In the black-and-white film
they play a waltz to the tune
of camera flash. The ladies
in the sparkling gowns flit
and twirl on the dance floor,
onlookers chirring, standing and
swaying like butterflies in the wind.

The charmer works his magic
with a smile and a wink.
The musicians strike a polka,
the air heavy with drink
and heavy tongue and loving.


In the hot room the fan
spins air off its blades.
The dog sleeps in the spot
beneath the window. The cat
sleeps upon the sill. Discontent


In an office a German offers
a Jew a drink and a fortune
and wheels and deals in pots
and pans. Not good at work,
he says, puffing on a cigarette. 
Big Brother is coming. He knows,
he knows. 


And men are black-market trading
in chapels on ivory floors beneath
stained glass windows, at mass,
at prayer, instead of in fetid alleys
or dim backstreets and abandoned
parking lots. In the streets they make
an exodus, abandoned people
walking west and east.


In the hot room the dog begins to stir.
The cat raises her head and
stretches out a paw. Out in the
streets a stream of marchers
move along but seem to freeze
and stand in place. The camera flash
and muted flare and smell of smoke
and staccato breath of gunfire
fill the air.


In the city, in the streets,
the lion sleeps. Then stirs.
But sleeps. 

a pile of shoes
a train track leading into a camp

Poet’s Notes

“Atmospheres” is my second attempt at a longer, more interconnected poem. The first poem of this nature I wrote was the longer “Quartet,” which you should check out if you enjoyed this one. All the same, I find this style of poetry a bit less approachable. 

This poem draws inspiration from a famous film. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll likely be able to pick out the references I’ve made. If you’ve not seen the film, and have no idea what I’m referencing, feel free to ask me @VoyageoftheMind on Twitter or email me to find out. I don’t want to say it outright because I want to leave the nuance as it is, but if you have no idea, please don’t hesitate to ask! 

And please tell me in the comments what you thought about “Atmospheres.” 

Thank you for reading!

a pile of stones

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