Beyond the noise and sunlight of 42nd Street

and posters of the violent acts Now Showing

* Kung Fu Killers! * Vampire Hookers! * up stairs

with grit and urine in the treads, across the balcony—


up a steep steel ladder, through a door locked

against thieves and lunatics, is the booth at the theater

ceiling—like an office, workroom, watchman’s lair,

with toilet, hot plate, incandescent light.


It is hot, the projectionist wears a t-shirt. Small windows

look down the vast darkness to giants on the screen.

The old projector, wheezing, sucks the strip of images

into its throat, past its light,


the flame that hisses between carbon rods.

This is the arc light he tends; he’s soft

from inactivity, locked from daylight in this sanctum

as long as crowds come by.


He stacks cans of film, waits for signals

to flick switches or change the reels. You’ve seen

what happens if he dozes or turns away too long,

reading or eating, and the sound fails or light dies—


we hoot and stamp and whistle, summoning

the protector of our visions who tends the flame

and celluloid, guardian of dreams that fly across the dark

on motes of light.




  1. Ed Curtis · · Reply

    Powerful images. I can smell the projection room.

  2. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Loved this, Lew. Did you work part-time at a theater while at Columbia? My favorite cousin in NYC used to work in a theater on 42nd street when all that was shown was porn.Paula (in Bologna, Italy..on my way to Greece on Sunday).

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