Ben Charland

Sunshine Cinema

I went there once, nose first,
on a date with a high school teacher
I’d met at a communist bookstore—
	revolutionary communist, to be clear—
to see 12 Years a Slave.

I don’t remember the neon yellow Sunshine
above the black marquee or the mostly-black
graffiti splayed out on the urban
beige brick or the New York-famous
Jewish bakery next door—
	Yonah Schimmel Knish—
that grew up with the cinema when
it hosted Yiddish vaudeville circa 1909.

She was my self-appointed
Lower East Side guide
so maybe she pointed
all of this out but I just
wanted to get to her apartment—
	subsidized, three-quarters up a 60s tower block—
and take off her black blouse
while watching Trailer Park Boys
on the little box TV set she
wheeled around on an Ikea cart.

But rewind: before that we clasped hands
behind a paper cup half-full with iced tea
while sweet dark strings rattled my thirsty heart
and voices pummelled with sound around—
	“Roll, Jordan, Roll”—
and tears came down my face
and I knew them on hers too.

Our walk to the subway weighed
more than the butter machine,
she smiled at me but behind
was a splintered sadness—
	Weltschmerz is the German word:
	to know it’ll all let you down—
	as I would, as I knew I would—
she turned for the escalator
I strolled back out into
January Manhattan my bones still
quaking from a voyage in the dark
of a light factory later to
collapse in my mind.

Four years later they
demolished the Sunshine,
in its place are nine storeys
of glass and a cryptocurrency office and
nowhere on site is the story
of how I was cockblocked
by Chiwetel Ejiofor playing the violin,
me unable or unwilling or unmanned to see
the famous Tupac mural—
	“Live by the gun
	Die by the gun”—
on the same urban beige brick, just
my research now into
everything I missed
while I wandered by
dreaming of tomorrow.


Ben Charland is a writer and communications consultant. From 2018-20 he hosted the weekly podcast, What On Earth is Going On?, which featured guests such as poet and biographer Rosemary Sullivan, fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay, broadcaster Terry O’Reilly and many more. Ben lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, with his wife and two kids. Learn more about Ben and his writing at

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