Must have left twenty running shoes over years
Stuck to the floor of the gum-mangled Thalia
Long summer nights there in Plato’s glum cavern
Observing, believing, the motile shadows,
God-knows-what going on, behind, in the booth…
Arletty, the goddess, Laughton, the painter,
Mifune, the warrior, Moreau, the temptress,
Signoret, the cynic, Masina, the clown, Mastroianni, the bored –
these were our gods in the Thalia pantheon,
our greater trumps, our cards of fortune;
shaping our summers, haunting our winters.
Sing out, o bards!
Bunuel! Renoir! Satyajit Ray!
Eisenstein! Kurosawa! Fellini! Truffaut!
The syllables sing in the mouth like wine.
But most mighty of all, filmgoers’ philosophe,
Bergman the troubled, cantankerous Swede,
Took a sing-song tongue, made it sound prophetic,
Gnomic, organic, epigrammatic, portentous;
Made us see with the eyes of men being Bergman
And idealize the actress he currently bedded,
Bergman heroic! The atheist pastor!
The Freudian mystic! The thinker on film!
Even his jokes were layered with mythos –
Isn’t Death playing chess the art-house totem?
His actors were family: we followed the serial,
Image by image, aspect by aspect –
Never doubting that one would serve family supper.
Harriet, swinging the hips of false promise,
Doe-eyed Liv, crazy waif, suffering wife,
Bibi as sane as she ever was sensual –
Given the choice: Liv or Bibi or Harriet
And one long solstice Swedish night,
Which would you take?
Defend your position in two hundred words
Dripped in the glass like water-of-life.
Max, noble everyman, serious, murderous,
Handsome as some austere cathedral;
Gunnar, the distinguished we feared we’d grow into;
Erland, bitter fellow we feared that we were –
So: mix and match and match and mix –
Playing chess with the puppets he whittled unceasing
(If there isn’t a maze, there can be no solution):
The face overhearing (or reading the diary);
The couple enisled, spitting intimate daggers;
The acting troupe, offstage, lounging and lusting;
The man of God who is losing his faith;
The man of no God losing his mind;
The unman made-up,
The maid unmade;
Sex as war and war as sex;
The sea-borne dream, waves troubled as nightmare;
Papageno Vogler and Alma, the Soul –
We’ve done it that way; let’s try it this way:
The point is amusement while stating the problem.
I sing of Ingmar – Scanian lodestar –
unsinking sun of the Nordic night –
unwarming depth of the Baltic tide –
whose coolness freshened our Thalia summers.