Al Ortolani

Climbing the Tower at the Drive-In Theater

It was a long way to the top,
the wooden ladder nailed inside
the tower, two by four rungs still tight,
still defying gravity. I followed
you up, not because you were my boss,
the soon to be projectionist,
but for the adrenaline of a climb
so steep I’d pitch over backwards.
I climbed above the expanse of farmland
spread in a grid of hedgerows,
above the lives tucked into small houses
below mercury lights, above
the semi-circles of cars facing the screen,
speakers hanging inside windows,
windshields dark like sun-glassed eyes.
We toed-up as near the edge as we could brave.
Hollywood played across the screen, a flickering
dream of John Wayne, of Maureen O’Hara.
No one can see us, you said, our silhouette
lost in the night above the projectionist’s beam,
shifting, rolling with each change of scene,
a magic act lit by a carbon filament
by a man in a small room through a small window,
film cannisters stacked along the wall,
whiskey bottles ratted behind the shelves,
behind the coffee cans of nuts and bolts
and spent carbon. A hundred feet below
sat the ticket booth in the driveway. A girl
I knew I could love perched on a stool,
taking cash, handing tickets to the manager,
who in turn passed them through the window
of a Chrysler or a Buick. I couldn’t tell.
Soon I’d relieve him, sit with this girl
I could fall for. We wrote our names
on the wall with pencil, concave on the mortar
between the bricks, where we assumed
they’d last beyond our time, beyond
the few hours we had, like the movie
below the tower I’d climbed, the two of us
where no one could see
our nervous hands, our fear of love
when the credits played, when at two a.m.
the last Chevy rolled out of the gate.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Al, I really love this poem, it paints a wonderful evocative picture, more so for me as a Drive in Theatre is just about an unknown quantity over here in England, more so for the are I live in, North East England, right next to the North Sea, not the best place for a drive in.. The most wonderful piece of writing for me is where you say " WE WROTE OUR NAMES ON THE WALL WITH PENCIL, CONCAVE ON THE MORTAR BETWEEN THE BRICKS, WHERE WE ASSUMED THEY,D LAST BEYOND OUR TIME " and on to the end, that is so beautiful, two would be young lovers, dreaming of being lovers. A gorgeous poem, love it.


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