10 June 1932
I’m in a cinema. The darkness smells,
But all around, fresh-faced Americans
Light up with me to hear the chorus bells,
See bride kiss bridegroom, as the camera pans
Away from them and up into the sky,
Until the village church and grey-streaked cloud
Disintegrate in celluloid and die
To purest white like Christ’s flash-printed shroud.
I slap my hands down on the rests to rise,
And think the audience should leave—we all
Should leave. But, then, I notice one girl’s eyes
Are still fixed toward the stage. She starts to call,
And so does everyone, but I can’t hear.
All silence, and the screen a brilliant white,
As squads of stiff-necked Free State soldiers steer
A woman and a child before our sight.
They seem a small black mass, a huddled blot,
Beneath the towering blankness of the screen.
And I am seized with fear; the crowd grows fraught
Just as the pair morphs to an antique scene.
“Ah, yes, it is the Blessed Virgin, yes,”
I say, and watch her cradle our small Lord;
Then think, “Who are they trying to impress
With this cheap advertisement?,” and feel whored.
We should take issue with the management.
It’s bad enough with soldiers in the streets
Shooting the cornice to their hearts’ content;
They shouldn’t stoop to fatten their receipts.
But it’s too late. The figures disappear.
And now the screen fills with a young girl’s face,
Her tearing eye and curl of bloodied ear,
The jaw, a liminal and blurring trace.
James Matthew Wilson
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