I couldn’t stop my head from cocking to the
left for a moment when my grandmother,
while watching John Wayne on the television,
said that the Old West should have sunk
for all the lead he fired into the ground.
And it is probably true, given just
how many black-hatted ne’er-do-wells
would outlive their ninety minutes’ running time,
free to return time and again, like reloaded
bullet casings, a little scratched but still usable.
That afternoon I came to think of the Duke
a little more closely, and placed myself next to him
on the prairie, feeling his big hand on my shoulder.
I looked down the barrel of his rifle; no Comanche,
no villains. Just a clear line of sight to the box office.
Setting a precedent to be mimicked later by profit-
oriented politicians and other men of their caliber,
John Wayne always made sure to dim the lights
and locate the exits before inviting us
to watch as he turned lead into gold.
Andrew Rihn is a 24 year old student at Kent State University. His poetry has appeared in Dissident Voice, New Verse News, NeoAmericanist, and Poetic Injustice. In the winter of 2004-05, he won Left Hook‘s essay contest and the piece was subsequently published in MRZine. More recently, he won first place in Kent State’s poetry contest for undergraduates.