William Dubie: Closing The Moviehouse

Copyright © 1981 by William Dubie

For permission to reprint, contact William Dubie at william_dubie@uml.edu.

Moonrise Over City Trees
The Frost Garments
Cutting the Hemlock Spruce
A Colonial Graveyard Next to a Leather Factory
Closing the Moviehouse
The Night Driver
Trail Horses Grazing at Dusk
Two Horses
All Saint's Day
The Catfish
After the Ice Storm
Stories the Farmhand Told
The Burned Barn
Kuerner's Springhouse
The Image of Tomorrow as Seen through Smoked Glass
Late Snow on Condemned Cars

Moonrise Over City Trees
The world underbark has long been night.
Roots are a bareknuckled boxer's hands
                  in asphalt; now as in a negative
they are silvering. Knots turn
to diamond chips.
The amputated twig
is a trident of latten
that would spear trampling feet.
Tempests rush through distended limbs,
a tendrilous glowing
diffused on brickscape
where thrown crabapples cling.
And once when lovers passed
this arbor an owl laughed;
small birds sang.

The Frost Garments
Wind-creased they froze that way.
Our lines were the ribbed underbelly
of a neglected pet.
Against morning indigo, shirts
held their breath from our dream sleep.
Crucified with crude pinnings
they stiffened, rimed
in ragged entrails.
Our pants shriveled and seamed,
paraplegic in their pose.
Stilt-legs incised the air;
stuffed handkerchiefs bloomed
from backpockets like cold, folded roses.
Once more we took them down,
cuffs still-lifed and clamped
in rigor mortis. With cellar warmth
our clothes sagged again, the frumpy remnants
of what we had worn.
They held our sleep longer than we,
and grayer by hours
we tended them back to our mortals' motions.
Wrinkles released, our shirts unaged,
and we thawed, wringing the night from our sleeves.

Cutting the Hemlock Spruce
Sawmill floor unshaven, chips shoelace deep,
hardwood releases
the strength of everything
it holds. Sanding over knags
I feel the wounds soften, Beowulf
binding Grendel's hacked shoulder.
I dissect it, my eyes quadrupled
behind plastic; roughened fingers peel
the phloem away,
the cell-skin letting go, opening
to heartwood
and the bone that cannot bend.
Its rings trace the hardest winter
and most casual summer.
The bark saved for soil,
trim-ends untangle; slabs restrain
the seasons of my life,
now lost in edgings.

A Colonial Graveyard Next to a Leather Factory
Beyond the cemetery
sunset hangs in tiers on tilted windows.
Vents spit dyes on the dirt
that had driven deer in season, drays,
and the sodden hands of desperate farmers.
Hidden beer cans cluster
in unchecked weeds.
                                                       With the sun at angles
the headstones are oblique;
shadows double their image
so the ones buried,
bodiless, are without their callings,
their labors anonymous,
almost unworth
the face of ground.
                                                 After hours
the dry grass disentangles.
Moonlight blanches those Biblical names,
the markers grown hide-thin.
The same wind will dry their dust,
their epitaphs, to dry the hands
of sweatbacked men at their cutters,
their forearms weaker
                                                 than the driest blades.

Closing the Moviehouse
"Condemned" signs mask posters,
cosmetic webs on ticket-booth windows.
Velvet ropes coil about the arms
of the hardhats,

the gum-pocked chairs brought out
for auctioning.
to glimpse the screen in full day
we stand as close as we can,

adjust our vision to the light-dark.
Celluloid strips
come back to dimension;
ticket wheels unravel,
reeling our old silences into the street,

our dim, kept ambitions
clipped from frames.

this work goes on,
our own faces pale
in the absence of heroes.

The Night Driver
A blue light buzzes
with each burnt moth, snapping
the way a bartender unfolds
dollar bills. Cats sulk in
the lame grass, their mouths
whiskered even more. I exhale,
and smoke ties bows around the mirror.
Looking back, I see houses in half-light
like Halloween masks
dwindling into miniatures.
Shins of telephone poles stagger
into distances.
Abandoned cars have crept upon
one another, and rusted into uselessness.
The drone of wasps deafens the woods.
Mosquito-thick headlights
wash the road amber.
My skin is gray.
In my bones something sleeps.

