Toby Dammit (1968) c. 30 Min. Color. In the third episode of the film anthology Spirits of the Dead, Fellini freely improvised on Bernardino Zapponi’s gothic screenplay of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Never Bet Your Head on the Devil,” keeping only the ending from the original.
Fame spreads its miasmic glow,
Airport to airport, yellowing
Beneath clinical fluorescence.
Nuns giggle and flee, people gasp
And draw back; any flies swarming
Forward must be the paparazzi.
Itinerant and distraught
Imitation of Poe, a failed talent,
Toby, mocks the fake adoration.
LSD makes the brain more flexible
By breaking down what keeps
Neural circuits separate,
So he feels one with God
Or the Devil, cross-talking from
Ego depletion and color saturation.
Apostates from the Vatican
Sanction this Western Crucifixion
Film to sell Christ to pop culture,
But the gypsy refuses to read Toby’s palm;
“Dusky death…dusky death,” the Scottish play
Goes, making him laugh and weep.
Cult of the personality has taken over.
There’s even a stunt double in Mexican
Rawhide who rides in to pose beside him.
What you see is what you get; depth
Has left poetry, Poe, and its sounds
Are dubbed in during post-production.
Caricature doodles across burnt-out
Walls gleeful images too self-aware
Ever to be taken seriously,
But Toby has lost his head over
A Ferrari, blood red, with which to speed
Down Roman back roads.
Catacombs loom, a barista doll
Bobs like a stuffed penguin, road
Blocks keep popping up,
But Toby will have none of it,
Gunning for his Lolita
On the other side of that bridge.
[Disposable Poem April 17, 2016]