Poem in Film

Film Editing by
This cocktail you sniffed cost 12 bucks
but did make you clairvoyant on your birthday.
 
We sure were sure, weren’t we,
your new girl would fall for you
if you could cajole her into purchase
of that great in-town apartment
in the heart of Boys Town.
 
I’m sorry things fell apart
at the Christmas talk with her mother
and her mother’s general weepiness
over an old, packaged wedding dress
and the long-dead dad who died beside a football.
 
I’d like to know at what opportunity
at what crossroads, at what fractal life crisis point,
at what soul-fracking, at what gleaning of soul sands,
at what intra-corpus irrigation, at what headtop removal,
at what hidden arterial explosion,
does one describe himself as a spelunker?
_________________
If I was wrong when
surprise, surprise
turned out they had my passport behind the counter the whole time…
If something languished on visits made in gray, Champion sweatpants…
If purchasing the black pumpkin stout
on sale for the new holiday
was a sign of a larger internal misfire….
But all that is the plotting of a rust-belt sun-glint weep-eyed dream-cast
sentimental reform video.
_________________
The guy at the Petco puppy class where my Patty excelled
said his was a Dixie Dog – Nikita – rescued from a Kentucky ditch
outside a house-o-fire.
                     If I did it in ignominy, if in subtle miscalculation of my own
health…well then.
The Sen. Brown ad was set in Springfield with only white people in it.
Noons we spent trilling our R’s at Amethyst Brook.
Evenings of the tv nudgings.
Evenings after that:
80 minutes college basketball,
one part 2%, 3 parts frozen yogurt,
plus a bowl
and spoon set
earned through our engagement.
________________I was 19
and all the nurse practitioner wanted
was to tell me about chlamydia.

I beg your pardon
I’m something of a chronicler.

What’s good about it
is when it becomes obsessional,

when I can lay it down
in this great non-narrative movie I make

called Life in In Between Gestures.

I’m making it even now
with my pirated copy of Final Cut Pro, biorhythmic edition.

 

Photo: “Film Editing” by filmingilman CC BY 2.0

Click here to read Jack Christian on the origin of the poem.

Jack Christian:
I wrote the first draft of “Poem in Film” on the train from D.C. to Amherst, MA, coming back from visiting friends before the start of the spring semester. Specifically, I wrote it to my friend Mike Young, who had emailed me a poem of his own weeks previously, and who I hadn’t emailed back. “Poem in Film” was the first poem I wrote after a yearlong break from poetry writing – time taken halfway on purpose. I’d just finished grad school, gotten married, and completed the manuscript that became my first book, Family System. Rightly or wrongly I wanted some kind of a gap to differentiate what I’d written previously from what I’d write next.

 

Originally, this poem was called “Train-Ward to the Great Valley We Do Dwell Up In.” If I was going to start writing poems again, I wanted them to be bombastic. I wanted to find a way to say all the things I didn’t get to say in other poems I’d written. I felt it important to cast aside the good manners I’d thought were requisite to making my first book. Also, I’d been reading a lot of Barry Hannah, or, rather, I’d been reading the first 15 pages of Boomerang over and over again. Another poem that came from this train trip was briefly called, “Poem That Is A Little Bit Tougher Than Me.”

 

On the train, it was fun to attempt sounding mischievously chatty like Mike and unhinged like Barry. I kept trying to write lines that broke whatever poetry-rules I’d learned or made for myself, especially where they made seemingly banal things weird or interesting. Editing was difficult. It was hard to find a way to let the poem stay true to the place where it started. I think renaming it poem “Poem in Film” helped me focus on simply arranging the lines on an imaginary storyboard. I pictured myself plucking pieces from a pile of clippings – pieces that were ugly or pretty depending on how you looked at them.