Trail Horses Grazing at Dusk
Their backs hammock sunset,
and with imperial glances they look at
the uneaten grass, their nostrils
pinching the white air.

Bales are the piratical chests they covet.
Blinders gone, the trails hoofed down,
they shake their pulled-at manes
like dustmops.

They need no fences, even saddle-stripped.
Their haunches unflex in the weight of just themselves,
the marks from dulled spurs
still stinging a little.

But they know the time shadows lengthen,
and are judicial. They imagine
the stirrups corseting their ribs,
the bits between teeth,
then they let their shadows grow

with their silence.
As they eat,
carrying a belly or a backful,
they nuzzle the grass,
and need no fences.

Two Horses
they are along the snow line
where silence draws a whitened path,
the reins loosened
from the hands of sleeping men.

The dawn is symmetric in their eyes.
Their manes drip from them,
frozen to their last gallop.
Icebits cling like pollen
from the last storm.

Perhaps the fear of slaughter
has brought them here.
Barbed strands spike
in a quietus
of their coming.

Braced eight hands high
their tree stands stripped for switches.
Hooves crunch over
hardened circles; scarred shanks stumble
over buried habits,

over silence that swirls
through the leviathan elms.
Beyond, their stalls are empty.
They cannot falter,
not this time.

All Saints' Day
Chocolate wrappers lie among leaves
and cored apples.

Pushed up from the ground, stalks
lean impuissantly. Egg yolks

dry on car windows, pastelling
the new air. The stuffed men

on porch roofs belly over embryonically,
like the war dead, some decapitated,

their bruised rinds of skulls
battered like pumpkins.

Satan's mask hangs from a phone pole.
The wind embodies it.

The Catfish
wriggling in the marsh, the growth
dense as the bristles on a sloth's back,

it has nothing but its breadth
of body,
threatening the stammer of minnows
that rush anywhere
from its wake.

When you net one,
its countenance stares you down
on your own soil,

daring the dry air to subsume it,
its gills puffed, haughtily
dethroned. Still it resists,

and in your whole waterless domain
its visage stalks
one like you.

The Ghost
Moving through rooms filled with midnight
I wear my grandfather's robe.
Five years gone he sleeps shoeless, digging into himself,
sorting the dirt damp with let-go roots.
He left his fingers dangling from a thread of this robe,
his slippered wakefulness catching a cat by the scruff,
shuffling across unnailed floorboards;
then feverish throughout his flesh
he turned thin as handkerchiefs.
Tonight I smooth the frayed elbows and knot the rope
stretched loose from a settled waist.
vicariously we walk in the same skin,
the collar goitered from things left unsaid.
The housewalker sleeps with open eyes.

The waitress's hand seems Formica hard.
Erasures from her smile
crease her cheeks without expression.
Conversations run
like broken eggs. From the highway
smoke ushers in
a formless man, his closed lips
telling where he's been.
His blood becomes coffee
in heavy cups.
Tintinnabula lingers
in the ear
and in the bent prongs
of once-stolen forks.
In forgotten sunglasses
neon repeats itself in reverse.
Fingers pass
over initials etched forever
in some dented chrome.

After the Ice Storm
Trees without root; birches arch, crown to dirt,
Scratching hieroglyphs in the snow.
Shrubs ossify; their thickened twigs grit
At the sculpted smoke of branches.

Wires are down, suturing the lacquered stones.
Weighted with absence, clotheslines sag,
Stiffen. The sheets that canopied seedlings
Have shriveled into bruised pears.

All night I heard the splinter of unknown things.
The woods had whitened, shredding into disarray.
Morning cages the window. The suet left for
Grackles stays wrapped to a warped elm.
Deer, entering the field, will leave no prints,
Only hunger when they leave.

