Back to Issue Twenty.

common era



Some say Plato dreamed up
cinema, made shadows

on a wall mate and murder so
well showgoers believed

and never knew themselves
the show, their lower

selves immobilized
below the motion

picture, held charmed
to stalagmite, meanwhile

heads rocked and arms

the outdoor-concert
power-ballad sway

in time, miming images
all their own. Here is

a theory of real estate: man
who just so happens

to glimpse a species
of dream claims to be

sole projector, prime
speculator with a stake

in every last future
container of light. And:

man gesturing to the exit
sign may be your landlord

still, if he stands before
a common hole

and calls himself the door.
When it goes dark inside

we sense the sun came first
and water, sand, and rocks.

Even amoeba got besotted
with oozing selfsame

shadows for millennia
before human fists

and claws animated
radiant walls, touched

index fingers to thumbs
and linked thumbs

at dawn, splayed fingers
and ta-da: meteors burst

into butterflies, lazy
seagrass and new trees

and giraffes ate lions
ate starfish ate snakes ate

dragonflies ate pelicans
ate demons ate moons,

to hell with the chain
of life and men

stoned men and one day
a dying king said make

the shadows last, decorate
my death with shadows

painted red, sun-gold, trace
them with quavering lines

unreal as the line where night
meets the seam forever

flickering at the world’s
end. Movies: we’ve lived them

since troglodytes and lava land
still bubbled, since waking

ate away sleep. We look out
from bone-domed caves

but never quit spelunking
our buried odeons.

Neither did that ancient
barker in a tunic

of metaphysical isness
humbugging a true

light. If there is light
there will be enough light

to view us moving
around us and besides,

besides, these brief

of life remind us
to suspect the glare

of reeling creation
is really a trick of fire.

Matthew Bruce Harrison’s writing can be found in West Branch, Cincinnati Review, Bayou, Carolina Quarterly, Texas Review, Permafrost, and Crab Creek Review, among others. He lives in Minneapolis.

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