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 8.5x11 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