Stories the Farmhand Told
And one, this happened years ago, occurred
With five mares getting electrocuted.
Electrocuted! The milk truck severed
A low-hanging wire, a main line that fed
The house and barn. The sparks it sent up
Made the horses run, frightened, to the fence

(That was barbed), a conductor from the top
To fencepost, and they didn't have a chance.
We found them huddled and scorched, and their eyes
Stared at death the way, I suppose, ours would.
The silence is so loud when something dies,

And it never has come to any good.
Their manes were stiff as bristles, then the boys
Took them to be put away like toys.

The Burned Barn
Crows bend in the air
like stripped umbrellas.
Fireweed strands into
the forehead of the
clearing ground; acorns
that swelled over a
rainbarrel are the black
pearls that necklace
the lost calf.

Too quick to rot, an
axehandle has been
charred into the shin-
bone of anything that
couldn't leave itself.
Tilted slats are the
tobacco-black teeth
of drunken farmhands.
Their fingers claw at
the weakened boards,
almost anxious
for decay.

A cycle left wedged
in a beam is skinned
in new rust; it cracks
as a boot kicks at it.
Hinges creak louder.
The rickets of old things
make them snap at any sound.
The caught owl swings
pendulously, alive
in its silence and
dead in our hands.

Kuerner's Springhouse

after Wyeth at Kuerners
Pressed cider ages
in its vat.
The trees,
haven't yet
known their foliage.
Hoarfrost seeps
between slats,
the springhouse

like a smiling
one tooth,

its public road
stamped down
with crescent hoofs
and wheel ruts

into a season
that just begins
or ends.

The Image of Tomorrow as Seen through Smoked Glass
Once twilight
dwindles to a needle's eye
it catches the flower vase, opaque,
a sentinel
on the parlor's coffee table.

There's a smattering --
a constellation settled in the hard-cornered glass,
embering as though it kept camp
with cosmos --
Jupiter rising to a milkweed stem,
and then an eclipse:
a cat's tail passes and darkens

but brings with it
stirred dust
and a manifold moon, daguerreotyped,
quartered by translucence,

in its own phases clocking the protracted shadows
lengthened by a lowered shade,
with the universe contained.

Late Snow on Condemned Cars
Off the turnpike their burial grounds thicken.
Cracked windshields are webbed white,
and grills grin
with rabid iron. Disemboweled engines,
scavenged for parts, spurt frayed wires
draining the last of the anti-freeze.
Bald tires wreath the spaces
where skunks will curl in summer.
Convertibles have couched upon one another,
flat and identical,

while among burnt and rusted doors
a slashed seat sprouts grackles.

In my soapskinned mug the draught's head withers.
The ventilator belches forth no fumes,
and drunken jokes spear the cigar-ash air.
Filled ashtrays overflow
like mushroom gardens untended,
their heads toward some flickering light.

Through neon doors someone lets the night in;
it no longer stammers,
and among the fresh sawdust
overalls shuttle past
on thick-soled shoes.

In morning light
A moth floats lazily,
Doubling itself over pondwater.
Leafage splits the mossed-over surface
That moves slowly, unwinding
Like threads from a shawl.
Cocoons muscle the overhanging trees
That brush water,
Playing for the sun as it rises
>From the wren's nest
Adamantine with new eyes.
Along the outworn path frogs rest
Under shaded stones,
Their tongues licking at horseflies,
While light commands
Sound and searching, wind and comfort.
And in the thickest of woods
chainsaws hum like bees.

About the Author

William Dubie was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He has been a teacher, technical writer and editor, and college instructor. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in more than 100 small press, literary, and trade publications. Closing the Moviehouse was his first collection.


Grateful acknowledgment is given to the following magazines in which some of these poems first appeared:

Apple Tree Review, Blue Buildings, Bottomfish, A Different Drummer, Gargoyle, The Gramercy Review, North Shore, Old Hickory Review, The Poetry Miscellany, Song, Tendril, Wind/Literary Journal, and Yankee Magazine

Originally published by Wings Press, Rte. 2, Box 325, Belfast, ME 04915

ISBN# 0-939736-23-3

Also by William Dubie

The Birdhouse Cathedral, Connected Editions, 1991

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