“Fifteen I Remembers” by John Repp

Today, Lise Quintana and Kevin Sharp explore “Fifteen I Remembers” by John Repp, submitted to Zoetic Press for the Viable chapbook series.

Inspired by Joe Brainard’s “I Remember” (via Kenward Elmslie’s “One Hundred I Remembers”); the spell Valdez is Coming cast in summer, 1971 (Landis Theater); the coil of mosquito dope flavoring the summer night’s swelter as the bowel-loosening implacability of The Snow Queen showed how fate will consume us, whether or not we lie on a blanket draped over the hood of a 1961 Ford station wagon; the spans of unmediated time spent testing Northrup Frye’s contention that history merely screens the Apocalypse; & Luc Sante’s anaphoric recitation (excerpted in the June, 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine) of films & the shrines in which he worshiped them.


I remember the ammoniac pall in the Thalia on Christmas Day, Vertigo freezing three times, everyone yelling picture! as the sound system buzzed, then getting lost in that sad, anxious San Francisco again.

I remember Bakelite knobs on whatever required knobs, the stink of skunk cabbage on wet spring days, kerosene heaters in living-room corners, cousins in a semi-circle, slack-jawed as Pork Chop Hill flickered & the grown-ups sipped Martelli’s homemade red from jelly jars between deep drags on their Luckies & Kents.

I remember the steep slope of Shady Avenue pulling my ex-wife & I into a near-trot past the synagogue to veer hard right onto Forward Avenue to the Squirrel Hill Theater where Bliss ran for a week & the trudge back uphill to type a letter to my brother insisting he find a Boston screening (maybe at the Coolidge Corner or the Somerville & certainly the Harvard Square) & his letter a few weeks later demanding the price of his ticket he hated Bliss so much.

I remember my girlfriend’s film class at Rutgers, how Roman her professor’s sculptural head, how luxurious his beard & black, gleaming hair, how we queued outside the threadbare theater in matching pea coats, how Last Year at Marienbad entranced her, how ridiculous her critiques, how annoying the subtitles, how dumbfounding The Seventh Seal, how the last third of The 400 Blows obliterated my heart, how we clawed one another’s clothes off after Woman in the Dunes & wept later.

I remember lounging in lawn chairs & passing a pipe on the roof of the newsstand next door Tim’s studio before bussing to the Castro for the Werner Herzog double feature not long after Harvey Milk’s murder & Tim laughing when I asked whether I’d be hit on.

I remember Lenny in the multiplex so new no one called it a “multiplex,” how Mary Ann stiffened as Valerie Perrine’s nude scene unfolded, how we’d arrived early & sat in the car smoking those skinny brown cigarettes after the ride from Landisville, where we’d passed the afternoon crouched on the floor of my half-a-renovated-gas-station hovel, coloring the fanciful poster with the bright markers that triggered yearning for the aroma of crayons.

I remember Warren Beatty shot down in the snow, the mournful yet matter-of-fact music that choreographed the stupid gunfight during the third blizzard in two weeks, snow squalls roaring outside my snug farmstead, tumbler of nondescript red to my right, how delightedly baffled McCabe’s love for Mrs. Miller & how bemused, maternal & wry hers for him, how apropos Julie Christie’s oh-well smile as she drew on the opium pipe, how Roger called it the greatest Western of them all as I handed him the tape I haven’t seen since.

I remember my brother’s voice over the phone, the ineffable way he fell quiet, how we spoke in our room on summer nights, what a relief to confess I’d marry a woman brave & beautiful as Natalie Wood in The Searchers, you just watch.

I remember Julie Christie’s grief in Don’t Look Now & Donald Sutherland’s rage to comprehend their daughter’s death, how grim the hidden glories of Venice, how rotten the frescoes Sutherland failed to restore, how not until The Sweet Hereafter did I again see grief worthy of the name on any screen nor till Make Way for Tomorrow its sublimity.

I remember the tents pitched on the courthouse grounds in Meadville, the laughter pouring through a tent flap as I walked by, the hand-lettered signs leaning against a sawhorse, how stylized The Grapes of Wrath suddenly seemed & how pointless my tears the night before as I sipped lemonade during the migrant-camp scene, how the stick-shift hummed as I downshifted in Venango, tires hissing in the rain, how guilt seeped away, how full I fed myself as twilight settled on the marsh across the road.

I remember how much I hated The Green Mile, especially the mouse scenes (so smugly symbolic), the period details failing to register the bulbous shine & blue air of the period, the unrelenting earnestness & how we had to keep stopping the tape to care for the baby, the tiniest, milky detail attended to when all we wanted to do was watch.

I remember Old Yeller & still cannot speak of it.

I remember my wife’s brown sweater, the one with the petroglyph stitched into it, how she exclaimed when she first pulled it from the box, how she ran her hands over it as The Usual Suspects bludgeoned us in the theater near Piccadilly.

I remember the double bill in the student center, 2001 oceanic, boring, the monolith & the chimps hilarious though the hashish had long worn off by then, Diary of a Mad Housewife a shrill stupefaction except for the desperate longing Carrie Snodgrass’s face wore.

I remember A Night at the Opera & The General & the aria I improvised for my students after Chinatown’s credits rolled, how we all live in Chinatown every second of every day—what absurdity, what despair, what agape.