Barry Seiler

In Memory of Show Business

Fanny Brice

During the Vietnam War
Jessel paraded around
The talk shows in a uniform
He designed himself, adorned
With medals, stars, and ribbons.
He called the New York Times Pravda,
The hosts tried to steer him
Back to the old days. Tell us the story
About Judy’s name. Gumm, he replied.
Some pipes on that girl. For a round of applause
We could get him to sing
In My Mother’s Eyes. His voice still cracked at
That taught me right from wrong.
Only so many eulogies remained
For Jessel to deliver.
By then Jolson was dead.
And old banjo eyes Eddie Cantor.
And even young Danny Thomas,
Almost a Jew.
One by one  a generation of entertainers
Born late in the nineteenth century was falling,
Taking along the old jokes, the impeccable timing,
The classic drag routines, When Jessel goes,
The wags quipped, who will deliver his eulogy?
Jessel, of course, suggested himself,
Hinting he had already recorded it.
On his tombstone he had carved: ”I tell you
From the shade it is all worthwhile.


About the writer:
Barry Seiler has published four books of poetry, three of them by University of Akron Press. Frozen Falls, the most recent, was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize.. He lives on the outskirts of Roxbury, New York, in Hubbell’s Corners with his wife Dian and cats.

Image: Fanny Brice (c. 1915-1925) by Alfred Cheney Johnston 1885-1971. Restored by Nick and Jane for Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans.