After school
my sister and I would head straight
to the local movie theatre
where my mom worked the candy counter.
She’d give us each a dry-ice frozen
ice cream sandwich
with artificial flavors
and park us in the back row
so she could peer
through the door window
and protect us from the real and imagined.

This dark, often empty theatre became our living room
bathed in air refrigeration and the light of a giant screen.
Our tongues would stick to the sides
of our frozen ice cream sandwiches
as we watched whatever movie we had walked in on.
I remember the scary ones:
men on fire,
giant apes trampling crowds and flinging cars,
werewolves howling,
soldiers unleashing panting dogs,
and boys peering out from bulkhead doors
as swirling winds tossed cows in the air.

My sister and I
would squat down,
peer above
the seat backs
and grip hands.

“It was only a movie,” my mother would say
as we crossed the street in the shock of daylight
to our kitchen table
where we did our homework
while she peeled potatoes
and told us stories
we never could remember.
about the War

Childhood images may have toughened us up
but they did not immunize us
from today’s monsters:
California brush fires,
nor’easters snaking up radar screens,
flood waters slapping rooftops,
a giant swirl of wind flipping 18-wheelers,
missiles leaving only smoky black buildings,
invading viruses
that jumble minds and defile lungs.

Today, we don’t hide from our large screens,
grip hands
or scream in high pitched unison.

We watch from our separate homes
and wait for our time to run.