In Case of Emergency

Poetry / Michael Marberry

:: In Case of Emergency ::

Run, do not walk. The slow are the first to die in the movies. At the movies, the people are always running forward and upright, blurredly like a time-lapse diagram of bipedal evolutionary movements. The movies remind us of what it’s like to run toward trains, away from raptors. (It doesn’t matter.) In case of emergency, first assess the situation: if your life is filmed by Michael Bay, you must ready yourself to escape from the baddies by bolting through an office building, through the glass cubicles with squibs and projectiles creating a cascade of overwhelming visual spectacle, through the parade of 8.5×11 confetti and pyrotechnic sparks, the flicker of fluorescent lights, some schmuck’s coffee mug that reads “World’s Best Dad,” which shatters like an IED of porcelain sight-gags. If you fall, you can fix it in post. If your life feels too frenetic, take an aspirin—it’s only Tony Scott. If woozy, Greengrass. If epic, Ford. Suddenly, and without any warning, the world seems to slow on its axis. No, it’s Woo or maybe Peckinpah. This is perfectly normal, this is perfectly normal. God help you should you find yourself in a sports biopic, where you must outrun the coal-towns of your parent’s sudden death or disapproval via montage. Or perhaps you’re Tom Cruise and the movies just exist to send you sprinting. (Bless you! You’re disliked, sure, but you move like the maniac of Darwin.) There are at least three notable examples worth mentioning where running saves someone it ought not in the movies. One: in Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, the beautiful actor-robots outrun the cold in post-apocalyptic New York City. Two: in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, Mark Wahlberg and friends outrun the wind. Three: in John McTiernan’s Predator, a glorious film, Arnold Schwarzenegger outruns an atomic bomb which the alien detonates with Sonny Landham’s laugh, boisterous and loud like a fuck-your-mother. Somewhere, Buster Keaton is alive and saying, Fuck-your-mother! I once outran a mountain! In case of emergency or onset existentialism, it’s important to remember how many idiots it takes to greenlight even the worst disaster. Silence your cellphone. Focus on the nearest illuminated EXIT located at the front and rear of the theatre. Do not shout “Fire!” falsely in the crowd (as in Schenk v. US), but you’re encouraged to falsely lay your panic at the feet of “the Muslims!” or “the Mexicans!,” whatever’s convenient. You’re free to send them running. If, as you are running, you have reason to reflect, consider: should I save the baby? Also: why, pray tell, is the baby here? And would you call this a photogenic baby? And is this baby on fire?



From the writer

:: Account ::

This poem is from a longer project exploring various aspects (past and present) of the film-going experience. Of course, there’s nothing new about a poet exploring cinema—e.g., Lindsay, H.D., Baraka, Ashbery, Rankine, etc. etc. etc. Film is my favorite art form, so I try my best to watch something every day, although I can’t always do that because of life reasons. This particular poem attempts to use a common film trope as a means by which to explore danger and how we might react to perceived danger, in both the cinematic world and in current political discourse. There’s personal stuff here too, but that’s all of limited interest to anyone other than me. Mainly, I hope to do right by the movies. In another sense, I’m not sure if this poem (really) “works” for much the same reason. I’m still trying to write a good one, I guess.


Michael Marberry’s poetry has appeared in journals like The New Republic, West Branch, Sycamore Review, and Waxwing and in anthologies like The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best of the Net, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and New Poetry from the Midwest (forthcoming). Currently, he lives in Michigan, where he studies the intersections between poetry and film and serves as coordinator of the Poets-in-Print Reading Series. More of his work can be found at