Monday, March 24, 2008

E A R L Y

A N I M A T I O N


When I close my eyes, I see bridges falling into rivers. Buckled iron and concrete sinks at the back of my eye like a miniature kinetoscope spooling away amber film. The images sink until they are lost under the slick surface of a river reflecting the red and white lights of a local shipping industry at night.

Annabelle Whitford Moore, do you know that your ghost is suspended at the back of a wooden box? Put your eye to the view finder and you will see how her white skirt snaps and flickers around her. Edison’s first film was called “butterfly dance” and that’s her, that’s my Annabelle, dancing. She is both spirit and machine. Fluid yet mechanical. I shut my eyes so tight it hurts, creasing my face so that the skin around my eyes burns and this is how the steel looks as it sinks, twisted like rope. The likeness of a faint apparition suspended in uncanny wistful animation.

A fathom is the amount of water it takes to cover a man’s mouth if his feet are touching bottom, a fathom is the smallest amount of water you can drown in if you were to tie your feet to a cinder block and cast yourself over. Fourty six fathoms is this: forty six, six foot men, standing on each others shoulders. The one on top, however, would still drown.

This is where the steel of the bridge came to a stop, two hundred and seventy six feet. The cold is not what bothers me, though I’m certain that it must have translated directly to the bone at that depth. No it is the dark that concerns me on most days, because the dark is not honest with its parishioners. The dark that wraps you up at fourty-six fathoms is a swindler. Dark that swaddles you so close, but all the way down, is masking an immensity that I can’t bare to think about. All that open space over your head, down in the center of that river valley, trapped in the steel, that’s also where my Annabelle is. I wonder if her skirt is still affecting, if her white dress, caught in the current, is floating around her like a loose silk cocoon. I wonder if her lanky arms have floated free, her hands poised over her hand, her ears bent, listening for her audience to erupt in applause.

They said of her, that she looked weightless. That it looked as if she was an angel. When people began to see those early movies, they almost always saw her. They paid up to twelve cents to watch her. Most people shrieked in terror, not knowing what to do with a picture that comes to life. Some boycotted the machines, saying they would give you the mark of the beast on your forehead. Some people laughed hysterically, not knowing how to respond. But I think the real terror was in her beauty. She was the kind of beauty that burned its form into your memory. She was the kind of beauty that you almost couldn’t bear, it weighed you down. In the same way a crooked iron spine, when put under to much pressure, must eventually give way.




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