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Drive-In Movie

ISSUE:  Spring 1998

Rebel Without a Cause, 1955

Row upon row, we paired in them,
machines inert as their junkyard futures.
Inside the silent cars, we didn’t touch—
an arm motionless across the seatback,
a silhouette of hair tipped slightly
toward the arm. In the dark
above us, a beam of light and dust
rushed particles of the story
through the air.

           Up there something
was beginning: his shoulders arranged
a cool and troubled slouch, her eyes
pooled sympathy and longing
and green as we were, we recognized
the moment a spark catches, arcs,
then tingles in nipples and groin. . .
so when they moved, we turned
from the screen to each other,
we didn’t watch, we thought we knew
what they were moving toward,
an explosion of such heat it would fuse
bodies, the ecstasy we fumbled for as,
during the complication—lost friends,
the lengthening, stalled afternoons—
we wrapped ourselves together, clothes
damp with expectation, mouths gasping
to breathe the other’s breath.

They never really kissed.
In the moment before the climax,
when we broke apart like dancers
unable to find each other’s rhythm,

what illumined the screen was not
the actors’ resolving embrace
but headlights, the long shot panning
to the cliff edge, and chassis glinting
in the darkness, under their hoods
the engines revving loudly,
hot metal impatient to be gone.


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