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Christopher Luna performs with Tyler Burba by Nathan Tompkins

Christopher Luna performs with Tyler Burba by Nathan Tompkins

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Gathered Round the Flicker, A Poem by Christopher Luna for the 80th Anniversary of the Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver, WA

 Gathered Round the Flicker
For the Kiggins Theatre’s 80th Anniversary

After the Thin Man. Absolute Quiet. Born to Dance. East Meets West. Follow the Fleet. Thirteen Hours By Air. Our Relations. It Had to Happen. Pennies from Heaven. Sea Spoilers. Showboat. Stowaway. Too Many Parents. The Moon’s Our Home. Where There’s a Will. Bullets or Ballots. Everything Is Thunder. Red River Valley. Empty Saddles. Border Fight. Silver Spurs. Ride ‘Em Cowboy. Go West, Young Man.

everything I know about life
I learned at the movies
how to love, how to
open my mind to new ideas
how devastating betrayal is
what integrity means

The Invisible Ray. The Walking Dead. The Phantom Rider. The Clutching Hand. Fury. Isle of Fury. Reefer Madness. Mysterious Crossing. Things to Come. Blood on Wolf Mountain. Devil Doll. Dracula’s Daughter. The Prisoner of Shark Island. 

like the audience
in Plato’s cave
we sit together
in a darkened room
and allow our greatest fears and fantasies
to overtake our senses

Three Smart Girls. These Three. Love Before Breakfast. Come and Get It. Freshman Love. Love on the Run. Anything Goes. Woman Alone. Flying Hostess. The Gorgeous Hussy. Don’t Get Personal. Private Number. Theodora Goes Wild. A Woman Rebels. Small Town Girl. Poor Little Rich Girl. The Luckiest Girl in the World. Wife vs. Secretary. Hearts Divided. Romeo & Juliet. Libeled Lady. Til We Meet Again. Forget Me Not.

gangsters, aliens, politics, sex
adventure and romance
writ larger than life
on an enormous glowing screen
together we become completely lost in a story
and forget our own story for a while

The Man I Marry. The Magnificent Brute. The Great Ziegfeld. The Bohemian Girl. The Man Who Could Work Miracles. The Man Who Changed His Mind. The General Died at Dawn. The Lower Depths. The Garden of Allah. The Story of Louis Pasteur. The High Command. The Singing Kid. The Desert Island. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. The Charge of the Light Brigade. The Vigilantes Are Coming. The Accused. The Accusing Finger. The Amazing Adventure. The Road to Glory. 

film images blend with memories
to become our history
our collective memory
these stories teach us how to
love, live, and forgive
to believe in ourselves
to follow our dreams

so many memories
connected to time spent
at the movies
relationships begun and ended
holding hands
frozen terrified
weeping inconsolably
synchronicity demonstrated
miracles made real

1936: Anthony Adverse. All American Chump. Cain and Mabel. Camille. Captain Calamity. Dimples. My Man Godfrey. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Flash Gordon. Charlie Chan at the Opera. Tarzan Escapes. Secret Agent. Sabotage. Whom the Gods Love. Men Are Not Gods.

watching Fantasia completely wasted
finishing half a pound of peanut M&Ms
out of sheer fear and anxiety during Aliens
being one of the only people to laugh during the decapitations in Sleepy Hollow
the blind date who fell asleep during the film
countless superhero bonding experiences with my son

seeing just how cruel we can be, and how heroic
realizing how important it is to remain on the path
being made fun of for crying during E.T.
crying together and clutching her hand

2016: Doctor Who. The Walking Dead. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Darling. The Golem. Back to the Future. The Hateful Eight. Theory of Obscurity. Room. The Invitation. Where to Invade Next. The Winding Stream. The Lord of the Rings. Love & Mercy.

life happens at the cinema
a complete imposition of another’s vision
upon the consciousness

after the best films we emerge into the sunlight transformed
and it takes a few moments to return to this world
and everything looks different
and the heart soars
and we know what must be done

Christopher Luna
Clark County Poet Laureate
April 24, 2016

Many thanks to Dan Wyatt for trusting me to commemorate this auspicious occasion, and for being a civic-minded businessman who frequently makes his landmark space available to the community. Support your local independently-owned movie house!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Infinite Number of Possibilities: Wendell Pierce at Wordstock 2015

I attended Wordstock for the first time on November 7. Although crowded and wet, it was a great experience. I'm not sure whether the venue has enough space for this event, but it looks like it will remain at the Portland Art Museum in 2016. 

One of the presenters I was looking forward to was Wendell Pierce. I enjoyed his work on The Wire and Treme. However, I was not prepared for how inspiring his talk would be. Pierce was there to promote his memoir, The Wind in the Reeds, which tells the story of a production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot put on by Pierce and others in Louisiana's Pontchartrain Park after Katrina. Pierce was raised in this area, and his parents were among those who lost everything in the hurricane. 

