“In Front of the Big Screen”, a poem by Jason Kaufman

“In Front of the Big Screen”

It was a fatal nihilism nurtured by the Big Screen.
An atrocity that belongs only on the Big Screen.
A fruit, beyond ripe, that spread its deadly seed before the Big Screen.
In the aftermath we devour it off of the Big Screen.

A half century of nihilism has culminated in him.
With a semi-automatic he has written his final doctrine.
12 dead. His grand work. His magnum opus.
In his doctrine, only Death is significant,
only Death is beyond temporal illusion
Death is absolute.
Death is charity.

His bullets were like unthreaded needles embroidering the dark.
Death leaked into the aisle ways.
It seems now that the theater seats were upholstered in blood-red fabric
in preparation for this occasion.

The survivors report that initially the simulated, movie bullets
and the actual bullets were indistinguishable.
I wonder what Jean Baudrillard would say about that?

I can’t get the image of him out of my mind—
The deranged, wide-eyed stare. The cartoon hair.
I imagine his mug-shot is already hanging
on the wall of the next mass murderer,
the next anti-poet.
Yes, another Dark Knight will rise.
They’ve already memorized the treacherous
and macabre stanzas of his “Aurora” poem.
12 dead; not the largest, not the least mass murder.
But an adequate goal for the next to yearn for,
to improve upon.

I have a portrait of Walt Whitman hanging above my desk.
He has a rapturous, wide-eyed stare and cartoon hair.
I yearn to achieve Whitmanesque gentleness.
I yearn for the world to yearn for Whitmanesque gentleness.
I look to him to guide me through this sorrow,
I’m counting on him to re-inflate my heart.
“Look at that,” he says to me, pointing to a remarkable star.
“Look at this,” he says to me, pointing to a blade of grass.
“That is marvelous. This is significant. Can you see?”

(Walt’s body is a bassoon but his voice is a flute)

We are searching for a motive
equivalent to the crime.
We want to wring it out of him.
We want to apply pressure
and a good deal of pain,
in order to make him repent,
to make him feel remorse.
In order to make him human.
But remorse can’t be taught
and no motive exists
that will make sense of this crime.
No humanity resides in him.
None exists in him.
None exists.

Walt’s beard is full of tears.
My beard is full of tears.

He says to me,
“Jason, my words love you.
My words will draw those bullets back into the barrel,
back into the chamber,
back into their casings.”

© Jason Kaufman 2012

bio pictureJason Kaufman is a writer and sculptor living in Mansfield, Ohio with his wife, Jenny, and son, Cormac. He is closely involved with the local art community in Mansfield, where he participates in monthly art critiques and writing workshops, writes reviews of regional art exhibitions, and can often be found battling stage fright at local poetry & prose open mics. Jason is the Art Gallery Director for Relax, It’s Just Coffee and works for Main Street Books, a local independent book store.


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