Saturday Afternoon at The Midland Theatre in Newark, Ohio
By Roy Bentley
Slouched in a theater seat and watching Bullitt for the third time, a look I
get from an usher might best be described as granting a general amnesty
and full pardon for my having shelled out only the one admission price.
There’s the balcony with its blue and red curved seat backs. By a door to the
upstairs men’s room a framed likeness of the Civil War drummer boy, Johnny
Clem, whose baby-faced looks and sudden-dark hair remind me of a young
Italian, then Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause. There’s that angels-in-the-
architecture grand gesture of a ceiling, the wall of drapes of eloquently
pleated purple. And there’s the screen framed in its filigree of gold and silver.
The usher is accommodating me by simply not noticing—I’m on my third
popcorn, third enormous Coca-Cola, second box of Milk Duds, when I realize
I’m happy. Elated. In Ohio at fourteen you’re disappointed most of the
time. So I want to tell Frank Bullitt just how it feels to be from Dayton and
new here, a fat-kid eighth grader at Fulton Middle School. But then, Steve
McQueen is French-kissing Jacqueline Bisset good-morning. Strapping on
a shoulder holster and .38 pistol. Now he’s stopped at the corner of Clay and
Taylor, searching the pockets of his trench coat/suit coat for change. I’ve loved
that look all afternoon. The usher reacts as if that says it, that fuck-the-world
expression of Frank Bullitt as he gives up and bangs the cover and steals a
newspaper. Turns out, 1968 isn’t for the faint of heart. You need a Mustang
GT 390. Ice water for a blood type. A tolerance for the visages of the dead
you made dead, slaughtering out of that old American purity of motive
that dissolves into a communion of terrific car chases wherein thunderous
algorithms of horsepower rule.
This poem first appeared in The Southern Review
About the Author: Roy Bentley has published five books of poems, including Walking with Eve in the Loved City, which was selected as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and is available from the University of Arkansas Press or at Amazon. Bentley’s poems have appeared in Able Muse, Rattle, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council.