It was the Saturday Minor’s Club
at the huge art deco Savoy
with rubbed seats and yellowed air
the flickering black and white of
Flash Gordon, Hopalong Cassidy,
The Lone Ranger, colourful Road Runner
all thrown by a chattering projector
their paths marked by dancing dust.
We’d queued. A string of jiggling children
clutching a tanner for admission,
tuppence for Kiora drink and liquorice,
before tumbling into the vast auditorium
its huge silvered screen seeping films.
Sometimes an organ rose on a swell
of jolly music and a small ball of light
bounced atop the pale, freckled words.
We roared, when the film broke,
projector jammed or perhaps at the delay
as one reel finished and another began.
Clapped, booed and then cheered
as the jiggering image and hollow sound
pulled us back into our fantasy land.
Now I stretch into a new armchair
with tub of popcorn, drink and straw,
in the chill, conditioned, clean, dark.
The programme was to begin.
First the slick, grand adverts for perfume
loud trailers for films yet to come
and, as in the art deco Savoy,
fuzzy, dull slides of local emporia,
in old scratched analogue film
here jagged with Arabic script.
Bold words grow on the screen,
Do not smoke, do not litter or cause a nuisance.
No phones, no pagers.
I live in extravagant digital images,
wide-angled Dolby sound rushes past;
then it’s over.
Tears run down my face as we rush away
when the credits roll, a long list of names
no one reads. I’ll never know the grip or gaffer,
never forget going to the pictures in Dubai.
© Anthony Fisher June 2000
One thought on “At the Pictures in Dubai”
Interesting in your bio you say you worked on an autobiography. I think everyone should do that, maybe best in your 50s when individuation sets in, but before you’re 70. I identify with this poem because I found Dubai and Abu Dhabi so without soul they did facilitate reflection. Camus described Oran in Algeria as a desert because he felt it a non-place with non-people. I don’t hold with any culture as being “non-people” – peoples are foreign to each other, simple as that. But I do find Dubai a non-place, and hate it how what I call Dubaism is making the world boring – souless showy architecture in Delhi satellite towns, City of London, Woking. Walk into any mall and you might as well be in Baku, Eastbourne or Kolkata. Somehow in those non-places I do find myself confronted by myself because there’s nothing to distract me. So your experience in that Dubai Cinema does, to me, catch that nicely.