Half its panels missing, the giant screen framed in rusting
skeletal steel faces an audience of autumn olive thickets,
tangled bittersweet and grape vines. Posts once uttering
laughter, gunshots and music have long lost their voice,
and the block concession stand that scented dank
summer evenings with popcorn and French fries
is a crater of concrete chunks, wires and pipes.
Fords and Chevys hungering for dusk and flickering larger-
than-life magic once crowded this gravel lot head to tail
light. Backseat-cozy in footed pajamas with my sisters,
we watched Disney’s Dalmatians and Bond battling
Goldfinger as Dad shushed our giggles. Wrapped
around a leggy girl years later, I parked by the far fencerow
of pines, barely noticing Yousarian’s wheedling.
In this arena of illusion I rode Dr. Zhivago’s train,
landed on a planet of apes where Liberty lay ruined
on a beach, eavesdropped on the Godfather’s irrefusable
offers, bopped to the happy world of Grease, fell prey
to apocalypse in Nam. Soundtrack and Technicolor
merged with moonlight, clicking crickets, and the tang
of damp from a nearby swamp.
Gazing dizzily at the battered, blank expanse of white,
I see Brando with puffed cheeks and dark suit, dreams
replaying like previews in this ruined Serengeti of imagination
where hawks stare from broken light posts and sparrows
and warblers flit through brush. The screen’s a great occluded
eye staring vacantly, looking at me as I once looked at it.
And still showing tonight are the only stars worth a wish.
David K. Leff is a freelance writer and photographer from Collinsville, Connecticut. He is the author of three nonfiction books and three volumes of poetry. Finding the Last Hungry Heart, his novel in verse about the confluence of the present and the 1960s, was recently released by Homebound Publications. Leff is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law and was Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection from 1996 to 2006. More of his work is at davidkleff.com.
Image Credits: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock