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Magnavox Opus

There are extinct arts,
one of them being
the way my grandfather built a library

of movies taped off television,
twelve hundred cassettes’ worth
in generic, yellowing sleeves,


their labels faced out,
filled in his cramped hand—
[title (year) running time]—


and curated to his convenience—
all three Star Wars movies
on different tapes, pirated


from different channels—no regard
for genre—a Capra/Spielberg/
Kurosawa triple-feature—


whatever was on that week
according to the saddle-stitched,
finger-blackening listings


in the Sunday Post-Dispatch,
movies printed four cells wide
with sparing, one-line synopses—


“Hazing horror on sorority row,”
each recording punctuated


by the proof
of his watching:
the briefest glimpse 

of a Coke’s fizzing brim
before the tape cuts out
and cuts back in

on a preview of what was once
the nightly news—then back to
Back to the Future

and his catalog,
the red spiral notebook he kept
within arm’s reach of his recliner

in the wood-paneled basement—
its graphed pages portioned out
in alphabetical sections, a little space

at the end of each for titles yet to air,
every entry with a number
corresponding to a labeled drawer

in one of a dozen cabinets
no longer manufactured
for a format no longer used,

carted out of his split-level home
with the tapes still inside—
leaving just the catalog

with its little list of lasts:
The Last of the Mohicans, The Last
American Hero
, The Last Man on Earth

[Thanks to Harpur Palate for originally printing this piece.]

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