Larry J. Knight, Jr.

Rookie (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

Hollywood - Poem by Larry J. Knight, Jr.

My father and I sat silently in the shadows of a movie house;
eager to see images of celluloid fantasy
stretched across the screen,
I waited in anticipation with childish impatience
brought to life by the wonder of my ten year old imagination
that moved between reality and the world of illusion;
it then occurred to me, my father, proudly glancing down at me,
his eyes fixated on a child's smile,
hardly knew the feeling of seeing
a proud black face on a silver screen;

The curtain drew open,
my chest grew tight,
eyes tried to focus,
the sound of the projector's inner mechanisms
began in the darkness overhead,
light from the lens shot a streak across pitch black,
sliced through the emptiness and illuminated the screen
that spanned the wall in the distance,
music erupted from the speakers to the left and right of us,
its triumphant sound heralded the start of the picture,
and suddenly, the world around us, the people,
the theater, everything...disappeared,
but the images of the picture
were crisp, sharp and in focus,
each shape crystal clear;

We saw vast fields,
stretching as far as the eye could make out,
filled with tanned black husks
swaying in the afternoon sun,
hunched over, backs bent like arches,
fingers blistered,
sweat tracing lines across brows,
Hollywood was a plantation,
silver haired servants poured oceans of lemonade on porches,
buxom, bug-eyed mammys
pulled tightly on yards of corset strings,
barefoot children gulped mountains of watermelon
while a fiddler, picked at strings made from ropes
pulled from hanging trees,
I closed my eyes
images seared through,
imprints formed perfectly
moving us through time;

We could see the toothy grin of chauffeurs
holding doors open for blue haired socialites,
their hands callused and sore from clutching the wheel,
their faces melancholy,
stretched from self-inflicted over exaggerated smiling,
my father and I sat,
our muscles atrophied,
the scenes changed at random,
but the faces remained the same,
We saw the expanse of an African coastline appear,
its blue water and golden sand drew comfort,
the lush foliage, green and full of life
consoled me,
moved through the dense canopy of forest,
into villages,
hovered above straw and mud huts,
black faces gazed skyward,
saw uncivilized men and women
standing amidst what seemed like a forest of spears
held tight in their fists,
bathed in their unintelligible utterances,
all while the settlers from the Western world
stand like gods among them,
navigate through the native land with ease,
speak to animals, take life indiscriminately;

Time lurched forward again
we saw stately vaudeville theaters,
palaces of decadence,
their halls filled with smoke and sweat,
the pronounced smell of burnt cork wafted through
as a rakish duo of dancers
scattered across a stage in blackface,
their clownish mannerisms cut through the deepest part of me,
their imitation, brutal,
an ill-conceived mocking
of what they perceived was the best parts of a culture
and then suddenly, they were gone,
lost in a blinding flash of light,

We moved into great urban cities,
saw sky scrapers that rose from earth,
their glass and steel frames gleamed,
and in the distance
clad in black leather and anger,
the brother,
ready to seize the world,
burn it to the ground,
around him an army of black,
their fists stretched to the sky,
their eyes filled with malcontent,
I bathed myself in their rebellion,
time wouldn't stop,
the images wouldn't cease,

We conjured the future,
saw new images of Hollywood
where old school stereotypes morphed
into new school ticket sellers,
and new school blacks
became images stretched across a screen
trying hard to escape their past,
more akin to it than they really know;
my father and I sat there,
the screen grew black,
darkness faded to light,
the images lingered,
my heart moved by the presence of truth
felt the sting of unprejudiced reality
which somehow said, in no uncertain terms,
with a certain casualness,
that it is art which truly imitates…life.

Copyright 2005 Larry J. Knight, Jr.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, March 24, 2006

Poem Edited: Thursday, July 8, 2010


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