local_library CINEMATICA

by Matthew Lippman

Published in Issue No. 141 ~ February, 2009

Americans walk into movie theaters with their 4 year old sons,

buy large popcorns, five dollar boxes of Whoopers,

then find their seats and die.

When they walk out two hours later

they are still dead

but get into Ford Explorers anyway

and turn the key.

The gas gauge reads full

but they stop at fillings station and fill up.

If they are near the supermarket

they back into the front door

and load up the trunk with red meat

and Kool Aid.

Even if they are in possession of no money,

they spend money

on large containers of beef jerky.

There’s nothing in there

even before they’ve snacked

and they go home to sit on the couch

and die.

They’re already dead.

I know.

I’ve joined them in my television set

with the ambulances on every channel.

They drone on in a hyper red light madness.

It doesn’t matter,

we’ve slowed down our death

to make it feel like living.

Some people ride their lawn mowers to the factory,

put in an honest day of work

then go home to smack the dog.

Others smash their skulls against freeway fast computers

and snarl at the blood.

Most of us sit in our cars on parkways

and spit into the Plexi-glass of our gas masks.

The wolves outside our windows have beautiful teeth

and against the din of talk radio,

they are alive like rainbows and furious thunderclaps

that rain down on Nebraska in August.

Don’t fool yourself.

Nebraskans are dead too.

And people from Florida,

the skinny ones out on Long Island,

the kids.

My death is a guy I hire

to plow the driveway

when snow comes.

He’s dead too

though he wears manly boots made in America

that make him look like John Wayne.

Wayne’s the one that killed us, or maybe it was Abe

Lincoln, better yet,

Ferdinand and his witch wife, Isabel.

That’s the great accomplishment,

the lineage–

Jew hating Spaniards,

to a 4 year old kid with a package of Starbursts

bigger than any tree he’ll ever climb

and asthma.

It makes his dad obese

but he’s dead,

so what’s a couple of more Raisinets for the finalé;

a few more gun toting celluloid zombies

who stare down at us

in our sugar stained seats

and laugh and shoot

and then pee in their pants from laughing.


I have this fantasy about Mexico,

that I get down there and it’s Ireland,

I’m in Belfast,

it’s 1968 and Van Morrison has his flute out

near a cow and everyone talks Gaelic,

but it’s Mexico City

and there is marijuana and broken Coke bottles

under the lampposts

for everyone.

I can’t find a restaurant that serves tacos al carbon

and my girlfriend’s name is Lucia.

It’s taken me three years to get down here,

to find a quiet place near Caba San Lucas, right on the ocean,

to learn Spanish and drink milk from a conch.

That’s all I want, but everyone is Irish

and it’s kind of Boston

but it’s Sunday.

I dated Margarita for six months and we had sex once

or we had sex once

and it felt like six months.

In Mexico, I dream, the coconut trees

will make me quiet,

will make the whole world quiet

and maybe what the globe needs

is a very brown Mexican man named Juan

to pretend he’s the Bodhisattva

and silence the blistered gangs in L.A. and the glass bullets in San Antonio,

shut up the nuclear warheads in Arizona

and then stand up on the t.v. to say, I told you, I’m nothing and I love you.


Then he won’t be pretending anymore

that he’s the Bodhisattva. He’ll just disappear

in his brown-ness

and all the circuits will go dead.

The bees will come back and so will the polar bears.

They’ll come back together and have bumble bee polar bear babies.

But this is not my dream.

My dream is to speak Spanish and watch Spanish television

until four in the morning

with no underwear on

while summer nods off into the swell of dying cicada lung.

My dream is to say,

The wicked savages are all dead and the earth is perfectly blue,

in Spanish, over and over,

so it becomes a mantra, a monkish incantation of the spirit,

and then it becomes true.


When you grow up you get smells.

My daughter smells like mango toothpaste.

When she’s an older woman, she’ll smell like a Columbian cigar,

the inside of a cut down redwood.

I smell like vitamins, then liver, then oleander.

When I was five I stank like borscht.

My best friend swears that when his father dies

he will smell like Nixon. I say, Nixon

in The White House or Nixon

in the grave?

The house sparrows land on his roof and smell like toxic waste plants in New Jersey.

They smell like a pizzeria owner named Enzo.

When Enzo was a kid, he smelled like figs and his sweetheart, Carmelita, smelled like olives.

They made a mean salad dressing

and all the mozzarella reeked like sunset.

When I was six

I had an odor that reminded the neighborhood of a garbage truck

that had broken down on the corner

which no city agency came to claim.

It stood there for weeks, in July, and broke the spirits of the block bully, Flipper.

We saw him weep for hours by the lamppost

after his mother died and never again

shook us down for quarters.

The first time he beat me up he smelled like a forest of pine.

When he was a baby they sprayed Lysol in his nursery and opened the blinds.

It was magic.

Magic is the thing that happens between the time your head crowns between mamma’s legs and the snip of the umbilical.

Everything smells bonanza and you haven’t get a clue.

You smell like birth. Birth doesn’t smell like anything.

The nasal passage shuts down

so you can watch your child breathe, kick and flutter.

When you realize she’s alive and that her lungs won’t stop

she begins to smell. Last night she smelled like onions

though she likes tomatoes.

I think if you wanted to write a poem about politics

and you couldn’t get anywhere

you should have a child and then,

for the rest of your life,

write about what she smells like–oranges, black beans sautéed in chili pepper, grass–

and then you’d be writing poems that weren’t about politics

even though you were being political.

Tonight, I smell like chlorine

and my daughter went to The Science Museum.

She’ll be home in twenty minutes.

When I bend down to say hello, her fingers will smell like dinosaur bones,

her breath

like outer space.


On Chequessett Neck Road

the sea does not shut up.

That’s a way of saying, marigolds

are everywhere. Tony Hoagland lives up the street

but I can’t find him. With the windows open

there isn’t enough time to fall into yourself and discuss matters of life and tenderness,

there is just wind.

When I go to the bay beach with my daughter

she loses her mind in the wind

the way a child almost four

but not quite three

is sixteen

with all the expensive clothes.

The sea reminds me that there are only stars and discarded Popsicle sticks,

that I was sixteen once

and grew my hair down to the ankles

so I could escape the blue horror of my house

by climbing down the gutters

with a cape made of grass

and, always, half broken feet.

Today I run to the salt water with those same feet

and slam my face into the shellfish. The windsurfers don’t notice

and neither do the dead crabs.

All at once everything is yellow and shiny

and my daughter is up at the house

with a kite in one hand and The Rand McNally Atlas in the other.

She wants to go to Iowa, to Spain,

she wants to hitch a plane to Beijing and watch the American Olympic ping pong team

kick the crap out of the Chinese.

Won’t happen, I tell her.

We know basketball and beef jerky.

We know Spiderman and old towns like Plymouth.

Ping pong, sweetie, just ain’t in our blood.

But we play it anyway, down in the basement,

as if our lives depended on it–

slamming balls off the walls, crushing them with our teeth,

resurrecting those little plastic orbs with our eyes

till not just the basement, but the whole house, the marsh, the sand,

the ocean,

is our little green table and we have won.