by: Karle Wilson Baker (1878-1960)

      HE sits with eyes intent upon the screen,
      A quiet woman with work-hardened hands.
      Beside her squirms an eager, shock-head boy;
      Upon her lap a little rumpled girl
      With petalled cheek and bright, play-roughened hair;
      While, bulwark of the little family group,
      Her husband looms, with one unconscious arm
      Lying along her chair-back. So they come
      Often, and for a few cents, more or less,
      Slip through the wicket-gate of wonderment
      That bounds the beaten paths of everyday.
      The Indians and the horses thrill the boy
      With dreams of great adventure; the big man
      Likes the great bridges, and the curious lore
      Of alien folk in other lands; the child
      Laughs at the funny way the people die.
      And she?
      The way the hero's overcoat
      Sets to his shoulders; or a lock of hair
      Tossed back impatiently; or else a smile,
      A visible sigh, an eyebrow lifted, so,--
      They touch strange, buried, dispossessed old dreams.
      And while her hand plays with the baby's curls
      Unthinking, once again she sees the face
      That swayed her youth as ocean tides are swayed
      Until she broke her heart to save her soul . . .
      And fled back to her native town . . . and left
      In the gray canyons of the city streets
      All the high hopes of youth. . . .
      She has picked up
      Her life since then, and made a goodly thing
      Out of the fragments; that is written plain
      Upon the simple page for all to see.
      I fancy that she hardly thinks of him
      Through all her wholesome days; but when, at night
      They go a-voyaging across the screen,
      And suddenly a street-lamp throws a gleam
      On a wet pavement . . . and a man sits alone
      On a park bench . . . or else goes swinging past
      With that expression to his overcoat. . . .
      She does not pick this player-man, or that,
      But all the heroes have some trick of his. . . .

"At the Picture Show" is reprinted from Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916. Ed. William Stanley Braithwaite. New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1916.



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