4:30 Movie

"4:30 Movie" is the newest collection from poet Donna Masini. Released May 29th by W. W. Norton, we're thrilled to offer you this preview. In poems that are by turns intimate and wild, provocative and tender, award-winning poet Donna Masini explores personal loss, global violence, and the consolations of art. She brings her wit, grief, fury, and propulsive energy to bear on the preoccupations of our daily lives and our attempts to bargain with endings of every kind. Equal parts lament and praise, 4:30 Movie is fueled by despair and humor, governed by the ways in which movies enter our imaginations and frame our experiences. The movie theater becomes a presiding metaphor: part waiting room, part childhood, part underground depths where the self is a bit player, riding the subway with “its engine of extras.” Masini’s exquisite word play shows the mind wrestling ferociously to forestall grief, as if finding the right words might somehow allow us to extend our beautiful foreshortened run.

The Lights Go Down at the Angelika

and you press into the dark, imagine
the stranger two rows back, that fragile
chance you’ll forget in the second trailer.

Now it’s quiet, still
this burden of being watcher and screen
and what floats across it—light pouring out

its time and necklines and train wrecks.
What a relief to yield to the EXIT
sign red “I” blinking like a candle.

Soon the enormous figures moving
across rooms, the emphatic narrative
arcs. (There’s the thrum of the subway,

its engine of extras.) Here now
the beginning of trivia tests. Warning puppets
with brown bag faces and fringy hair.

You’re almost here. But what you want
is the after. How yourself you are now
walking into the night, full moon over Houston Street,

at the bright fruit stand touching the yellow
mums. Here you are: Woman With Cilantro
listening to the rattle of the wrap,

the paper sound paper makes after you
have heard movie paper. Apples are more apples.
Paper more paper. Cilantro, its sweaty green self.

Waiting Room

My sister's inside in a green gown
and I'm here twisting dread into origami
tissues, riot mind ticking wrong wrong.
Is this what's been waiting
all along? All of us carried off on a train,
pressed to a window, charting the crazy migration
of cells, disaster oaring
steadily after us like Magi
to the babe. And time, grim monitor,
screening each of us in our green toga.
One day you're drinking your first martini,
a minute later you're roaming
some hospital wing. (Why call it a wing?
Why say origami when it's a useless rag?)
Now none of it matters. My iron
will, impeccable timing.
I think of a far-off war-torn town
hiding my sister in her twin gown.

"Gone Girl"

What twist of puppet-strung manipulations gone
wrong, what jerked-up dumb show, know-nothing, nothing

but strings jerking on strings, unloved, over-governed, outline plotted
dolls hog-tied to other dolls, stringing them along, egging them on,

what short-order mannequins and blood-drenched negligees.
Want to know what's gone? My sister's dead. That's gone.

And this jerry-rigged pretender no more heart
than a seven-year ball of rubber bands is a soul.

What is prayer but a rigged-up jerking doll hefting
its measly petitions—don't let her die, don't let her die—heaving over

and over our over-willed stillborn over-determined begging.
When it's over and the nauseous credits roll what's gone

is time. Gone the girl praying to the puppeteer. That girl
strung out on prayer. She's gone.

A Fable

Driving into the heart of night we arrive at the part
of the movie where I start tap-dancing, tap-tapping
across a tin sheet, a sort of surfing airborne pan

listing side to side, and me, tilting to
balance, announcing I am Esther Williams.
All is blue, salty with prayer and incantation,

all dazzling aristocratic hands. But it wasn't the heart
of night. There was no heart. It was true
about the tilting, but the moving not a movie at all,

just the usual drivel and sludge, and never having seen
Esther Williams, in truth I'd only conjured
a wet black forties one-piece and rubber bathing cap.

Oh what's the use. It's grief's freeze-frame churchyard
with its fresh cut dirge, its pretend heaven. Watch me
driving myself down this winding country road, top down,

one hand on the wheel, the other grabbing back my thick blond hair
like some Monica Vitti whose leopard kerchief the wind sucked off
long ago. Hours? Decades? Now, wanting a bit of chachacha,

she flips the radio dial loosing a grassy static,
a spasmodic numbing hive-buzz of stumbling bees.
She flips it off. She'll be drifting in that static soon enough

with her ballet flats and tin rigor mortis. Allora! In bocca al lupo
cries a child's nightlight, while night releases its indifferent stars.

Mind Screen

It’s a kind of crime scene,
as if the mind were a dime
novel, a scrim of need and semen,
all cinder and siren, a dim
prison where the miser dines
on rinds of desire, and the sinner,
sincere as denim, repeats Eden’s
demise—that luckless toss of dice.
Yet here at the rim of this demesne
a mitigating mise-en-scène:
a close-up of her mother stirring rice,
a glass of sparkling cider, a mince
pie spliced in—not to rescind or mend:
what mind denies mercies mine in the end.