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Prairie Schooner 79.4 (2005) 49-51

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Untitled Film Still #48, and: Hell, and: Cell (Three Marble Spheres)

Untitled Film Still #48

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills #48, 1979, black and white photograph
The story is written, the text beckons
From the slip of a girl. From the girlie
Plaid skirt, the virginal blouse with its wrap-
A-back yoke and wrap around collar.
Remember. What a word. Loosed lifeline
The fingers fold over. The valise leans
Against the cold. The waiting for the what
Will happen. The next. Wonderful
Awful. The blonde hair which means
White emulsion, negative black, acetate over
And over reeling in a chemical bath.
The story keeps on being
Written. A woman is waiting. The act will happen
Eventually. The hair will be white
Or else ash blond forever on a wall to be read
As an empty vessel is read,
It says, I am empty. I am waiting to be
So many stories, each the same as the other
One you told yesterday. We sat and watched [End Page 49]
And watched the story in italics and bold
In a blue-walled room
Where the film projector light formed a bridge,
One wall to another.
Glass-framed faces, the illuminated teeming
Mass of open eyes that were painstakingly practicing
Insect night-sight.
We watched and watched until we became her
And we waited for the bad to be all there was.
We watched so long we were her
And the awful eventually asked us, using its pathetic
unsound vocal cords (deceitful as thin ice
that looks slick like thick), Now are you ready
to have us. Now are you ready to have us


Jerome van Aken, also known as Hieronymus Bosch, Hell, right triptych wing of the three-part altarpiece, The Garden of Earthly Delights, c.1504, oil on wood panel
He took me to the movies and bought me a box
Of Jujubes. Afterward we did something
Humorless and reckless on a rented bed. Later, I had
A headache. After something like a lifetime, a murder
Of craven angels appeared
Dressed as crows, small heads and wing spans
That formed a straightedge measuring
Here and distinguishing it, in the small ways it could be,
From the there over there. Where
Men covered the world and dark came [End Page 50]
Down, blanketing and blanking out the certain sun and the sadder
Words like sorry and Monday and Mickey and Monkey
Will come again were never said again. Sing
A song of sixpence. These birds eat and eat. Everything.

Cell (Three Marble Spheres)

Louise Bourgeois, Cell (Three White Marble Spheres), 1993, glass, steel, marble, and mirror
Here it is, the box
We live in. The circular mirror
We look in. The crazy face
Of the day looking back with its blank
Brazen sky-high stare. The closed eye
Of the night looking in
On a dream where a storm is battering the blinds.
A boy of four comes and crawls into bed. This is an example
Of where the door of life is left open for a moment.
Time tumbles in
Its cylinder thimble,
Hour after innocent hour
And then it's morning again.
Some glass is for looking through,
Some is for seeing
Back. Every outline is a cage
One way or another. We stood here once so
We are what was
Contained in it.
Mary Jo Bang is the author of three books of poetry and a book of ekphrastic poems, The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (Grove P).



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