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David Trinidad

From a Poem in Progress

What a stroke of pink luck that What a Way to Go! should come out on DVD while
      I am writing
this. A movie I first saw the year it was released (1964) and which had a monu-
      mental effect
on my young mind. How to capture that sense of rapture? I'm eleven. I'm
      sitting with
a group of neighborhood boys at the Northridge Theater, down in front, beneath
      that massive
Cinemascope screen. A couple of our mothers sit a few rows back. Shirley
(wearing a black bikini) walks into a completely pink universe: pink swimming
      pool, pink
patio furniture, pink Grecian statues, pink plants and trees. In the next scene,
      MacLaine emerges
from a pink limousine wearing nothing but pink: pink slinky gown, pink floor-
      length mink,
pink earrings, purse, shoes, gloves. Most astonishing of all: her towering pink
      wig. I've written
about this elsewhere: upswept "swirls of cotton-candy-like pink hair." Pity, if
      you will, this
budding homosexual, this strange child ensconced in the dark in the suburbs of
      Los Angeles
the year after JFK was assassinated, transfixed by such pinkness. Did he share
      his pink epiphany
with the other boys? with his mother? Or did he secret it away, let it dominate
      his overactive
imagination like so many of his interests—Barbie paramount among them—un-
      acceptable in
a boy. I remember that What a Way to Go! was on a double bill with That Man
      From Rio
but don't remember how (or if) I responded to Jean-Paul Belmondo's homely
      good looks.
The Beatles (already a sensation: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" topped the Bill-
charts in
February '64) would soon clue me in: contrary to popular sentiment, I thought
      Ringo was
the sexy one. Later: Sonny Bono and Bekim Fehmiu (of The Adventurers) turned
      me on.
I believe I saw a photograph of the latter wearing a skimpy black bathing suit, in
      a magazine.
What would I have done without Playboy's "History of Sex in the Cinema" pic-
And one in particular: July, 1968. I turned fifteen that summer, was masturbat-
furtively, whenever I could. There was a photo in the spread that I couldn't get
      enough of:
two guys, one blond and one dark, naked except for fig leafs covering their
talking to a naked woman (who resembled Natalie Wood). The way the darkly
man looks down at the woman—intently, licentiously—drove me wild. As did
      the fact that
his fig leaf fails to cover, completely, the pouch that holds his crotch. As did the
that whatever he wanted to do to the woman would involve the more feminine
      blond man.
A few pages later: a rape scene from a sword and sandal epic: two soldiers
a maiden down—its attraction always confusing. Next to it: Keir Dullea and
      Rossana Podestà
embracing, wet and naked. Dullea's expression undid me: half-closed eyes and
      parted lips:
ecstatically surrendered to desire, as if stoned. I've been haunted by his beauty
      ever since.

Did I mention the pink plastic DVD case? An all-pink Shirley MacLaine adorns
both the cover and the DVD. The whole pink package designed by some queen,
      no doubt.
Was it obvious I was looking at, rather than recalling from memory, that Playboy
In our travels, Ira and I scoured flea markets and antique malls: he for modern
and retro household items, I for bits and pieces of the past. I picked up a few
of the slick men's magazine along the way. (Its centerfolds—what most boys
      couldn't wait
to open wide—still terrify to some extent.) And picked up all manner of movie
including stills, lobby cards, and posters from What a Way to Go! Why shouldn't
      I try
to possess that pink world? Or each miniature piece of Barbie's vast, highly
universe? Or every Yardley Slicker I can win on ebay? Pocketa-pocketa. (Attach-
      ment, as I
once discussed with Ann Lauterbach, is a powerful thing. We were walking
Rutgers campus at sunset, on the way to her reading. The sky was shot with
of hot, almost phosphorescent pink. When we stopped to admire it, I said:
really putting on a show for us.") And why shouldn't I also extol the dark side
      of attachment,
to all that horrified or traumatized? Like movies that scared the hell out of me
when I was a child. The first—I don't know the title—involved an underwater
A fifties black-and-white sci-fi flick? Futuristic submarines? A man tries to swim
through a circular passageway, but it contracts, closes and traps him, and he
I remember the horror of it, how I gasped in identification, couldn't breathe. My
were out for the evening. Mrs. Snyder, from around the block, was babysitting.
She used to let us stay up later than usual and watch movies on TV; we'd make
root beer floats and Jiffy Pop. In fact, the contracting circular passageway in the
resembled a flat silver Jiffy Pop pan, how it pinwheels toward the center. Are
my memories commingling? Then came Invaders from Mars, with its eerie music
and the sandpit behind the little boy's house that kept swallowing the towns-
they returned zombie-like, a strange implant in the base of their necks. I saw it at
      a revival house
in San Francisco in the mid-seventies and was surprised by how silly it was; it
haunted me so. The murder raid in The Searchers also stayed with me: a pioneer
massacred by marauding Comanches. I watched it two or three times in a row
      one Saturday
at my friend Mark's house, on his portable black-and-white TV. "Million Dollar
      Movie": Channel 9
would run the same film all weekend—an obsessive's dream in those pre-VHS
      days. Was amazed
years later to discover that Lucy, one of the daughters captured by the Indians,
      is murdered
offscreen. I could have sworn there was such a scene, so vividly had I imagined
      it. Was also
amazed to learn that The Searchers is in color: it had for so long been black-and-
      white in my mind.

