Saturday Poem / The Popcorn Eaters

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At the Regent Square Theater, the dark walls reek of mildew, urine
and the sour ghosts of actors long gone. Rancid oils ooze from stale, decades old
and newly heated popcorn, sounding the loudest note of the smellscape.

The camera has fallen in love with the images projected above the proscenium.
It studies them, fondles them, reluctantly releasing each scene in turn.
A house. A tree. Somewhere in Russia. Silence.
A crow caws in a Slavic dialect. Silence again.

Shattering noise.
A bag crackles, teeth bear down on popcorn. Chewing, swallowing. The next kernel.
Quiet! I call out. I return to the screen, now unable to concentrate, and wait for the next crackle. For the next crunch. I'm not disappointed. It comes again. And again. Quiet! Please be quiet! I say to the boor. He ignores me and revels in his power.

Another pest, moved to action by my cries, and remembering that he too has bought popcorn, starts eating from his bag. Chews spitefully.
Loudly. Maniacally. Menacingly. Quiet! Quiet! I call out.
My voice, strident and commanding, surprises me.
Shocks me even. I look around. No one says a word. The actors are oblivious.
Not a single person in the audience takes up my cause. Our cause.
They sit motionless. Turned to stone.

Quiet! I scream. Quiet!
With that, the person on my right, finger to her lips, shusshes me; so does the person on my left. One by one, a resounding sibilant shussh is heard throughout the theater. All heads turn around and stare at me. At me! Silence! someone calls from several rows down. A bald man, his paunch resting against the seat in front of him, stands up and shouts: Leave the theater! Everyone takes up his cry, Leave! Leave! They go into the aisles and march towards me.

Just when I think there's no end to the disturbance, and even that my life might be in danger, the driving music of Philip Glass begins. It begins again. And then, it begins again. And again. And yet again. It grows louder and, in cahoots with me, drowns out all noise. Succumbing to its insistence, everyone resumes their seats to watch the film.


Judith Dorian, a musicologist, for over a decade was co-author of the PSO Program Notes with Frederick Dorian, her late husband, with whom she also wrote essays on music and liner notes for Marlboro recordings. She has lectured frequently and taught at the University of Pittsburgh. Her poetry has been published in journals and narrated with musical accompaniment at Mellon Institute and the Bedford Springs Summer Festival. Last year, Ms. Dorian published a book of children's poetry entitled "A Tiny Little Door."


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