Jesse Lee Kercheval



The projector is the only creature alive—
hear it singing in the Teatro Zancanaro?
Singing its clacking heart out,
singing its clacking hot electrical heart out just for us—
though we have not arrived.
We who are the projector’s greatest admirers,
who make the seconds it counts down—
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 all the way to fin
the rhythm of our lives,
who dream in lively black and lovely white—
we have not yet arrived.
Instead our hands fall to our sides
as we sleep heavily or sit restlessly
through the God awful video projections
on our transatlantic flights.
We are coming, we want to sing out—please wait!
We alone can hear the tiny fly buzz
of the distant projector.
We alone fret that disaster—broken film, melted acetate—
might arrive before we do,
stop the heart of our beloved.
We are coming, we whisper—wait, wait!
Our lives spent in passionate silence
in love with that hot light falling on the screen.
So in love, we scream through the night in our aeroplanes
trying to reach the projector, ready to kiss it
with our dry jet-lagged lips.
So full of love,
our faith has taught us, like magicians, to levitate.
So full of love,
our faith has taught us, like angels, to fly.



now there is not exactly
silence, there will be piano
& the sound of people
coughing in the dark
—do not be afraid—
the ensuing hour will be
luminous & everything
will have the need to burn
but I swear it will be there
as it is in here: dogs swimming
in the rivers, rivers full of boys—
though because every movie
has to have a story
someone's life or heart
will be at risk—
so sit up straight &
be prepared
for a unifying light.



These two poems are part of the book I am working on now: Cinema Muto. The poems are about the annual international silent film festival Le Giornate del Cinema Muto held every year north of Venice, in particular, which I have attended for the past two years, and about silent film and film in general. Also about life, death, food, violence, sex—all the usual good poetic things.