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ONandOnScreen: Style is the Man

by Carter Ratcliff


BOMB Magazine is pleased to feature selections from ONandOnScreen’s summer issue. Each week BOMBlog will showcase poems and video pairings from the Summer 2011 issue of ONandOnScreen, an e-journal project matching poems and videos. This week’s pairing features poetry by Carter Ratcliff and an excerpt from a film by Louis Malle.


From Louis Malle’s “Elevator to the Gallows,” starring Jeanne Moreau, with music by Miles Davis.


Style is the Man


What else would it be?

A mere statistic?


Speaking of which,

hero gets sentimental and stoic on causeway

      to nowhere.


This shot endures for seven seconds, tops,


then a glimpse of back story:

no weather, not outwardly, only

inwardly, but no self-expression,

unless you count hurricanes


or the stubble,

which really makes the jacket, then

the perp makes the surveillance team. Damn.


Wall of sound fades to wall of light.


The glamor, the glamor!

It’s like: the horror, the horror! Only different

because life, this major learning experience,

has learned to imitate entertainment.


God knows his own strength

but the camera doesn’t and hell hath no fury


like a camera scorned, so

don’t even think about it, just do that thing

with your profile, the night’s broken heart


and the ribbon of light on the far side of the water.




Carter Ratcliff is a poet and art critic. His books of poetry include Fever Coast, Give Me Tomorrow, and Arrivederci, Modernismo. Among his books on art are The Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art and Out of the Box: The Reinvention of Art 1965-1975.


Elevator to the Gallows is available to purchase on DVD from Criterion.


About ONandOnScreen:

ONandOnScreen is poems + videos. Here videos are linked with poems and poems with videos in a shared space, widening the spectrum and essential strangeness of each. ONandOnScreen is a conversation between moving words and moving images, on and on.

—From ONandOnScreen.net