The shoe poised on the tip
of my toe was a lure. Even
directors important as
Von Stroheim want
to be hunted. You there
(eyeing my ankle,
my nearly exposed foot),
you can dance? I nodded.
We may let the camera see all of you.
And like that I became foreground,
permissive scenery in his second film.
The Devil’s Passkey boasted stars
who spurned my display
as if they’d only known fullness
their whole lives. But I knew better.
Opportunities are rare as rain
out here, even for beauties
knocking on closed doors
day after day, shoes and skin
coated with dust. Somedays
that dust was the only thing
in our bellies, those of us
who didn’t come floating in
on a raft of our father’s money
or favors due. So I let my
feet be bathed on film,
my toenails painted–I danced
barefoot on a table then dangled
my legs off the arms of some
actor who flourished me
around like a prize. Later, Von Stroheim
would go over the reels
and reels of footage (so to speak)
and afterwards take me with him
to The Ingress where the beautiful
and newly rich gazed and grazed.
Beneath the table I’d rub my stockinged
foot along his leg and when I stopped
he’d press his leg against mine
and we’d pass the evening rubbing
and pressing while introductions were made
to men who might be inclined to help me.
They handed me their cards like keys. I can open
many doors, they’d say. So many doors . . .
I have many doors to be opened,
I’d whisper, I may let you enter all of them.
TERI YOUMANS GRIMM is the author of Dirt Eaters, published by the University Press of Florida. Her writing has also appeared in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Connecticut Review, South Dakota Review, Sugar House Review and Homegrown in Florida: An Anthology of Florida Childhoods, among other publications. She currently teaches in the low-res MFA program at the University of Nebraska.