Kicked out of the house for something
he must have said, a twice-divorced
movie actor leans against a light pole
on a dim street in a city where no one
has ever been and snubs out a cigarette.
Off camera but loud enough to hear,
the director asks his star a question,
the character’s motivation: By what evidence
do I know there exist other sentient creatures;
that the walking and speaking figures I see and hear,
have sensations and thoughts, possess minds?
It is the ol’ cowpoke Walter Brennan
and his best impersonation of John Stuart Mill.
The soundtrack crackles; the celluloid snaps.
The projectionist scowls in embarrassment.
My children squirm, wiggle in their seats,
try to make animal shadows on the screen –
just to prove something. A scholar fidgets
with his theory, looks around for a blackboard,
a lectern. Management offers free popcorn,
discount tickets for the weekend’s new release,
a happy ending. I would never have thought
of any of that. This must truly be real.
I bundle up the kids in coats and hurry home.
There’s something I should have said to her –
that she and I live together, although alone.