I spent an enjoyable afternoon yesterday discussing poetry with the other members of the Secret Poets. Thanks must go to the Secret Poets for their invaluable assistance in making sense of this post's poem.
You may have seen the rough draft here.
THE WHITE LINE
Let's play along with the myth
of the over the hill gunslinger,
who's lost his nerve and is on one last job.
He stands outside a door wondering
if his death waits inside.
Taste his fear. See his hands shake.
He gathers himself, and kicks that door open,
outdraws the bad men
[though he is the one dressed in black]
and frees the farmers, as he was supposed to.
Absorbed in his own legend, he pauses,
is shot in the stomach, dies holding on to the wall.
Then there's me, in the dark,
right side of the white line,
Saturday afternoon films, 1961.
That scene has stayed with me since,
perhaps I was just the right age to be impressed.
I had yet to watch Vietnam unfold nightly,
or to see the American Empire begin to crumble.
What has changed? Well, it is now a shorter poem, ten lines have been removed and it is the better for this.
One of the advantages of sharing your work with others is that you discover what doesn't work.
I also gained a title.
A word of explanation; when I used to go to Saturday afternoon films you had to sit below the white line. This was literally a white line running across the aisle demarcating where children sat in the matinee. I think it was to make cleaning up after the film easier. I was thrown out once for sitting at the back of the cinema. What a rebel.
Here is Jimmy Witherspoon and the late, great Art Pepper. I have just found this clip. Art is playing like an angel.