Elizabeth Crowell

A filmstrip machine, an artifact
this dusty, stone-walled library
keeps in its vault,
and a cone of straight light
appears on a blank,
perfect square of screen,
and then the words, A SNOWY DAY,
(ah, Keats),
and then the click,
back at Watchung School, in 1970,
the librarian there so large,
her arms were an arm-rest
for the largest books,
and when she winked,
the mysterious giant island of a mole
on her eyelid
would wink too.
This musty picture has the sense
of being absolutely fresh,
the way we made those snowflakes,
folded paper, whiter than snow,
the cut of our dull scissors,
fresher than the cut of air and sky.
I have gone nowhere
in those forty years since,
waiting again for an arm
to hold each story straight
and to really know,
the way this ancient machine,
knows automatically,  
just how many words it takes
to tell the picture right,
before the moving on, the click,
to the exact, next frame.
Even the words THE END
don’t last long
as we all hold hands with strangers,
singing, We’re so glad we got together
before we put on our coats,
go out into the bluish dusk,
to home.

Author's Commentary: I was amazed at my child's story hour in the local library to see the old-fashioned film projector still in use. As a child, I was mesmerized by the click of the machine in the exact time to the story.

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Born in NJ, Elizabeth Crowell taught high school English for many years. She has an MFA from Columbia University in poetry.