Excerpts > Summer 2005
Jesse Lee Kercheval

film history as train wreck (PDF Version)

the Lumière Brotherís moving picture
of a train arriving at La Ciotat station--

its engine hurtling toward the audience--

made women faint, men scream,
the crowd stampede for the exits.

this may
or may not be true.

critics differ. historians have disagreed.

the word cacophony comes to mind,
the words "burst in uninvited."

but I speak only
for myself

&, honestly, even my motherís mother wasnít there.

unless she was so frightened after fleeing
from the basement of the Grand Café
she had amnesia

& wandered down the Boulevard des Capucines
along the Canal St-Martin
until my grandfather, keeper
of the Lock of the Barn of the Beautiful,
took pity on this strange girl.

then maybe married her
or maybe not

on that the records disagree.

so, here is my hypothesis

a) the men & women were scared
& wished, precipitously, to leave.
b) without Auguste & Louis Lumière,
my mother,
& hence me, might not have been invented.

c) this event has already taken place,

in the distant past,

& we can only speculate. we can never know.

we can never, like my poor grandmère,
be thunderstruck with wonder.

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