Under a Purple Neon Sign by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

A Gay Ball, reads a flier
from a stack of yellow
Night to Remember:
Frank Westfall’s Famous
Orchestra all the way
from Chicago, Illinois
for the Tarro grand opening;
never forgotten
Christmas Eve 1924

big ballroom, big names,
big nights and newcomers
destined for bigness
under a Quonset hut roof
seating for 800
capacity 2000
parking for 500
(and the math works)

Dominic Tarro was found
January 30, 1930,
on the Sangamon River bank
bound with wire
―prohibition bootleg sugar
Sicilian style silence
played out against

the hottest line-up this side
of St. Louie:
The Kansas City Nighthawks
Ted Lewis, Guy Lombardo,
Lawrence Welk, Ray Anthony,
Tex Beneke, Duke Ellington,
Count Basie, Sammy Kaye,
Wayne (The Waltz) King,
Kay Kyser, Benny Goodman,
Tommy Dorsey, Ray Charles,
Little Jack Little, Ike and Tina Turner,
Everly Brothers, Johnny Rivers,
Chubby Checker, Fats Domino
―famed for breaking the piano stool
with his jiggle bounce―and scads more;
then came rockers Turtles, Styx,
Foghat, The Guild

the rockers roughest
on Dominic’s daughter
―late, no-shows, delays, refunds―
Joyce Tarro ambushed
in her home at 2 a.m.
carrying 3000+ in door take
taking 6 bullets
―Valentine’s Day repeat massacre―
the Saturday in ’76
I was in Florida missing the music

the black wreath lifted
from the door
rowdy roller skates rounded
where we circle danced McCartney’s
“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”
on oilmopped wood now
piled in dusty flea market
rejects stacked to the balcony
the stage crammed with
antique overflow entombs
musician autographs on a back room
wall―burned to rubble on July 31, 2011

a news clip claims Al Capone
frequented the Coliseum
under a purple neon sign
in coal town Benld
and like all who entered,
he couldn’t have imagined
what was to come.


Wanda Morrow Clevenger is a Carlinville, IL native. Over 369 pieces of her work appear in 132 print and electronic publications. A magazine-type blog updated at her erratic discretion is here: http://wlc- wlcblog.blogspot.com/ She is currently polishing a full-length poetry manuscript.

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