest Hits.” Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review and Rattle, with two nominated for a Pushcart. She received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grant.