Karle Wilson Baker (1878-1960)|
AT THE PICTURE-SHOW
She sits with eyes intent upon the screen,
A quiet woman with work-hardened hands.
Beside her squirms an eager, shock-head boy;
Upon her lap a little rumpled girl
With petalled cheek and bright, play-roughened hair;
While, bulwark of the little family group,
Her husband looms, with one unconscious arm
Lying along her chair-back. So they come
Often, and for a few cents, more or less,
Slip through the wicket-gate of wonderment
That bounds the beaten paths of everyday.
The Indians and the horses thrill the boy
With dreams of great adventure; the big man
Likes the great bridges, and the curious lore
Of alien folk in other lands; the child
Laughs at the funny way the people die.
The way the hero's overcoat
Sets to his shoulders; or a lock of hair
Tossed back impatiently; or else a smile,
A visible sigh, an eyebrow lifted, so,
They touch strange, buried, dispossessed old dreams.
And while her hand plays with the baby's curls
Unthinking, once again she sees the face
That swayed her youth as ocean tides are swayed
Until she broke her heart to save her soul . . .
And fled back to her native town . . . and left
In the gray canyons of the city streets
All the high hopes of youth. . . .
She has picked up
Her life since then, and made a goodly thing
Out of the fragments; that is written plain
Upon the simple page for all to see.
I fancy that she hardly thinks of him
Through all her wholesome days; but when, at night
They go a-voyaging across the screen,
And suddenly a street-lamp throws a gleam
On a wet pavement . . . and a man sits alone
On a park bench . . . or else goes swinging past
With that expression to his overcoat. . . .
She does not pick this player-man, or that,
But all the heroes have some trick of his. . . .
The above poem appeared in the October 1915 Yale Review. It can also be found in:
Braithwaite, William Stanley. Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916 and Year Book of
American Poetry. New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1916.