Steamboat Bill, Jr.,
aka Buster Keaton, 1928
It’s good to see him young again,
back from the booze, divorces, talkies,
bit parts, and that sponging relative,
age. He’s home again, in the cyclone
scene, headed into the blast, become
an acute angle losing ground—ballet
as the masters never conceived it.
While others scurry cellar-bound, he
goes allegro from house to flying house
till he stops before a two-story one,
the two-ton front of which is rigged
to fall around him, who’ll be spared only
by a narrow window, as in dreams,
where the body’s safe from pain
and death. Half the crew’s walked off
the set rather than watch him crushed.
But when wall smashes down, there
he stands, bemused for a moment, then
off to a tour en l’air with barrels,
crates, fence posts, and door jambs till
he wraps his arms around a tree,
which lifts skyward and, pas de deux,
they drop into a flooding river, where
he finally saves the lives of his dad
and doe-eyed sweetheart. Ours as well.
TO FUNKY TOWN
Funky Town, whatever it was for,
isn’t funky anymore, foreclosed,
I guess, wasting here beside the road,
besieged by trash and knee-high weeds
No town, but once a lone bright building
set against a scrubby acreage, it must
have been too funky for this world. Now
it’s neon sign tilts down across the roof,
its painted clowns and monkeys wrinkle off
the purple walls. The graffitied door’s ajar,
snarling “Fuck Me,” in fuchsia and chartreuse
above a brambly pudendum. The city’s banned
access till demolition. A strip mall’s planned.
The jury’s in, summoned
by Villa: six peons, cut down
from nearby trees, still
wearing their nooses.
They stare in all directions
as he asks if any
objects to the execution
of the hacendados
and their cronies quivering
behind the witness stand.
The dead’s silence
fills the room
with the indifference
their misery met with
from the condemned.
Villa asks again,
even more politely,
if there are any objections.
OK, this was just
an old film, starring
Wallace Beery as yet
another Robin Hood
dreamed up to distract us
from an even older
verdict the hacendados
know is in their favor.
But bless our dreams,
bless the silent peons,
and viva Villa.