Tag Archives: Westerns

Tombstone

The climactic scenes with lawmen riding at breakneck speed while firing on fleeing suspects over a family vendetta in Tombstone haven’t aged well, now that we can mostly agree that even the police don’t have the right to shoot a fleeing suspect in the back. But in my book, this Western is still a cinema classic, if only for Val Kilmer’s iconic performance as Wyatt Earp’s cardsharp friend Doc Holliday.

This poem, based on the 82nd Psalm, doesn’t have any of Val Kilmer’s magic in it. It’s just about the Earp brothers’ conflicted feelings about going into business as private security men at a saloon, in a mining town where law and order operate only at the discretion of the local outlaw gangs. In this scene, Wyatt’s brothers make their reluctant decision to resume the role of lawmen – a role they thought they’d left behind for good when they moved west to settle down together with their families.

The youngest of them stood before his brothers,
and under Wyatt’s stare he spoke his mind.
“How long can we subsist on infamy,
and smile at outlaws over decks of cards?
Women and their children live here, too.
We could stand between them and these gunmen,
we are all they need for safety’s sake.
They don’t know where to turn when we hang back,
their desperation blinds them now to hope.
Everything we’ve built here is a sham.
When I was younger, I looked up to you,
I thought you stood for something more than this.
But in the end, you’ll let them slit our throats,
for we’re as mortal as the ones they’ve killed.”
They mayor slapped his back and thanked the Earps,
for making good the writ of Tombstone’s laws.

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Filed under Acting, Corruption, Poetry, Roll Credits

Ben Wade

I have to confess, over the course of the first few months of this creative writing exercise I’ve given myself (adapting the Book of Psalms to fan poetry), I’ve been really itching to give James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma a go.

This is one of my favorite movies, with two of my favorite actors going toe to toe, and I even found out the name of the handsome black horse Russell rides in this movie! That’s Ribbon. Ribbon’s my favorite, so far, out of all the horses Russell has ridden in the movies. (Although I do think it’s super cool that Rusty and George, who both turned heads in Gladiator, made starring appearances in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, too!)

Based on the 36th Psalm, this one is naturally in the voice of Ben Wade.

I hear the voice of crime speak to the wicked
as it speaks to me with the weight of my heart:
“There is no fear of God or holy justice
upon the world that stands before my eyes.”
The sparkle in the eyes of crime seduced me
by feeding off my sin – hatred is a fuel.
I learned the trade of mischief and deception,
and laid aside all other trades and virtues.
Getaways and murders can be planned a-bed,
but the leader of a gang must cut a stance,
only evil itself escapes his contempt.
I can be awed by the heavens – this kindness
is a kind of faithfulness to that night sky.
God’s justice lights like sunshine on bare mountains,
his judgment opens like a naked defile,
that man and beast escape by singular grace.
The farthest hawk pays tribute to this kindness,
and I but shelter in his soaring shadow.
I take my fill from the fare of providence,
and from wild streams and passing delights drink up.
For I will not spurn to take the best from life.
I can take pleasure in acts of kindness, too.
Draw down your mercy on those who know your law,
and save your justice for the gates of hell.
Let no man’s pride in this life overtake mine,
nor the hand of the wicked stay my hand.
There lie the murderers I led to this death.
They fell where they stood – they did not strike in time.

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Filed under 3:10 to Yuma, Acting, Corruption, Dream Ensemble, Gladiator, Poetry, Robin Hood