Four from Cinéma Vérité

by Sam Rasnake

Lines Written Under the Influence

 – Ry Cooder’s soundtrack, Paris, Texas

The beginning middle and end don’t fit
our lives anymore.  The shadows are real.
Too much road, I think.  Everywhere,
too much away from and nothing toward.
Signs and buildings and plate glass neon.
You don’t act the words.  Just say them –
The rhythm of bone and soup and wind,
a hawk landing on rocks, newspaper
along asphalt, the whistle of fence line
and railroad tracks to divide the waking
from the dream and a seamless blue
over desert high country.  This is
the solitude of happy.  The right car
and music, the highway.  No borders.

Michael Powell’s Women

Give me the exotic on-her-own-can-do-
anything kind, cold rain on her face,
in from the hunt, her hounds on a leash.

Holding the deepest secret in the well
of her eyes, she carries over the shoulder
a sack of silence, and tilts to the wind

when she walks.  A woman transformed,
trans-mobile, transfixed on her moment,
never praying when she needs to, always

running the circles of the vortex she calls risk –
a bit desperate, a bit immortal, but all body
in search of the one body that fits – the place,

the sound, the dream of the whole.
Give me a woman of the mountains,
her bright hair tucked under her habit,

or one bristling at all the burning possibilities
of surrender to the dark perfumes of the world.
A bold wanderer of long grass and deep soil,

afraid of nothing.  A woman in motion, whirling
across an empty stage – such sweet dilemmas
as art vs. love – afraid of losing everything.

A woman certain of all the missing parts,
one wrapped in the rage of her want,
another in a reckless sea of paint –

In the scratch of brush over canvas,
in a fall from the sky,
in the raised lens of my camera.

Among the Wreckage 

            – after viewing Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy 

1.  Rome

    – for Marcello Magnani

The perfect image of war should be the boy
in white cassock, rushing to his mother,
the only religion he understands – she’s
dead in the street, gunned down as she ran
– and in a blind rage of fear and loss

he tries to shake her body to life, but it will
not do, he’s only boy and she the world,
so he kicks the air, the priest, any uniform
who would stop him, anyone who would
say that spring will come again

– 1943 

 2.  Naples 

     – for Pasquale 

All language obscures
until it’s impossible to

know old from new –
friend, enemy, self,

other.  Three years of
allied bombing, 20,000

civilians dead, and the city,
nothing more than heaps

of waste, brick, and cans –
a cold maze of grottos,

a blister of fragments
in a war for shoes.

 – 1944 

3.  Berlin

    – for Edmund Koehler

The dust is everything.  All times between
living and the dead blur to nothing, to one
foot in front of the other, to a slice of raw
potato, and water that hints at tea.

You should see this place.  Dark hallways
with wrecked doors, empty stairwells where
music is silence.  A broken city – Piles of
rubble here and here and here.  So many.

– 1947

A Scribbling on the Walls

It’s like the dead realizing, finally,
they must be dead too, easing into
their smoothed and whispered oblivion –
a blot of time, twice-lived, below the ruins.

A man obsessed, a woman, an image of a face.
Isn’t that how it always begins?

Trust, disappointment, madness –
the scars of more than a lifetime.

What is it you look for on this page,
where is it you wander to? –
in the voice’s dark timbre
as you breathe the words aloud,
as you speak the fear into place –

This is a real table. A real couch,
glass cabinet, a fire screen
with its painting of pond and heron –
The bamboo plant and bowl, cups of tea,
the thimble box –  They’re all real.

The reckoning of a truth is lonely business.

When the body fails, or falls, when the dream
implodes of its own weight, and silence is the story,
the eyes opening is what you will most remember.

         La Jetée (1962), Chris Marker, dir. /

          Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock, dir.


Lines Written Under the Influence  was first published as a broadside by MiPOesias and was included in the anthology – MiPOesias Companion 2012

Michael Powell’s Women was first published in FRiGG; Later it was included at Whale Sound – an audio anthology

Among the Wreckage Part 3 was published in 52|250: A Year of Flash

A Scribbling on the Walls was first published in The Smoking Poet

These poems, and many more are in Sam Rasnake’s full-length collection, Cinéma Vérité, from
A-Minor Press, September 9, 2013.


Sam Rasnake’s works, receiving five nominations for the Pushcart Prize, have appeared in OCHO, Wigleaf, Big Muddy, Literal Latté, Poem, Pebble Lake Review, Poets/Artists, New World Writing, and Santa Fe Literary Review, as well as the anthologies MiPOesias Companion 2012, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Best of the Web 2009, LUMMOX 2012, Flash Fiction Fridays, BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2, Deep River Apartments, The Lost Children, and Dogzplot Flash Fiction 2011. He is the author of Necessary Motions (Sow’s Ear Press, 1998), Religions of the Blood (Pudding House Press, 1998), Lessons in Morphology (GOSS183, 2010) and Inside a Broken Clock (Finishing Line Press, 2010).  He is chapbook editor for Sow’s Ear Poetry Review,  has served as a judge for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, University of California, Berkeley, and from 2001-2010 was editor of Blue Fifth Review. Since 2011, Rasnake has edited, along with Michelle Elvy, the Blue Five Notebook Series from BFR.


2 thoughts on “Four from Cinéma Vérité

  1. […] Featured Excerpt: Four from Cinéma Vérité by Sam Rasnake […]

  2. A wonderful sampling of Sam Rasnake’s approach to poetry and film. Honored to be in an issue with him, and looking forward to his forthcoming book!

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