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Twisted

By
August 1, 2012

The birthday party was evaporating, the cake,
crumbs, the donkey, pinned, Mary-the-boy-pony

was being loaded into his trailer for the ride
to his next gig at the teen orphanage, the clown

was sitting on a picnic bench, sipping bubbly,
free-styling for the die-hards, preaching to the kids

about cinema and quantum mechanics, there’s a scene,
the clown said, as he twisted blue balloons

into a giant squid evading Japanese fishing nets
but awakening Godzilla, a scene in The Red Balloon

where our hero, Pascal, walks le ballon rouge
across a bridge as a train passes underneath

filling the shot with steam, white smoke, poof smoke,
a scene that moves backward and forward through

the history of film, foremost and first
it’s an echo, a riff, a bald-faced homage to

L’arrivée d’un train en gare de la Ciotat,
The Lumière Brothers tour de force, the clown said,

as he twisted black and white balloons into a lamb
whose eye was the eye Luis Buñuel slices open

with a razor in Un Chien Andalou and the lamb
David Lynch used as a baby in Eraserhead, legend

has it that the opening night crowd, which included
Sigmund Freud, Fanny Cerrito, and Alfred Jarry

was so frightened of the image of a life-sized train
steaming toward them that people screamed and ran

to the back of the theater, the clown said, twisting
olive, sienna, cerulean and flesh balloons

into “Study for the Nurse in Battleship Potemkin,”
a painting by Francis Bacon based on the mouth

of the screaming nurse in the Odessa sequence
in Eisenstein’s film, it’s the scene, Pascal

on the bridge with his balloon lost in the smoke
that Spielberg presses into Schindler’s List

as the girl in the red coat, the clown said, twisting
glow-sticks and white balloons into the bone slash

orbiting nuclear weapons satellite
from 2001, Spielberg knew that our brains,

those conflating machines would fold the girl’s coat
into the boy’s balloon so we would hear the train

filling the shot with steam, white smoke, poof smoke,
a scene that moves backward and forward through

the chuffing death camp trains spewing their fogs,
the clown said, twisting red Technicolor balloons

into the red shoes from The Red Shoes, Spielberg knew
Le Ballon Rouge was about Christ, but not the Son

of God Christ, no, just the Jesus who’s a Jew,
any questions,
the clown asked the remaining child,

can you make a dog, the boy asked, let me tell you
about Tarkovsky and Andrei Rublev,
the clown said,

pulling a pack of balloons from his floppy shoe
thinking, Toto or Precious, Asta or Laika?

G

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Author Image

Peter Jay Shippy is the author of three books. His most recent is How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic (Rose Metal Press). Mark Doty and David Lehman selected one of his poems for The Best American Poems 2012. Shippy teaches at Emerson College and lives with his wife and twin daughters in Boston.

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