One night in 1940
my granddad slumped in the dark
in the Princess Theatre,
which is not here anymore,
to watch Gone With the Wind,
then watch it again,
in the flickering dark.
He was 14.
Later, he would be old.
Later, the lights would come up
for the last time, and he would walk
through the theatre's neon halo
into the dark and the twelve miles home.
The trains would be gone.
The streetcars and buses would be gone.
He would creep through the yard
as dawn flickered through the pines,
which are not there anymore.
It would be Sunday, and he would wait
for the rooster to crow
over the screen door's creaking.
It would be Sunday, and he would pray
for his parents to pass over his sleep
on their way to church, the door
whining closed behind them.
But all that would come later,
after the lights had come up at last
in the room which is not here anymore
where the last train runs again
through the miniature town, past
the old brick courthouse, its clock
creeping past some midnight or noon,
over empty streets and the river
disappearing at the model's edge
the way the Princess would years later,
engulfed in flame, Broad Street flickering
neon and fire, like Atlanta
spilling into the night, and the Princess,
here, in miniature, painted by the flickering
of a model trolley's tiny headlamps
on the tiny corner of 5th and Broad
in this room on the corner
of 5th and Broad where the Princess,
which is not here anymore, used to be,
where he slumps in the room in my mind,
the whole future, the whole Technicolor past
flickering before him, through the dark
which is not here anymore.
Published in Southern Quarterly 45.1 (Fall 2007): 53-54.
Text may vary slightly from the video reading.
Published: 7 March 2008
© 2008 Jake Adam York and Southern Spaces