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EDITOR'S CHOICE: rain ananael's

John Nizalowski

The Last Matinée
by John Nizalowski


A scorpion sidles
across the floor
of an abandoned
Mojave shack, black
rock rising around it
in waves of light and heat.

A motorcycle slides
across wet pavement,
flies towards the
junction of rivers where the Warrior Twins
depart this world,
sons of Changing Woman
born in the Year of Butterflies.

I am death,
and the last matinée.

Red plush seats in
the eternal afternoon,
reel after reel offered
up to the smooth
gods of the con.

A sliding door of bars,
razor wire shines in
the New Mexico sun.
Cats lurk in the windows,
el gato waiting for
food from heaven.

You see it now—
the sky, the sea,
the lost sailor
seeking his forgotten home,
wine in the barrel,
monks singing in the attic.

The red sky sheds
orange light on
her skin, love’s lost
wages wrapped in sin,
the realm of saxophones
and pedal steel guitars,
the long dance into
eternal night.

It’s the last matinée,
the audience feels for
the door, the stork
flies in, the birth of
a dying nation, the
birth of the lost Grail
forever out of reach.
The Fisher King is dead.

The last matinée.
Come in and be cool.
A lost breath,
a Zen grace of hidden beads,
souls, stones, and cat’s teeth—
an inmate’s talisman.


Sometimes I feel
time slide past
like a great, slow serpent.

Sometimes I have dreams
of being tied face down,
naked body stabbed with
sharpened sticks
like an Apache sacrifice
in a John Ford western.

The last matinée
cowboy rides off into
the chameleon sunset
seeking buried
Mayan pyramids,
finds me instead,
downing mounds of hot
popcorn, butter dripping
over the serpent’s long
gray and crimson body.

A mosaic of Jesus
under water,
dreams of a Roman
philosopher – a man
with long, graying
blond hair
striding El Paso
streets half naked,
while somewhere
in the West
elegant waves of
dark brown silt dry
beneath a desert sun
within the deep,
deep canyon.

Secret waters,
green cottonwoods,
ash, and moss—
the liquid sound
a stone gate to blue heaven.


A skull, a rose,
an apple, an ear of corn.
Chose, and be forever gone.

In a place where
the river pours over
a dam, a realm
of watery eternity,
they murdered him.
He chose the corn
and they murdered him,
knife blow to the groin.
They fled to Kansas,
where the corn grows
tall in the Aztec sun.

A train passing,
great surging red engine,
my daughters and I wave
at the afternoon’s last show,
the sun on the
golden cottonwoods
of declining summer,
the bard’s death,
grain gone to earth,
the coming winter,
the resurrection,
the last matinée.

I walk the path
of bones.
I pray to Ashoka
standing with his
magic scepter,
forever gone.

The movie is over,
the bones turned
to ash, the heron
rises with
a dying call,
its ancestors
burned in a fiery comet
that slammed into the sea.

Quetzalcoatl reborn
on the cinema screen.


Sunday afternoon
and the carnival is ending.

Tattoo muscled men
pry open bolts with wrenches,
tearing down colorful machines
while a dirty prairie wind
etches the sad-eyed
merry-go-round horses
standing still
in the orange
sun sliding light.

A lone girl rides
the Ferris wheel
on its final turn,
long blond hair
riding the wind’s waves
as the red wood seat
slides past zenith –
her last view of childhood.

What was once
a dazzling jewel
of lighted circles
spinning in the
star consumed night,
now dull and tame
in the waning desert sun –
the crowds gone,
the calliope silent.

Feeling the wheel slow,
she tightens her grip
on the long steel rail,
trying to stop time
with a dust stung tear.


Haunted by old dreams,
he shuffles
under gray skies
across the abandoned
motor court –
fake pueblo crumbling
from frost and rain.

“Damn leg still hurts,”
he mutters,
while distant
blue collar trains
moan in the
steel rust town.

He reaches the jimmied door,
closes it gently behind him,
falls onto the broken bed,
hears the rattle of ancient springs
as sacred voices in his head.

Pulling up the wine,
two thirds done,
he downs it in

he whispers to
his shadow plaster ceiling.
“At least until
the police
shut my movie down.”


Where does the
sacred fire go
when its extinguished
at the holy time’s ending?

And where do the
images go when the
movie’s over,
the arc lamp’s
crackling blaze silent,
the hero rolled up
and stored in the
octagonal black box?

The brush lifts,
the poem ends.
The reel ceases
with a flapping sound
of dying machinery.
The wheel slows, stops.

Outside the sun is bright
despite the afternoon hour.
A raven lands –
an abstraction made flesh,
an algorithmic curve,
the half-life of plutonium.

there will be the
last mandala
poured forth under a
dying red sun,
the last sacred maze,
the final sweeping
away of patterned sands
into the last slow river
on crimson plains.
No mountains left
as the molecules
crawl to a quiet pulse.

The last Buddhist
dreaming the last mandala
in the last universe.


In Buddha’s temple
I break forth from my body,
a butterfly splitting
the chrysalis wall
with fragile wings,
each gentle leg unfolding
through molecules dissolving,
the fading echo
of a medieval bell
struck by sweat worn mallet.
The fish drum measures
time’s dying light
as my moist soul
reaches for Shiva dancing.

The physicist said,
“All the energy that existed
at time’s beginning is with us still.”

Flame and drum,
shadow and light,
the turquoise realm.

John Nizalowski

John Nizalowski is the author of Hooking the Sun, a multi-genre book on Farolito Press. His work has also appeared in Puerto del Sol, Weber: the Contemporary West, Blueline, The Albany Review, The Bloomsbury Review, and elsewhere. Currently, he lives in western Colorado, teaches creative writing at Mesa State College, and is working on a biography of southwestern author Frank Waters.

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