Squirreling around my seat in a movie palace
built to showcase Bogart smoking
and Esther Williams swimming
my old man is whisper-yelling settle down, boy
when the red velvet curtains taller than our red brick colonial open
and the gold baroque scrollwork turns to shadow.
Corporate fanfare plays, ignored for the last time
before the blast of horns and golden scroll
destined to fill a generation of fantasies
and empty a galaxy of wallets
Stars rise and seats rumble
under emerald fire from a ship
massive enough to support
decades of parody.
Out of this behemoth comes a mechanical man
all in black, sci-fi Johnny Cash
and all my childhood fears
coalesce in his never-ending death rattle.
A tiny man in a silver trash can
whistles, whirs, screams and bakes
under a Tunisian sun.
An English ectomorph clamped
into a metal crop-top translates
the lingua mecha, and even my old man laughs
when the little astro droid
falls to the ground with a clunk.
Wizards and pirates
a Boy with Potential—
who might be me—
talking animals and musical monsters
a princess, a prison break,
sword fights, gun fights, car chases in space
finishing with a display of force
so bright, even droopy-eyed Bogie
would have been blinded
by the industrial light.
Thirty-five years later I’m playing
another game set in the cosmos
that captured seven-year old me,
this one on a device
so advanced it could replace
every glowing button and spinning dial
on the Death Star.
Droid voice catches the attention
of another boy, so small he makes
the trash can man seem a giant.
The boy is slow to speech
but he laughs and claps
at every beep
so I put in the disk
and the fanfare blares.
Standing on the stained beige sectional,
in a small, square room with one red wall
he looks like I must have
in that palace with my dad.
When R2 appears
the boy doesn’t wait
for the skinny yellow butler
to translate. He screams and whistles
back at the ‘bot
answering every click and whir.
Can’t speak English
won’t sit on a toilet
eats with his fingers
wipes his nose on his palm—
not always in that order—
he conducts the London Philharmonic
like Williams himself,
swings a lightfinger
like Yoda on Ritalin.
Sitting on my lap,
he makes TIE fighters with our hands.
So what if your kid can read French—
my son speaks astromech.