The End of Out of the Past
(RKO Pictures, 1947)
“I never told you I was anything but what I am,” she says.
Black and white, the sunset behind Lake Tahoe looks spectacular.
She turns and goes upstairs, his chance to light a cigarette
and dial the operator. She slips the pistol into her briefcase,
gives the bathroom a cursory final glance. Moments later,
sitting on the couch, he hands her a shot of brandy.
“Thanks”, she says. “Por nada,” he answers, pouring one
for himself. She says she thinks they both deserve a break. “We deserve
each other,” he replies, and wings his glass into the empty fireplace.
She’s unperturbed, strictly business, already in Mexico.
His sleepy expression shows he knows exactly where they’re going.
Night has already covered most of the country. The airwaves
are vibrating with strains of “Sentimental Journey”, “Satin Doll”,
and “String of Pearls”. As they get into his Chevy station wagon,
I could be five and just waking up from another nightmare.
Half the world is lying in ruins.
It’s theme time! We’re doing a new series this week – poems about movies. Not poems that feature in movies, which tends to come up a lot, but poems that are based on / inspired by / describe specific films. Obviously this pretty much rules out anyone writing before the twentieth century, but we’ve got poems by Agha Shahid Ali, Adrienne Rich, John Berryman, Michael Ondaatje and Bob Hicok (among others) lined up. So enjoy. And if you have suggestions for poems we could include, e-mail us.
Today’s poem comes from Jonathan Aaron’s delightful collection Journey to the Lost City (Ausable Press, 2006). It isn’t a particularly stunning poem, but what I like about it is how accurately and vividly it captures the look and feel of the 1947 film, the black and white stillness of the action on screen joined to an atmosphere of growing frenzy, Bob Mitchum with his slow-motion good looks, Jane Greer in her perversely nurse-like outfit, looking poised and deadly (“You can’t make deals with a dead man”). In a way, Aaron’s poem has the same feel as the great noir classics – the sense of something flat and timeless and right, though when it comes right down to it you can’t put your finger on just what it is that makes it so memorable.
Oh, and in case you haven’t seen the scene he’s talking about, here it is (courtesy of YouTube)