Rosedale Theater, 1938

Source: L.E. Sissman, ‘Rosedale Theater, 1938’, in Peter Davison (ed.), Hello, Darkness: The Collected Poems of L. E. Sissman (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1978)

Text: Feet on the parapet of the balcony,
We cup free sacks of penny candy, gum,
And unshelled peanuts, all included in
Our dime admission to the Saturday
Kids’ matinée, and see the Bounty heave
And creak in every block and halyard. Waves
Of raw sensation break upon each white
Face that reflects the action, and our ears
Eavesdrop upon the commerce of a more
Real world than ours. The first big feature ends;
We trade reactions and gumballs with friends
Above the marching feet of Movietone,
Which now give way to a twin-engine plane
That lands as we half watch, and Chamberlain
Steps out, in his teeth, Homburg, and mustache,
A figure of some fun. We laugh and miss
His little speech. After the Michigan-
Ohio game, Buck Rogers will come on.

Comment: Louis Edward Sissman (1928-1976) was an American poet. Five of his cinema-related poems are published in Philip French and Ken Wlaschin’s The Faber Book of Movie Verse. Bounty refers to Mutiny on the Bounty (USA 1935). Movietone is the Fox Movietone newsreel, with the reference being to the celebrated film showing British prime minister Neville Chamberlain at Heston aerodrome telling reporters about his discussions with Hitler and waving a piece of paper with a signed agreement “symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again”. The Buck Rogers serial was produced in 1939.

Newsreel

Source: C. Day Lewis, ‘Newsreel’, from Overtures to Death, and other poems (London: Jonathan Cape, 1938)

Text: Enter the dream house, brothers and sisters, leaving
Your debts asleep, your history at the door:
This is the home for heroes, and this loving
Darkness a fur you can afford.

Fish in their tank electrically heated
Nose without envy the glass wall: for them
Clerk, spy, nurse, killer, prince, the great and the defeated,
Move in a mute day dream.

Bathed in this common source, you gape incurious
At what your active hours have willed —
Sleep walking on that silver wall, the furious
Sick shapes and pregnant fancies of your world.

There is the mayor opening the oyster season:
A society wedding: the autumn hats look swell:
An old crocks’ race, and a politician
In fishing waders to prove that all is well.

Oh, look at the warplanes! Screaming hysteric treble
In the long power dive, like gannets they fall steep.
But what are they to trouble —
These silvery shadows to trouble your watery, womb-¬deep sleep?

See the big guns, rising, groping, erected
To plant death in your world’s soft womb.
Fire bud, smoke-¬blossom, iron seed projected —
Are these exotics? They will grow nearer home:

Grow nearer home — and out of the dream house stumbling
One night into a strangling air and the flung
Rags of children and thunder of stone niagaras tumbling,
You’ll know you slept too long.

Comment: Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was Poet Laureate, and father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The poem’s subject is the audience’s response (or lack of it) to newsreels showing the Spanish Civil War.