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The Cinema
by Margo LaPierre

Cover Image by Michael Yull 

The Cinema
by Margo LaPierre

Published September 3, 2021

Author's Note:

This eleven-year-old poem was mysteriously dropped off at my front door in May of 2021 by a family member who’d found it on ye olde family computer and decided to print it off. I perceive the poem, and perhaps you will too, as unnervingly clairvoyant re: the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve pared back—it was originally ten pages—and I’ve changed the formatting, but have not changed or added anything else. 

 

This poem is on the bipolar/manic side of my work—but whether or not it is prophetic, or mad, or just a bit uncanny, I think it speaks to our pandemic. 

 

Written in November 2010 in the days following a personal decision that cracked open a new future, with Covid-19 still a decade away, this post-apocalyptic poem poured out in the space of three days. In it, an adult speaks to a child about a friendship with the child’s mother in the early days and years of the catastrophe, during her pregnancy and the child’s infancy.

 

***

When one could still find an opening in a crowd

            in the subways, chiming in as the tokens clinked

hurry, you said, we’ll be late for the cinema

            when everyone had left, 

            when the supper clubs and lounges sent their children home to bed

            the tower clock was tolling and the light was shining in

hurry, you said, We’ll be late for the cinema!

            in an age when one could still see a comedy

before the voices were prerecorded

            was an age when one could still enjoy a comedy

hurry, you said, we’re always late for the cinema

            to the clean stink of gin, the lemon-scented scrubbing

            at the floor around the windows where the air had been let in

            spotty towels were rolled into sausages

            and shoved into the cracks where you had often sat

            watching dust motes flee upon the stair

            spread-eagled on the floor with one eye under the door

            where you watched your neighbour hurry down the stair

            then, television-coddled, you slumped down to rest

            the scent around your ears of prim, perfumed fingers

and every night she scrubbed

your hands, held aloft the kitchen sink

and as you slept, the stinking clean of gin

            the tower clock was tolling and the light was shining in

Mama, you said, What is the cinema? 

            there were good reasons we thought that it might last

            it was our glorious city where the lights blazed on

            where quiet only lived to cull the noise 

of snow as parades of votive taxicabs

extinguished each in turn their amber eyes

            where relatives and peddlers clamoured 

            to find something of value in the midst of such a chaos

in it, whatever that is, wherever we are

he turned to her and said

we’re really in it this time

he cupped her silhouette in the window

in the window behind her crisp and columbine

parabolas of smoke were rising 

like an anthem to the endless list of things

about to to be lost in the closing hymn, the closing scene

            I think about your tongue, your lips

            he said and traced the willing line across her hips and coughed

            into her neck and wept in turn

What then, when too much time has passed

within the feeble lines we’ve used to mark our space? 

Wherever we are, she said, We are—

but then he interrupted and once again, he said

we’re really in it this time

            the day the Don Valley Parkway crumbled

            the shale shook itself loose with one crusty shiver

            its villain cloak, its populated mask

your mother danced that day 

as you lay poised

inside her fevered flesh

between our two taut bodies 

            I need to dance, your mother said

            I need to dance, she turned and said to me

Hurry, you said, We’ll be late for the cinema

and of course we were late for the cinema

late for the dust, the crimson room was

lined with fever while the lake grew cold

            I need to dance, your mother said

            I need to dance, she turned and said to me

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Margo LaPierre 

Margo LaPierre is a queer, bipolar Canadian editor and author of Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes (Guernica Editions, 2017). She is newsletter editor of Arc Poetry Magazine, Editors Ottawa-Gatineau’s membership chair, and member of poetry collective VII. She won the 2020 subTerrain Lush Triumphant Award for Fiction and was a finalist in the 2020 TWUC Short Prose Competition and the 2020 Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Award. Her multi-genre work has been published or is forthcoming in the Temz Review, Room Magazine, Arc Poetry Magazine, filling Station, CAROUSEL, PRISM, carte blanche and others. Find her on Twitter @margolapierre.