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Short poem

Phyllis Gotlieb (1926-)

Seventh Seal

              1Gauntface or madshadow tell
              2me what the world is? I know
              3years at the Sat. Mat.
              4Injuns come
              5                       triggerspring
              7                       The tears of Kings
              8are glycerine. With salt I
              9salute them.
            10                       The curly shirlies
            11taught us the innocent bit
            12Stars in the screenlit
            13eyes flickered, wanderers
            14rode westering, broad as a
            15barndoor and dumb
            16with virtue;
            17                       oh, how we watched
            18horsekiss the cassidy come
            19to THE (sunset) END till they
            20forced us unhatched
            21pupas into the white
            22bitter late Saturday light.


1] Seventh Seal: Ingmar Bergman's Det Sjunde inseglet (1957), released in English a year later, depicts the last days of a medieval knight, Antonius Block (played by Max von Sydow), intensely occupied with questions of existence as he plays a game of chess with Death that, if lost, will mean his immediate death.

3] Sat. Mat.: the Saturday matinee or afternoon showing. aft in the Loges, I learned aft: in the back. the Loges: the front section of the balcony.

4] Injuns: slangy word for North American native peoples in American western movies.

5] triggerspring: the spring exerting pressure on the trigger of a gun as it is being pulled.

8] glycerine: glycerol, a sweet thickish alcohol. salt: genuine human tears are salty, like the sea.

10] curly shirlies: early child film stars like Shirley Jane Temple (1928-), a box-office hit from 1935 to 1938, famous for her golden locks, but later in life a working diplomat at the State Department, the United Nations, and abroad.

18] William Boyd played Hopalong Cassidy, a western hero, with his horse Topper in over 65 movies between 1935 and 1948, based on the novels by Clarence E. Mulford. He eschewed violence and did not affront little boys by kissing girls on-screen. Perhaps there is a play on the Hotchkiss guns, really canons, used to kill Indians in the conquest of the west.

21] pupas: cocoon stage of development between the larva and the fully-formed insect.

22] An experience that, as a child, I remember as disorienting and harsh.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Copyright Red Blood Black Ink White Paper 2002 Exile Editions
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Phyllis Gotlieb, Red Blood, Black Ink, White Paper: new and selected poems, 1961-2001 (Toronto: Exile Editions, 2002): 34. PS 8513.O77R33 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1964
Publication date note: Within the Zodiac (1964).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/1/11

Rhyme: mainly unrhyming

Other poems by Phyllis Gotlieb