In the latest issue:

Botanic Macaroni

Steven Shapin

What made the Vikings tick?

Tom Shippey

In the Lab

Rupert Beale

Will there be a Brexit deal?

Anand Menon

Short Cuts: Under New Management

Rory Scothorne

Out-Tissoted

Bridget Alsdorf

Sarah Moss

Blake Morrison

Poem: ‘Country Music’

Ange Mlinko

On the Trail of Garibaldi

Tim Parks

Art Lessons

Peter Campbell

You’ll like it when you get there

Tom Crewe

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini

‘The Vanishing Half’

Joanna Biggs

At the Movies: ‘The Truth’

Michael Wood

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders

Poem: ‘Siri U’

Jorie Graham

Diary: Getting into Esports

John Lanchester

The People’s CinemaGlyn Maxwell
Close
Close
Vol. 17 No. 1 · 12 January 1995
Poem

The People’s Cinema

Glyn Maxwell

382 words

As blank as scripture to a ruling class
Discussed in hells they do not think exist,
Cracked and abandoned to the slicing grass
      And disabusing dust,
A movie screen shows nothing in a morning mist.

Here’s where the happy endings were never had,
Or, like the long and lonely, never shown.
No one rode to the rescue of who was good,
      No star was born, none shone,
No dream came true, or fun began, or life went on.

A Classical outside. Like a Parthenon
Or meant to be, but more as if that mother
Had quite disowned this worn and woebegone
      Shell of light. Its father
Was a woman’s face in a glass. She ordered it like weather.

Here’s where the stepping leg of a pale princess
Would never gleam in the flank of a silver Merc,
No carpet lap at the tips of an angel’s dress
      As that began its catwalk,
No head be turned or heart won, none have all the luck.

It had to open faster than today.
She scratched a deadline on the skin of earth.
They couldn’t meet it but they couldn’t say.
        They swallowed back their breath.
The sun abruptly set in each unchewing mouth.

Here’s where the plans were laid, and here ignored,
Here they were changed, here lied about, here lost.
Here’s where they pulled the trick they could afford,
        Here’s where they paid the cost,
Where a workman sang all day, baked in a wall to the waist,

When every short cut snapped on the one night,
Caving and bulging floors like a bigger child
Had waded from the future for a fight,
        And each thing was spilled,
Each dimly praying gap of air was found and filled.

The lamp went out on no one knows how few.
Interred, incinerated, a foot stuck out
Live from a ceiling waving in a shoe
      As the auditorium set,
And the sun was down, and the building up, and the deadline met,

And no one goes there now except to nod.
At what you get when men take on the sun.
At what men do when told to by a god
      Who’s gone, and wasn’t one.
How riches look in daylight when there are none.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences