Bruce Bennett’s A MAN RODE INTO TOWN has great fun with the “lone gunman rode into town to set things right” stereotype that we recognize as evolving from Arthurian legends through Gary Cooper and Spaghetti Westerns: the ominous jangling of spurs, the familiar clip-clop of hooves, the damsel in distress, the leathery hero who in the end “will just ride away,” as the song goes. We begin to realize, however, as the repetitive thickening plot progresses, that this hero of our dreams and fantasies is ultimately a reflection of our own self-deceptions, a kind of Don Quixote figure, foolish and tied to his mortal coil as we all are, yet noble and even complex in his acceptance of his existential plight. And, of course, the formal brilliance and wit that Bennett has shown consistently throughout his career is on display as vividly as the gunplay.
author (most recently) of
Summoning the Outlaws (Kelsay Books)
From the book:
Death’s calling for him from the street.
Who knows how long before they’ll meet?
Death’s hanging out in the saloon.
He’s going to have to go there soon.
He’s going to have to face his fate.
He cannot choose. He cannot wait.
This time there’ll be no facing down.
There won’t be any other town.
There won’t be mercy or reprieve.
A part of him will hate to leave.
A part of him is set and ready.
His will is strong. His hand is steady.
He’ll do what he has always done:
he’ll face his future with his gun.
He’ll use his prowess as he can.
He’ll make Death know he faced a man.
He’ll make Death know that when men fall
because they’re answering a call
they’ve done their duty, paid their dues,
and found the only death they’d choose.
Bruce Bennett is the author of ten books of poetry and more than thirty chapbooks, many published by FootHills. His most recent full-length collection is Just Another Day in Just Our Town Poems: New And Selected, 2000-2016 (Orchises Press, 2017).