Scene from the Movie GIANT – The poems by Tino Villanueva

by: Chuy Ramirez
Posted: May 29, 2021


The Existence of Sarge

The old man places his hat on the table and

All three have sat down, the same as if their

Ancestors had been there first. (Jump cut

To Sarge): who is all at once by the booth in

Time to hear the man stricken in years:

Señor, buenas dias.” On this earth where

Animals have crawled into men, Sarge is tall

Among them, well past six-feet, oppressive

Everywhere, in a white shirt, sleeves rolled

Up that declare the beefiness of his arms

Which, if extended, could reach across bodies

Of water. He stands there like God of the

Plains country, heavy-footed like a troglodyte,

And what he says he says with the weight of

A dozen churches behind him: “You’re in the

Wrong place, amigo. Come on, let’s get out of

Here. Vamoose, Andale.” The old man, whose

Skin in second-stage bronze from too much sun

That’s gotten to it and won’t pull back its

Color, has feebly searched among the

Threads of his pocket and extracted the sum

Of his need. In quietude (etched in raw umber):

Reliquary hands are endlessly making a

Wordless offering in a coin purse. Then the

Very way the tight-wound voice of Sarge

Echoes through the café walls, out onto the


, and back inside the Holiday Theater

Where I sit alone in the drop shadows of the

Back—: “Your money is no good here. Come on,

Let’s go. You too,” he says to the women,

Their torment half inside me. And with that:

He plops the old man’s hat on his head and

Picks him up by the lapels. Put the film

In reverse (I think). Tear out these frames

From time-motion and color; run the words

Backward in Sarge’s breath and sever the

Tendons of his thick arms in bold relief.


On the Subject of Staying Whole  


With orange soda and scoops of popcorn,

I have taken the vague wisdom of the

Body to my favorite last row seat at the

Movie house. It is 1956…and Sarge,

Keeper of the Lone Star house, Sarge.


Always Sarge, facing down everything

From the screen. I am fourteen and the

Muscles come to a stop: From the spell

Of too much make-believe world that is

Real. If I yell, “Nooooo, nooooo.”


Would the projectionist stop the last

Reel of the machine? Would the audience

Rise up with me to rip down the screen?

I think now how it went: nothing was


Coming out of me that could choke off

The sentences of Sarge, a world-beater

Released into history I would later turn

Against. A second-skin had come over me


In a shimmer of color and light. I could

Not break free from the event that began

To inhibit me—gone was the way to dream


Outside myself. From inside, a small

Fire began to burn like deep doubt or


A world fallen…I held on. I held on.


Stop-Action: Impression


Of course, the sanctity of the café,

The just-righteousness of the Place.

And Sarge, absolute, stressing the plane


Of outward fact, as when the screen

Gives up the deep-in-air-rooted sound

Of his voice, the strong ejectives


And glottals; as when he unifies his

Muscle with the blunt instrument of

His words with which he tries to purge


His roadside dominion, so that man and

Women by his side shall be cast out,

Left unregarded to their own. The eye


Gets insulted by light and the thought

Descends—: that Sarge, or someone

Like him, can banish you from this


Hamburger joint; from the rest of your

Life not yet entered: from this Holiday

Theater and all sense of place.



Fallingrief of Unpleasure


The eye surrenders to the light and something begins

To go from you, as if you cannot but leave it: to


Wither on the floor, never to retrieve from darkness

Like fragments of thought flashing, the slow burn of

Each frame rises into consciousness with the meaning


Of failed belief. A fallingrief of unpleasure grows

In you and something, call it the soul, deep is offended

You want to go mad or die, but turn morose instead.


You lean back hard against your shadow and wish you

Could dissolve yourself in it, dissolve, fade to black.


Without a Prayer at the Holiday Theater


What the screen had released through the darkness was too

Much for a single afternoon. Without words, the child

Began to feel mortal, his mind breaking into awfulness:

A pulse-beat of dread worked itself down from his


Temples—there was, in his throat, a tightening dry

Knot and his mouth could not make spit. He longed

For something stronger than anything he was and the

Thought kept on him: why this was happening and where


He had failed. What had he been if not good all those

Years, off to Sunday school singing in the church

Choir? A wine-dark robe hung, brightly, in a

Practice room to prove it. Had the child been able


To ask nothing more of life than to turn desire into

words he would have uttered—: O Saviour, release

me from this fear; give me cool waters to temper

the heat of this wound which the back-row darkness

hides. Send forth your swift light of compassion

into the places of my woe. Climb down and be seated

next to me, All-Merciful, bearer of the world’s pain

Increase the faith in me that your deep justice will

triumph on the screen. I need to see it done. Be

in me my rock and my redeemer, the Eternal Defender

of my soul. Mend now my spirit, O God, weaver of the

good, that I may walk away from here feeling whole.


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