A Miramax flick plays at Highland’s Town Theatre,

something quirky and offbeat, perhaps a stylish crime caper or black comedy,

or maybe a film from across the pond,

with that foreign sheen of sophistication.

You are entranced, wide-eyed,

band-aided from the day’s raw, bloody divot of anxiety.

 

Then halfway through, the red velvet curtains close.

The sound cuts out, faint static pops into silence like an abrupt record scratch.

The picture freezes, then fades.

The projector sputters, and the lights flicker on,

startling everyone out of the shared reverie of movie magic,

deflating the communal illusion that lifted us aloft.

 

You slump in your seat,

staring at the eccentric knight armor

and Greek masks of tragedy and comedy.

Owly, Hitchcockian proprietors interrupt the spectacle,

indicate time for intermission, and genially push coffee and cake on you,

observing some ritual that seems traditional and really quite weird.

But that defines the place, makes it what it is.

 

You rush out to beat the shambling, milling crowd,

accept a sad little Styrofoam cup of bitter dishwasher coffee,

decamp back to the grimy alley, and light a cigarette,

never knowing that someday it will fade like a plume of smoke,

turn sour as an acrid lungful, a bitter cough.

 

As you smoke, you ponder the future.

Every reverie breaks, in the end.

Disney guts Miramax,

The spigot of indie movies shuts off.

The theatre owners die, the place closes.

The conjured cinematic enchantment

dissipates like a cigarette plume in the moonlight.

The town grabs the deed,

eminently domains the puttering projector.

 

Officials talk revival, how the marquee will glow again

as a neon beacon for the weary and woebegone,

but heartless old cranks who hate the thought of taxes

cow cowardly councilmen into quitting the megawatt cinematic dream.

Bright lights that once beckoned you downtown are forever dimmed.

 

After intermission, in the enveloping dark of the movie house,

you aren’t just waiting for the end of The Full Monty or Sling Blade,

to see if Shakespeare in Love turns out to be a comedy or a tragedy.

You hope for a satisfying resolution, some greater point to it all,

not realizing that sometimes the curtains never part again,

the cake gets stale, and the coffee goes cold.

The community you thought you knew fails you,

the institution that seemed so solid erodes,

the projector that was so reliable

never flickers alive again,

never again whirs in the dark and

summons its entrancing spell.