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At the Oriental Theater in Milwaukee
Stephen Anderson


Something tells me that the little man
in striped short sleeves and a Sears’ tie
could really cut loose with a wild, wailing
boogie-woogie on that awesome Kimball concert organ
on stage down at the Oriental Theater,
instead of the take-me-out-to-the-ballgame/true-blue
schmaltz he is probably told to play before the previews
come on. Not that there’s anything patently wrong
with his standard repertoire, but that magnificent organ
has got to be capable of so much more, as I’m sure the man is.

Watching him play, I can imagine him suddenly exploding
into a Ray Charles or, heck, even a Jerry Lee Lewis rocking rendition
in which he shakes the sleepy, popcorn-eating, soda swilling place
up a bit, maybe even bringing those exotic moldings and fixtures to life
before the main feature sparkles from the screen.

And so, every time I’m sitting there waiting for the big screen fare,
I’ll imagine how nice it would be if he could, just once,
snap out of the corral he’s in, out of all that has been constrained inside,
and make hulk-like all that stuff barely breathing there.

This poem first appeared in Fox Cry Review (2007).
Used here with permission.


Stephen Anderson is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin poet and translator whose award-winning work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and has been featured on the Milwaukee NPR affiliate, WUWM Lake Effect Program. Stephen is the author of three chapbooks and three full length collections, and several of his poems formed the text for a song cycle in The Privileged Secrets of the Arch, a chamber music composition performed by members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and an opera singer. A fourth poetry collection, On the Third Planet from the Sun: New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming in the summer of 2024 (Kelsay Books). Stephen’s work is being archived in the Stephen Anderson Collection in the Raynor Libraries at Marquette University.



Post New Comment:
Nancy R:
Having grown up on North Ave. a block away from the Oriental, this struck home, Steven. I learned to read following the bouncing ball.
Posted 01/09/2020 06:21 PM
Surprise Reading Teacher:
In the Phoenix area we are blessed with Organ Pipe Pizza Parlour where the organists burst forth and let the organ pipes breathe great gusts of music. I did not have the theater experience, but my small school took field trips to Organ Pipe when I was a kid and I've been there since- it is Awe-maz-ing.
Posted 01/09/2020 10:11 AM
Great poem. I longed along with you for the sounds and songs to break free. I wanted to bee bop and sway in that theater along with everyone, reveling in the moment that that �little man� finally breaks loose. What an experience to waiting to happen. I�m with you in this poem. Thanks. Randy
Posted 01/09/2020 09:26 AM
"all that stuff barely breathing there" is the breath of wonderful memories for more than a few of us. Wish I had an Oriental Theater to go to!!! I like this poem!!
Posted 01/09/2020 09:05 AM
Larry Schug:
Good advice-we should all"let it fly".
Posted 01/09/2020 07:43 AM
Movies are the soundtrack of my life! Love that you were able to enjoy the organ..they were gone in my town by the time I was buying tickets and popcorn
Posted 01/09/2020 07:05 AM

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