Then came Queen of Outer Space: beneath her elaborate mask (gold, glittery, with
      swirly antennae) hideous pink,
red, and black radiation burns. Then The Hypnotic Eye: beautiful women, in a
disfigure themselves: one, shampooing her hair at her kitchen stove, sets herself
      on fire;
another washes her face with acid. Then Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons: George
Sanders disposing of a woman's body on a dark train track, burning other
in his fireplace—the telltale smoke billowing from his chimney late at night.
Then Blackbeard, the Pirate: buried up to his neck on a beach, he drowns as the
      tide comes in.
Other indelible scenes from a childhood spent watching, on TV and at matinees,
      as many movies as possible:
Tom and Becky Thatcher lost in the caves in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; a
      woman stoned to death
in Barabbas, Anthony Quinn condemned to the sulfur mines in the same movie;
      Ben-Hur's mother and sister
cowering in the shadows of a leaf-littered courtyard, lepers in rags; Brandon De
      Wilde rescuing
Carol Lynley from the abortionist at the end of Blue Denim; Inger Stevens and
      Don Murray shot
(not really, it turns out) at the end of The Borgia Stick; the woman's disembodied
      talking head
in The Brain That Wouldn't Die; the pilot bisected by an airplane propeller in
Lee Remick harassed by a psychopath in Experiment in Terror; a skeleton
Vincent Price's wife into a vat of acid in House on Haunted Hill; a blood-splattered
      kitchen in
The House on Greenapple Road; a dead body in a car trunk in The Lady in the Car
Glasses and a Gun
; a mother and child engulfed in molten lava in The Last Days of
the rape in Last Summer; Dorothy Malone trapped on a sinking ship in The Last
Robert Stack frantically trying to free her; the cruelty (to Shirley Temple) of
      Miss Minchin
in The Little Princess; Jill St. John attacked by man-eating vines, a native girl
through a giant spider web tunnel in The Lost World; the rape in Rider on the Rain;
Rock Hudson gagged and screaming, being wheeled to extinction at the end of
the dismemberment of Sebastian Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer; the haunted
in 13 Ghosts; Rod Taylor saving Yvette Mimieux from drowning and from the
blue-skinned, subterranean mutants in The Time Machine; Diana Barrymore
Malone) self-destructing in Too Much, Too Soon; the deaths—by runaway wagon,
by Indians, by flash flood—in Westward the Women; Irene Papas murdered by
      angry villagers
in Zorba the Greek. In one movie, or maybe it was a TV show, a stewardess
      sucked out
of an airplane. How ill the thought of such a fate made me feel. It felt real. Still,
I had a desperate desire to see, to know about murder and death and destruction.
I begged my mother to let me watch Children of the Damned (kids with telepathic
and glowing eyes!), but she refused. Why she let me see The Nanny, with
murderous Bette Davis, is a mystery; she must have thought it was a sweet little
      story about
a children's nurse. The few times my father took me to the movies, it was to
      epics like
Lawrence of Arabia and Cleopatra. Both bored me to tears. Too young to
Liz's bad acting and heavy makeup, I sat waiting, waiting for her to be bitten by
      the asp.

Poet's Biography:
author photo
Photo credit:
© Nick Carbó
David Trinidad's last two books, Phoebe 2002: An Essay in Verse and Plasticville, were published by Turtle Point Press. He teaches poetry at Columbia College in Chicago, where he directs the graduate poetry program and co-edits the journal Court Green.

© 1999 - 2005, by the poets featured herein.