Saturday Night at the Buddhist Cinema
There were elephants
in cabaret dress reddish & cadmium blue
& dolphins in undetermined incarnations (I felt as if
I had interrupted the process I mean
the organ player had not risen
remember the Castro theatre off of Market?
It was Visconti’s Rocco & His Brothers & the lights went out maybe
1992 during the Rodney King revolt
the dolphin was working this out somehow tweeting
blinking his tiny saucy eyes I was in the third row as usual
in the middle) there was a horse torn unbridled
immense & stoic being pinned
with a hideous medal by the War Provosts it turned to us &
waited waited for someone to take her home
the cow was there
in a Mexican Pancho Villa outfit
spraying everyone with snowflakes &
you you should have seen us
how we had realized the Way
how we rubbed the blood off of our faces after the killings &
how we stuck it to the assassins huddled in a shabby corner
you should have seen the Pig Act
the pig a real pig with a wig in flames
in pinkish pajamas & a cigar doing a Fatty Arbuckle schtick
he even ordered 18 eggs over easy with 18 sides of sourdough
cranberry sauce sardines & a side of pastrami he was
hanging off the window ledge top story of the St. Francis
yoddling to a Gloria Swanson look-alike in a cashmere robe
(it was hilarious it was
what we all dreamed of yes that was it it
was what we all dreamed of) the chicken in kimono pirouetted
with piquant harpsichord arpeggios
Sonata in E Major by Domenico Scarlatti the evil iris
on the side of the cheeky make-up popped
that is when I fell out
slid to the toilet but there were no towels or stalls or water
it was some kind of trick I said & blew my nose
into my sleeve an Italian piece from Beverly Hills 1966
(why was I there
all of a sudden?)
For the Short Feature everyone shouted
Where’s the Tuna?
We want the Tuna?
We want the Tuna!
What about the Tuna?
The organ rose from the stage
the song Avremi der Marvikher jittered the chandeliers
sung by a scrubby lanky tenor in a shredded vest
I had the same Chrysanthemum eyes of exile
I had the same wet braided locks & the black spot
we all danced with straw stuffed violas we lost ourselves
we regained some kind of tree-strength that had been severed
the screen lit up with our faces huge hands
reached out to us we lit a tiny fire in the village
that is when my mother María danced an incredible
inappropriate Polka at the center of the plaza (How could that be?
She died decades ago!)
I was expecting parables on the Three Treasures
I was running from the bombs I was delirious for shelter
Outside everything was on fire and the gasman was after me
Imagine that Why me? I said. Why me! But it was no use
so I ran in here
so I crouched under the seats
next to a woman in an emeraldine scaly dress
she was calm & stunning &
strumming a pearl-edged ten-string Stella
you’re Ava Gardner I said Where’s the exit?
This is the exit.
Copyright © by Juan Felipe Herrera. Used with the permission of the author.
Juan Felipe Herrera
Juan Felipe Herrera is the Poet Laureate of the United States. He served on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.
Date Published: 2013-10-24
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/saturday-night-buddhist-cinema