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One Week

     (Buster Keaton, 1920)


Buster Keaton's every move strikes
without the sting of pity, just the sweat
of arms swinging hammers and nailing
planks of wood; he builds a scene to astonish
all in awe. There's nothing more physical
than a man in love, but jealousy
renders me still: The story opens
with him marrying my ex. At first,
I simply want to warn him, but they seem
so happy ... Simply put, he appears
to have it all: A young bride, a home
as a wedding gift, and a plot of land.
What else am I to do but foil his plans?
The home comes with directions in eight
sequentially numbered boxes marked
Portable House Co. All he has
to do is follow the order and build;
then the couple will be complete. But
will he make it all work? Well, the blur
of their happiness overcomes me,
so I switch the numbers on the boxes.
And, yes, Buster constructs a catastrophe,
but he builds this mechanical mess
with his calloused hands, which is enough
to impress his bride. I can say, at least,
I tried. At least I built a ravishing
quandary for him to solve with her
as witness, and they'll always have me
to thank for the memory of how far
they came together, while cleaning up
my muddle. And, still, I crave the problems
and the rigors of solving them, day
after day, the weeklong, filled with the charms
of young love, arm in arm without script,
without compass, walking anew into
a set constructed from life's dilemmas.


A. Van Jordan

The Cineaste
W. W. Norton


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