Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I saw V for Vendetta this weekend. It was all at the same time maddening, inpsiring, glossy, trite and angry. It was I think the most brilliant piece of advertising to come out this year. Its merits as a film are another matter but I will say I was moved and angry too.

Strangely, today Sissy sent me this poem by Louise Erdrich. It is haunting and damning in a completely different way, more beautiful and brutal than I can express yet there is anger. Always anger. Here the words do justice and they, if you'll forgive my schoolboy metaphor, slice like knives.

Dear John Wayne

August and the drive-in picture is packed.

We lounge on the hood of the Pontiac

surrounded by the slow-burning spirals they sell

at the window, to vanquish the hordes of mosquitoes.

Nothing works. They break through the smoke screen for blood.

Always the lookout spots the Indians first,

spread north to south, barring progress.

The Sioux or some other Plains bunch

in spectacular columns, ICBM missiles,

feathers bristling in the meaningful sunset.

The drum breaks. There will be no parlance.

Only the arrows whining, a death-cloud of nerves

swarming down on the settlers

who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds

into the history that brought us all here

together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear.

The sky fills, acres of blue squint and eye

that the crowd cheers. His face moves over us,

a thick cloud of vengeance, pitted

like the land that was one flesh. Each rut,

each scar makes a promise: It is

not over, this fight, not as long as you, resist.

Everything we see belongs to us.

A few laughing Indians fall over the hood

slipping in the hot spilled butter.

The eye sees a lot, John, but the heart is so blind.

Death makes us owners of nothing.

He smiles, a horizon of teeth

the credits reel over, and then the white fields.

again blowing in the true-to-life dark.

The dark films over everything.

We get into the car

scratching our mosquito bites, speechless and small

as people are when the movie is done.

We are back in our skins.

How can we help but keep hearing his voice,

the flip side of the sound track, still playing:

Come on, boys, we got them

where we want them, drunk, running.

They’ll give us what we want, what we need.

Even his disease was the idea of taking everything.

Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.


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