Friday, April 30, 2010

Glory at the Movies

Every Saturday
I was there,
out of my mother's hair
for a quarter or a dime,
and a second dime for sweets,
at the Ace
the Albee
the Paramount
the Fox
the Metropolitan
the Majestic
the RKO Orpheum
or the Duffield,
glowing opals
in the rubble of our slum.

With Marilyn
or Edna
or Helen
or my little sister
I was there,
by two chocolate candy bars
or five slim red boxes
of Indian brand sunflower seeds,
lightly salted, with the shells on.
At the Saturday matinee
we built great pyramids of shells.
They rose
on the floor in front of us
all through
the double feature
ten cartoons
the coming attractions
the newsreel
a comedy short
and a serial, too.

All afternoon
chewing and spitting
I did nothing so grudging
as suspend disbelief.
Rather, I was enthralled
by total belief.
I gave myself
more fully to the screen
than ever to a lover.
Brooklyn was my Kansas;
the movies were Oz,
a larger, brighter world,
its technicolor more real than real,
a swashbuckling world
peopled by handsome heroes
who robbed the rich and defended the poor,
Errol Flynn and Paul Henreid,
Sterling Hayden and Robert Taylor,
Stewart Granger and Tyrone Power,
and always, in every film,
either Yvonne DeCarlo or Maureen O'Hara,
looking gorgous on the Spanish Main.

Their eyes flashed with righteousness.
They made quips in dungeons.
It was a world large enough
for principles and laughter both,
and to this day,
that is how I define gallantry.

It was all a pack of lies, of course,
two dimensions only,
the height and width of the screen
the utter lack of depth.

Later, I had to unlearn
a great deal of nonsense.
I had to learn
that there were female heroes,
and handsome villains,
and evil systems.
I had to learn
about mixed motives
and shades of grey.

When I go to a movie today,
I know it's only a movie,
and I go somewhat reluctantly,
that I will probably
be both robbed and disappointed.
But even today, sometimes,
a few, the greatest of films,
surround me with glory.

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