Pierce's conversation with OPB's Think Out Loud host Dave Miller focused on the power of art to change lives, and the role that artists play in society. Pierce felt that he had a responsibility to respond to the tragedy in some way, and he also felt obligated to rebuild his hometown. If you'd like to hear their conversation, visit: Wendell Pierce Talks About Acting, Art, and New Orleans

Pierce told us that he had learned that "there are those who do not have your best interests at heart," and warned us to "be aware that there are those who will try to strip you of your humanity." When he returned to Pontchartrain after the storm, what he found reminded him of "nuclear winter." His instinct was "to respond as an artist." Pierce made the point that art is both "practical" and "tangible."   
I was very moved by Pierce's talk. I was struck by how much of what he said matched statements that I make to my creative writing students and fellow writers who attend the Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic. Moments like these serve as reminders to stay on the path, and to continue to do The Work, no matter how many might try to dissuade you. 

After hearing him speak, and deliver a beautiful reading from the book, I wanted to buy a copy of his memoir. I headed upstairs to the book fair. The book was sold out before I reached the top of the stairs. Although I was disappointed, I was fortunate enough to run into Pierce in the men's room. I thanked him for inspiring me, and we had a short conversation about poetry. I told him that I worked with jazz musicians, and that I spent a lot of time talking to the writers in my community about art's usefulness, its many practical applications. He told me that he admired poets, and that he had been talking to his friend Yusef Komunyakaa about how the relationship between poets and their words resembled the jazz musician's approach to notes. Pierce pointed out that although we have a "finite number of words" at our disposal, there are an "infinite number of possibilities" that can be created with them. Later Pierce said that poetry is "sublime and beautiful, raw and painful, ugly, dangerous." 

Later that evening, after Wordstock had ended, Wendell Pierce hosted a screening of Les Blank's 1978 film Always for Pleasure at the Northwest Film Center. Blank's film documents New Orleans as Pierce remembers it, a New Orleans that no longer exists. Pierce introduced the film, and remained afterward for a conversation with local writer and filmmaker David Walker. (David was my editor when I freelanced for the film section of the Willamette Week. He has since moved on from that publication, but I have enjoyed his comic book update of Ernest Tidyman's Shaft.) I learned more about the effort that Pierce has put into rebuilding New Orleans and helping young people in Baltimore. 

Pierce talked about the greedy developers who do not care about rebuilding New Orleans, and who have made it very difficult for the poor folks in that city to retain their homes and their culture.
He told us that Bunk, the beloved character he played on David Simon's The Wire, was based on a  real detective. Pierce met the man, and though at first Pierce did not know how the real Bunk felt about the actor who was playing a version of him, he eventually received his blessing.       

I am so grateful to Wendell Pierce for his devotion to his art and for his generosity of spirit. I want to thank him for taking a few moments to talk to me, and for reminding me to continue believing in myself and The Work. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Before I was born, I already knew how to love" for Cathleen Luna

 Cathleen Luna and Christopher Luna
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Spring 1972

Before I was born, I already knew how to love. All the knowledge I needed had already been transferred from my mother to me, through her amniotic fluid. A love that could not be hindered by alcohol or neglect. A love that shines in spite of the terrible shit that mothers and fathers do to their children. My mother evidence that evolution exists, because it manifested itself in a single generation.
          What remains to be learned? Kindness, compassion, understanding. How to refrain from being an asshole. How to keep my mouth shut when impulse rather than intelligence drives my thought process.
          A nanosecond’s difference between nurturing or obliterating the one you love.
          An infinitude of choices.
          Fractions of seconds eternities in which to fuck it all up or get it right.
          The only constant is love.    
Christopher Luna

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New poem dedicated to my brother, Dan Luna, and my cousin, Christopher Washington

We All Share This Weight
In loving memory of Christopher Washington 
and in the hope that Dan Luna remains in good health

 Christopher Washington (RIP)

Every person
In every family
Is tied to every other
By the same thread
Of blood, joy, and sacrifice

No family escapes
Struggle, heartbreak, and loss
Each time our blood
Experiences infection, we are all infected
Commits a crime, we all bear the weight
Or is taken in a flash of viscera and steel
We share the sense of unfairness
In the suddenness of its finality

And while all this loss
Is as natural to us as breathing
We persist in our fight to protect each other
From its inevitability
In our hearts
We dress your wounds
Make amends
Forgive the unforgivable
Do the time
Remind each other to
Take caution
As we take to the road

May I dress your wounds
Take on your burden
Drive the car for awhile
I’d gladly put myself in your place
If it would help you escape the
Pain and death promised to us all   

Christopher Luna
September 2015
Dan and Christopher in Oregon
Summer 2014