“Old Man Watching Dunkirk” by Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown


When he stood
his knees shook,

shoulders bending in
the light of the credits,

letters streaming like eyes
at a memorial

scrolling names—
those who’ve crafted

a narrative we might enter.
There aren’t many left

to remind us
never to go back.

Not many left to say,

I’ve seen what

hatred can do.
Not many like

this old man
ghosted against

a fading screen—
he was the last

to leave the theater.

from Poets Respond


Aaron Brown: “I wasn’t ready for the effect Christopher Nolan’s new film, Dunkirk, would have on me this weekend—nor was I ready for this scene as I was leaving the theater: an old man standing slowly, clearly affected by the film itself. As it happens, I also finished reading Elie Wiesel’s Night for the first time this week. How often do we forget that such suffering happened on our watch, nearly 80 years ago? We are not that far removed from it. In the current charged social and political climate, I wonder if there’s a lesson here. As it turns out, there were others who were similarly affected.” (web)

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