Poets Online Archive
The Movies

Images in the dark. The smell of popcorn. First dates. What are your personal movie memories? Have they been replaced today by video memories... I think not. Those flickering images (it truly is an illusion - still pictures projected at 24 frames per second look like they are moving to our eyes) have some other hold that video has never duplicated. We laugh, cry, flinch, squirm and all in the presence of others. But it's in the dark.
Our prompt poem is "Ava Maria" by Frank O'Hara

Write a poem that starts from the movies. Use a specific movie, the setting of a movie theater, a genre, or a film experience as your starting place.

...Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too. And after all , only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies." - from "Personism: A Manifesto" by Frank O'Hara  sample more poems by Frank O'Hara

In the Theater

Alone in the theater with my RSI of the soul
My seat, actually slanting downward at the sticky floor
So I brace myself against the seat before me

The sound isn't even stereophonic
The lens is misaligned,
so, from time to time,
we see the boom mike hovering above
these immutable faces, disrupting the illusion
The woman behind me coughs and cackles in all the wrong places
And there's a clumsy transition between reels

Still, as the faces continue talking,
as they strive and argue and make up and even die,
for the moment, something within me expands.

Robert Stribley

You Supply the Movie Title

You supply the movie title
I'll supply the scene:
a man, a woman
a field
filled with weeds and trees
a path
a broken-down fence
a sharing
of the still sunlight
that silences everything...

L. M. Wolf

The Colonial

that night in july
i sat, timidly
throwing cubes of ice
because i didn't drink soda
on the first date i ever had
with the boy i came to love
trying to divert his attention
from the movie, that wasn't
anything compared to him at all
and turned to the popcorn he
had bought to share with me
to toss pieces of it at him
and direct him, like an actor
to focus!
and focus he did,
as he slid his warm hand around
the ice that i had tossed at him
the ice that was my heart
and run it under my sleeve
and i melted like that ice
and then put his hand in mine...

Brandi Semler

Movie Time

Seventy Years ago in time
we were old enough to know
that hidden in that darkened place
the moving face of fantasy
could be purchased for a dime.

We'd get there early, just in time
to claim the front-row seats.
Early movie houses
had no slanted floors,
and the children always knew
that bigger bodies in front of them
would block the view.

Waiting for the lights to dim
we traded food and popcorn
brought from home,
while watching Mrs. Jacobson
prepare her player-piano‘s music -
backbone of the silent film.

Our jabber and our giggles ceased
when darkness settled in
with spears of moving light
bringing to the screen - in black and white -
that other world,
which holds our reverie of dreams -
that we have always paid to see.

Catherine M. LeGault

When the Lights Come On

You find yourself back in your body,
and this is a good thing because
if you really knew these people, if they really were
people, it would become much too complicated.
But, for two hours, why not disappear?
The cost is reasonable even if the premise is not.
Somewhere else, some name in the credits
has manipulated all this, has done a fine job
of covering the windows and piping in music.
The innocent defendant is found "not guilty;"
the poor become rich, the homely, beautiful.
These hours are blessed.  Though you weep or laugh
or yearn with strangers, for now, you are a nation.
And when the ceiling brightens at the end,
you wake as from a dream, or death, absorbed
as you were in something other than yourself.

Susan Kaye

Spider Movie

So the first thing you see is this black-and-white man traveling down a road real late at night. He's a
working man, he has his sleeves rolled up, and he's wearing a hat like all the 50's men wore
everywhere, even when they were working on a chain gang. And then there's this thick rope stretched
across the road, only it's not a real rope. The next thing I remember is that three policemen are playing
with a big fat spider and one of them throws it on the ground and splats on it with his foot. Then two teenagers
are in a cave and they find the man, only now he's this terrible trembly husk. And then the giant spider
comes. The End.  I can't remember it all.  I started hating spiders. Who would do that to a person, suck
out all his vital juices? Spider, spider, burning black. I had already forgiven my father for a lot, but he was late
again, and I sat on the curb outside the theater thinking for a long time about how he must be on his way by
now, wearing that brown hat he always wore.

Mary DeBow

American Werewolf in London

This was not the English countryside
she read in novels when she was 14.
The film was a oddly funny horror-
the dead friend came back and spoke,
the soundtrack was Blue Moon
and Bad Moon Rising and we laughed-
but the werewolf fell in love and you
put your hand on my leg and held
and hid your face in my chest.
And a black woman in the theater
cried out, Don't go in that theater
to the screen but the director
put the werewolf there anyway.
And I knew I would protect you,
love you, rage at the moon,
transform into something
neither of us would recognize
and never understand why.

Charles Michaels


Eyes Wide Shut

We do this in the dark.
We are surrounded by others
but somehow we feel alone.
We are watching them on the screen.
and they don't see us,
can't hear us,
and they too pretend
that they are alone.
Darkness incomplete,
light flickers, our eyes adjust.
On the screen, their flesh fills the space
and so the light is flesh
upon your face.
I want to touch it then,
but I rest my head on you.
Then your arms come around me.
Your hand strokes my cheek,
my neck, my throat, my breast,
or her breast,
as he does the same
on that fourth wall of light.
I turn my head to see the source
but all I can see is light.
None of this will take any form
until it has been reflected

Lianna Wright

Images in the Dark

as darkness draws near
the innocent heart knows fear
with secrets forever untold
trust once known with single touch is gone
by once loving hand turned cold
life's luster ever marred
the soul eternal scarred
in guilt to daily abide
pray the children never know
a loving hand turned cold
till in death's embrace it lies

Ray Cutshaw



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