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Midday Screening Vanessa Kisuule

Written by Vanessa Kisuule

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Vanessa Kisuule at the launch of Homes for Heroes 100 (Jon Craig)

Cinema has played an important part in our work. One of our city poets, Vanessa Kisuule, reflects on cinema as a communal experience in a new poem for us, ‘Midday Screening’:

with the final bite
of a sandwich he realises
a whole day lays ahead of him

unruly hours spilling from the
afternoon’s lip

the bare branches of trees
whistle then hush,

everyone’s faces hidden
under hoods, ears plugged
with blinking earbuds

he wanders the harbour
like the ghost of a sailor


the quiet urge to be alone
in a room of strangers

all staring at the
same source of light.

with a ten pound note
he buys himself a ticket
to a mid-afternoon showing.

picks the film at random.

(the poster shows an old
smiling woman with a tiny
brown dog in her lap)

he enjoys the hushed talk
and rustling packets, even the
earthy stench of wet woollen coats

that chorus of excuse me, excuse me
an ancient dance past tilted knees

and perhaps he imagines this
but as the lights go down,
he feels them all,
sad scatter of midday
moviegoers, share
the same sharp intake
of breath

Vanessa Kisuule was Bristol City Poet 2018-2020. Her poem on the toppling of the Colston statue, ‘Hollow’, went viral in the summer of 2020. She has two poetry collections published by Burning Eye Books. Her new book Neverland: The Pleasures and Perils of Fandom will be published in 2024.

This essay is taken from Our Project Was the City: Bristol Ideas 1992-2024, published May 2024.

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