by Michael Blumenthal

It is good to have someone to sit beside
late at night, at the movies
when the lights have dimmed
and the previews are over
and you have pigged out over a large order of popcorn,
and the old woman who has lived unhappily
for twenty-one years with her failed son
and her miserable daughter-in-law takes off
to return to that beautiful small town
where she has always remembered herself
as perfectly happy, only to find
that her one friend, the town’s last citizen,
has died that very morning, and that when she returns
to the beautiful house that has remained unaltered
in the scrapbook of her wishfulness,
it is a mere ghost of what it once was,
the curtains rotted against the sashes,
the wood frame sagging like an old scarecrow,
the neighbors’ houses all abandoned
by death, ice storms, the vicissitudes
of profit; yes, it is good not to be alone
at times like these, when the woman
sitting beside you (who this very morning
seemed merely a burden) sends small sobs
wafting like pollen into the theater
and squeezes your hand, and says “It’s
so sad, this movie,” and you agree, yes,
it is very sad, this movie, and this life
in which so much we imagine as inalterable
will be taken from us, in which
there are so many towns where someone
will die, this very day, alone and unclaimed
by any of their loved ones (who have all left
to marry in another country or find their fortunes
in some greed-stricken Houston)
which is why it is good to be here,
even just tonight, in this dimly lit theater,
with a good woman and the scent of popcorn
and a wide bed you can climb into again together,
as if it were the town you originally came from
and you could always go back to it,
as if no one could ever die in the dark alone,
not even you.