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Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Charlie Argues Religion" A Poem about Movies, Internet Love, Suicide, the Afterlife, and Hope

The Popcorn Farm is a new literary journal dedicated to writing about movies. It's a lot of fun. In the inaugural issue, there is a poem about 1940s film star John Garfield, and another about watching Bruce Willis get dressed to fight crime, and a really moving poem about a woman who discovers she is a lesbian and wants to hold hands with another woman at the movies in spite of her husband's presence. There's an essay by an author who liked monster movies as a kid because the author is transgendered.

My favorite poem is by Penelope Scambly Schott and it is entitled "I'm Just Not a Movie Person":

"…I file out of the cinema to where tree tops
tremble against the wide screen of the sky.
then the music comes up and the credits: my parents,
my children, my first husband, my next poem even
the childhood cat…"

There's a poem by me, as well, entitled "Charlie Argues Religion." It's below.


Charlie Argues Religion

with thanks to Charlie "Fabrizio" Ryan

Charlie and I used to argue religion.
Charlie was gay and a smoker and he lived in LA.
I was marooned in the Midwest, Catholic, a spinster,
the type that nags strangers,
"The Single Worst Thing you can do to your body,"
while pointing to the cigarette in their hands.
We argued online. Hair pulling; death threats: there were no holds barred.
But we shared a love, in a word: movies.
"I want to rub against your calves and purr," he mused,
after reading my review of "Cluny Brown."
After reading one of his, I blurted – typed – "I love you," and did not delete.
Still surprised by that. Haven't said it to any of my lovers.
Not in English, anyway.
But – my church-going, his atheism – believe me, it got ugly.

One winter day I was inhabiting an oasis of triumph;
today would be my dissertation defense.
For once in her life this geek could afford glee.
I knew this shit inside out.
The little voice interjected: "Check e-mail."
There it was. A member of our invisible audience, who had seen Charlie and me spat and make up and roll around in film, wrote:
"Last night … Charlie couldn't breathe …
house-mates intervened …
an ambulance … a hospital … a death."
The Single Worst Thing you can do to your body!Oh, Charlie.
This was the first day in ten years my dissertation topic
was the last thing on my mind.
Still aced the damn thing.
"It's called 'acting'" as Charlie was wont to say.

Summer. Long-gone Charlie was the last thing on my mind.
I was homeless.
Couldn't find a job. A bad economy for new PhDs
from the wrong side of the tracks
with a history of illness.
Sleeping here and there.
My life a film noir.
From a previous surgery,
a stockpile of morphine:
small, round, maroon, nauseating –
I'd take Dramamine first.
Then, just, swallow them all.
"I'll do it tomorrow."

I lay, diagonal, across a borrowed bed.
And there was Charlie –
just so happy – the imprimatur.
No earthbound mind could fabricate that pure pitch of joy.
He pulled me into his store. He's got a bookstore, now. Rare books.
Which is just so very Charlie.
At first, discretely, as if we were just chatting,
and then, with urgency, like an older brother's,
his words found me and soothed me. They lifted me; I could take flight. They slid muscles back through sleeves of skin. Let me know I could go on. Let me know it would be beautiful. And mean something as fine as the very best movie.
In a word: God.
If I could, gentle reader, I would type here
what Charlie revealed
and then you'd know, too.
But then this happened.
I was limp on a dock.
The place I'd met Charlie was far across water.

An angel, officious, as these creatures can be, tapped my shoulder.
"You have to go inland."
"No … Charlie … there."
"You have to go."
Soft with gratitude, I obeyed;
as if I were swallowing,
with each step
all the things Charlie taught me
sank deep
so I cannot articulate,
or even remember them.
By the time my feet came to fall on land
I was awake on a borrowed bed,
But to this I can testify:
First thing I did –
not knowing, that night, where I'd find sleep
or if I'd ever land a job
or if I could ever replace the gift that was Charlie in my spinster's life –
was sprinkle maroon pills
into a dumpster.


Please consider reading the rest of The Popcorn Farm. You can find it here.

The Popcorn Farm's facebook page is here


  1. you might find interesting Robert Sapolsky's DVD, Stress and your body, esp. disc 4, regards, Nemo

  2. Thanks, Danuskya. It was a good issue including Charlie!