our big day at the movies

it was during the depression and the Saturday
matinee was for children and we stood in
long lines a good hour before the show
there was always double feature but one of
them was an adult movie which they
featured first and then we got to see our
Buck Rogers space movie.

the movie houses in those days were huge
and clean with high curved ceilings and
large fancy columns and the seats were big
and soft and the rugs in the aisles were red
and soft and thick and there was an usher
with a flashlight and we sat with jawbreaker
candy in our mouths and watched.

the adult movie was always pure agony and
at the time there were many movies made of
a certain dancing couple, we saw movie after
movie of them dancing for hours, it was really
awful, headache bad.
he had on shiny black shoes and a coat
with long tails, the coattails flew and leaped
about as he pranced and tap danced, often
leaping up on tables or dancing along the
edge of a balcony wall far above the city
and he had this little pleased smile upon his
face, and she danced too, the blonde with
the long hair, she followed him about and
now and then he whirled her through the
air and she had a bored and adoring
look on her face.
there was a minor plot, little bits of
trouble would arrive and to cure every-
thing he always began dancing with
her, that was the answer.
sometimes they kissed and some of
the boys would groan in disgust, it was
so idiotic.

he was really somebody to hate with his
sunken in little face and his thinning
hair and his weak chin and nose, just
dancing, dancing, dancing.
I had never seen any man like that
in our neighborhood.
our fathers would have run him out.
the lady wasn’t so bad, she was just
a little pretty and very stupid to care
for a fellow like that.
sometimes the movie got so bad
that just for relief a couple of the boys
would get into a fight but the ushers
always quickly stopped it.

it was all agony, those dancers but
the movie finally ended, then there
was a cartoon, Popeye, he’d eat a
can of spinach and punch out some
huge ugly guy.
that guy looked more like our fathers
than that dancing freak.

then our movie would come on and
we’d really start to live, space
machines, space wars, the evil
villain of Space and also this evil
woman and Buck Rogers would
always get caught and chained
up but somehow he always got
some of those space guns were
terrific, they’d shoot out this ray
and people would just vanish
and the rocket ships really
went through space, there were
some tremendous battles between
Buck Rogers ships and the villain
space ships, which were big and
long and evil looking.
there was tension, fierce tension
always and then some new and
horrible space thing would happen
which Buck Rogers would some-
how overcome.
Rogers always won out in the end
although he really had us worried
at times–like this time he was
chained to this table with this
giant whirling saw coming closer
and closer.
many narrow escapes
but Buck always won in the
and then it would all be over.
we’d have to go back to our
parents, to whatever dinner
there was,
but on a Saturday evening
we all felt different,
strange, a little unreal, looking
at our parents eating,
our parents,
these people that nothing ever
happened to,
they were almost as boring as
that dancer with his flying
but not quite as boring
nobody could ever be that

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: