A Single Night in the City of Gold by Debora Greger


A Single Night in the City of Gold
by Debora Greger

In the lost city of gold that was Oroville,
the golden age had come and gone.
I was the only person in the vast movie house.
What was showing that winter night
thirty years ago? The Gold Rush, of course,
as if it had arrived in 1925 and never left.

Gilt dripped from the ceiling.
Stains mapped their worthless claims.
And there I was, still in that cheap coat
the color of slush. Who was beside me?
Not you, Love; you were on the other side
of the country, so it was the cold

that threw an icy arm around my shoulders.
A heater coughed, not meaning to intrude.
The projector rattled to life and, down a mineshaft
of dusty light, a blizzard swirled
toward the blank screen of my past.
O silent film of my life, unwind!

It wasn’t the wind but the silence that howled,
ecstatic in the emptiness at the heart of the West.
But Chaplin had a mystic’s hunger
for the finer things: he boiled his boot.
He wound a shoelace on a fork.
He tasted shame for me, and found it sweet.

IMAGE: Theatrical poster for The Gold Rush, a 1925 film starring Charlie Chaplin. 

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