Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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

Wheres 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.

Credit


Copyright © by Juan Felipe Herrera. Used with the permission of the author.

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