Elegy with a Balcony and Opening Credits
Tonight I am small. I contain solitudes, similitudes
of a life I once raised a glass to while observing a stalk
of summer wheat, but here in the Palace Theatre,
watching the Die Hard double feature, I’ve got it all—
popcorn and diet soda, coming attractions with vampires
and robots built fast for those with ADD, and I think if you’d
wink at me, flash a little preview of what’s to come,
then maybe later we could bring two sticks together
and catch fire or at least make a spark. Sometimes we’re kindling,
sometimes the ash, but when McClane starts kicking ass
I feel alive and cavalier until he runs across broken glass,
and I reach back to touch the thin spot in my hair,
knowing you feel embarrassed for bald men the way I felt
embarrassed in the Wal-Mart bathroom for the paraplegic
emptying his catheter into the floor drain, caught like a cricket
in a web in the middle of the room. O the entanglements
we fly into and must escape from by coming to a place with dirty
ceilings and sticky floors, a balcony on the edge of collapse.
And so I’ll toast to the season, and to the self, and to the thunderstorm
that churned above the library, where yesterday I checked out
Barry Switzer’s autobiography and found buried between recruiting
violations and wishbone formations, a bookmark illustrated
with cartoonish kids riding mountain bikes toward the sunset,
as in Look, ma, no hands!, as in the transformative power
of reading. On the back, someone wrote Fuck books in magic
marker. I laughed, then thought about regret and the improbability
of time travel because I’d repeat the second grade just to write
something as mean and direct on the bookmarks I kept next the glue.
Instead of Be mine on the Valentines, I’d chisel a new gospel
in capital red letters—I don’t like you. You’re ugly. The Magic Eight
Ball says you’ll be single and pregnant by junior year.
O the things we wish to revise, the ways we wanted to change.
I’m disappointed no one mentions the positive side of Jeff Goldblum’s
character morphing into an insect-human hybrid in Cronenberg’s
1986 remake of The Fly. Sure he develops sores and must vomit
on his food before ingesting it, and yes he wrecks his relationship
with the attractive Geena Davis character, but what people forget
is simple conversion. Seth Brundle steps into one telepod and emerges
from another, stronger and unique. I had acne in high school.
I dated a girl who threw-up her food after ingesting it, but we
didn’t change into the things we wanted to be—the bluebird, dolphin,
or tiger. I wanted to be the spider, the fiddleback making you dosey
doe with my toxic song. Besides, who needs books when I’ve got
Bruce Willis hissing Yippie-ki-yay motherfucker! and tossing bad
guys out of thirty-story windows? Who needs imagination
when I’ve got De Niro talking to himself in the mirror, Glenn Close
boiling bunnies on the stove? Watch something long enough and you’ll learn
to love it a little. After surgeons tore apart my shoulder, I spent the next
day watching a Columbo marathon on a 14-inch screen, and now I’ve got
a soft spot for Peter Falk’s glass eye, just as I must cite John Wayne
as an early influence because moms made me watch reruns of Rio Bravo
in lieu of a father. Ya need to man up, pilgrim! The second feature rolls,
and Bruce is back, all shaved head and designer leather jacket, living free
and dying hard as he combats terrorists and hackers in CGI. And when
the moment comes for the catchphrase that’ll make the implausible
disappear, the last word gets drowned out by the sound of something
exploding. I weep and throw a handful of Junior Mints at the screen.
Sometimes you’re the accelerant, sometimes the charred meat
at the bottom of the grill. But maybe if I run my hand up your skirt,
remembering how your Nazarene father banned you from tank tops
and matinées because he knew what can happen in the dark,
then maybe we’ll be forgiven, and I’ll whisper, Are you the gatekeeper?
And you’ll say, Are you the keymaster? The movie is almost over
and Bruce is out of bullets. Soon houselights and ending credits.
Soon the evening will call us home, and we’ll be forced to live another
day, so let’s call in sick and stay for another reel, the way I used to fake
fevers just to rewind The Neverending Story and learn every minute
how The Nothing surrounds us. Let us break-up the seats and make shelter.
Let us fall to our knees and worship the projector. May our teeth be pulled
to the sweetness of a cavity, our days be royal and easy, screened in silver,
a motion picture, while usher-boys wait to sweep the palace.