Atar Hadari

The Ballad of Stan and Ollie

Paradise (detail) by Miroslav Huptych

Walking into the darkness of the vacant Glasgow Empire
Stan Laurel took his bow to the unending rows of flowers
Crinkling in women’s hair and limp in tired men’s buttonholes
And opening just after nine, again for second house.
You do not know you’ve died until you’ve played the Glasgow Empire.
You do not know and Stan never died
Because he lived on celluloid
But there he went again, to take belated bows
While Ollie stayed up on the screen to piano notes
And didn’t smell the chorus.
So Oliver stayed young because he died of an embolism
While Stan rode the railroad ribbons
Back the way he came from California
To the boat and all the way the frames
Reversed would spill, light from the Glasgow Empire
Projectionist’s black booth and flowers like all the crystal
Sets receiving in the dark while he finally found himself
Back on that stage taking his last bows
Where he had left to boos, to silence in between his footfalls.
And he envied Oliver, that died up on the hills and never felt the pull of film
Back and back and back after the dancing disappeared
After the last good crack with the back of his hat and Stan crying in the reels –
It all ran back till finally Stan was there shaking his stick
While Oliver was still up and away shining white as his shirt
While Stan mouthed at the screen, “Another fine mess you’ve got me in…”
Ollie grinned twiddling his gabardine
While Stanley held the strange girl’s fore-arm
And went back in to the Empire
then went out and stars were spinning, like grease stains
On one of Ollie’s black felt ties made of rolled twine
then he let go of the girl’s hand
Said, “Thank you dear,” and got inside the car
to go home, where he hoped not to stir
Until sunset, when the stars are only golden squares
And Ollie says, “Oh there you are…”
Then he will sink where he stands
And wake to say “I want to be in Switzerland”
To the nurse who will say, “Why Switzerland?”
He’ll say, “I’d like to go skiing.”
“Do you ski Mr. Laurel?” she’ll ask him.
“No but it’s more fun than this,” he’ll say
And she will die laughing.


About the writer:
Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His debut collection, Rembrandt’s Bible, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin was awarded a Pen Translates grant and is out now from Arc Publications. He contributes a monthly verse bible translation column to MOSAIC magazine.

Image: Paradise (detail) by Miroslav Huptych (1952- ). Collage/computer graphic. 2400 x 1180 mm. 2017. By free license.