By Lowell Jaeger


Films traveled from classroom to classroom

in tins the size of dinner plates

tucked under arms of brainy kids

from the AV Club, who snapped

reels unto the projector

and threaded the afternoon’s viewing

into a maze of interlocked

rollers and gears.


Through darkened rooms, the projector’s light

flickered against the screen; the little clickers

clicked as they should to set the show

in motion—moving scenes

of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

as the world had shaped itself a long way

down dangerous roads beyond our hometown.


Now and again, something went wrong.

The machine’s cogs slipped from its tracks

and not even the quick tinkering AV kids

could think fast enough to keep the stuck image

from burning up in our faces.  A brown stain

spread across the screen, blistered and smoked,

till the film tore, flapped against itself,

unwound on the floor.


One summer vacation, the county

librarians hung bed sheets against the outside walls

of our school, flashed after-dark news reels

of strategies to survive H-bomb blasts,

till the film smoldered, melted in the heat.  No one

could fix it.  And we grumbled homeward, the pave

trembling beneath our solemn feet, fearing

how the push of one button might

vaporize our neighbors up and down the street.



As founding editor of Many Voices Press, Lowell Jaeger compiled Poems Across the Big Sky, an anthology of Montana poets, and  New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from 11 Western states. His third collection of poems, Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep (Arctos Press) was published in 2009 and was a finalist for the Paterson Award.  His fourth collection, WE (Main Street Rag Press) was published in 2010.  He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.

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