Mark Gurarie    


Shadow Play

The Prime Mover

from The Annotated Guide to The Twilight Zone


Shadow Play

In a courtroom composed of three walls, the guilty verdict brings the defendant laughter, nervy sweats, another outburst, bigger than the last. Tell him it’s all a dream— but the guards, stone faced, drag him away. This time, you are playing the stenographer: “Sentenced to death by electrocution,” you typed in your finest fake shorthnd. Camera catches a calm Narrator on the stand, dressed for it. Nothing left for him to see but the slow walk to the small room. Goes for any of us: There are seasons enough for syndication; there are reasons to try again.

What if everything is its own useless sequel? you might ask, but in this bad movie, you crack up like Phillips over there. Couldn’t stop thinking he just. Couldn’t. Stop. Thinking about circle, the same sad sack faces recycling, the dark again again. Spot light. A few wrinkles but not many. Yet to build the wall that is there when you have been through it already, you are cagey, a skeptical white male smoking his pipe. Five more minutes on the roast, honey. You pour him the nice gin. Narrator at fire-side quietly farting into the throw-pillow, the dinner inconclusive. To know too much is to be already inside, to be trapped, playing a kind of felon. Having conviction. The three walled cell you are currently occupying comes in plaster, beige, or plaster and beige. Part of the nightmare: Narrator likes to think that you too are acting, that though you are no longer sure of the angle, your sweat reflects from the same pieced-together parts.

The same tight schedule: days growing monotonous in production, same disposable pie-plates, you might kvetch. Tell him it’s all a dream. A tiny world reassembled in the dream of itself, dreams that are not actually yours, but that broadcast the same few constellations in black & white. And, closer to the camera, in the light, the landscape, the ridges of each face, watching the slow walk to the small room.


The Prime Mover

It’s about time you started paying off, you tell the machine, with a wink or is that a twitch. A loser perennial in the Dreaming Big Skies, Narrator, too, will someday blow a gasket going double or nothing. The coins in a hat, jingling false promises: things are going to change. Jimbo, here, is the kind of quiet discerning giant we all need to remember in the turbulence of the every day. A spectral Narrator emerges from the brush recognizing your talent for what it is. Secrets are everybody’s business, and everyone has a superpower or a smashed up nose: a sometimes arbitrary collection of good and bad episodes; a set of preferences that express themselves as the capacity to applaud a ladder that leads nowhere, that runs out of rungs. Could you do this again, like right now?

Pain is a condition; therefore, one can acclimate to it and justify these throbbing temples. Narrator, who knows from headaches, can be imagined just now picking up a white rotary phone, in silk pajamas, tipped over rocks glass on the night stand, notes on scraps. Are you there, you ask Luck for just one more quarter, one—call it in the air—toss. Jimbo flips the dice using the same box he keeps his conscience in, see, but of course there’s more to it, it’s not as simple as that. Hang up the phone. The episode in which this was meant to be a temporary arrangement—Narrator is making pains to show you, a stranger, it seems silly to say it but yes, a stranger you—doesn’t look good enough in these lights, so we are displaying similar symptoms. Vertigo. A need to continue. To fill that black hole. To count zeroes. To fill the expanding AC vents. And the lights that embolden the pastel colored everything. The fever breaks, and ‘you can’t buy an evening for that kind of lettuce,’ is imagined to be a local saying. But it is in the morning Las Vegas— when the phone is ringing, when the coffee is being made, when the paper is folded, when the watch is checked— that the stakes are raised. Montage Based On The One That Appears In ‘The Prime Mover :’ as the wads pile up a sophisticated horn improvising over swing orchestra; as they pile on the threats, as the threat’s an abscess, a sweaty Ace; a card drawn from the wrong side of the deck. Or better yet, little more than a blown fuse, Jimbo is the gone gone goose that will no longer lay.

Montage Not Actually Appearing In Tonight’s Episode: silhouettes of two astronauts, one of them Narrator, walking in a field, leaves falling off the trees even though they are still green and made of money. Wilting greenbacks and never mind whose hands they sat in, what the grease tasted like. But the headaches to know. To be possessed by your talent, Narrator, to go with you on a short trip.


Mark Gurarie hails from Cleveland, OH, but is a long time resident of Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of the New School's MFA program, his poems, fiction and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in The Brooklyn Review, Paper Darts, The Faster TimesThe Rumpus, Everyday GeniusPublishers Weekly, Coldfront, Lyre Lyre and elsewhere. In October of 2012, the New School published Pop :: Song, the 2011 winner of its Poetry Chapbook Competition. He co-curates the Mental Marginalia Poetry Reading Series, blogs about unimportant things at, and lends bass guitar and ugly vocals to Americana-punk band, Galapagos Now!.