John Wayne’s Dead

John Wayne’s dead but his ghost rattles spurs
and his voice blows tumbleweed promises
only flesh can keep.  His badge, shiny as only tin is
in sunshine winks as if this is all a joke,
this wild west, this middle east
all the same thing as the only sheriff in town
puts on his uniform.

So John Wayne smiles, fake as his name
and wishes his badge was true silver
so he could sell it and ride off
into that predictable sunset,
the way all good cowboys do
if he wasn’t already dead.

About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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16 Responses to John Wayne’s Dead

  1. annotating60 says:

    Francis Marrion was always, and still is,one of my favorites, but he played himself other than characters per se. Susan I think you have captured an essence in this poem the ‘shines’ though with a few minor snags. Nice work. You never write me anymore. Are you still so busy?>KB

  2. “If he wasn’t already dead” – powerful last line there. Like this a lot Susan.

  3. I loved the duke – and I love your poem – go figure

  4. emmaguinnesswriting says:


  5. BroadBlogs says:

    The curse of façade.

    I like this:

    this wild west, this middle east
    all the same thing

    Makes me think of the façade that people use to look powerful when they aren’t. They could choose to do things that are actually empowering. Instead, they choose to destroy in order to create an appearance of strength that isn’t backed by anything real.

  6. you’re unbelievable ! Loved it!

  7. nelle says:

    What’s that you say, Pilgrim?

    Good one.

  8. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    You know your John Wayne, Susan.

    I remember liking his movies as a kid and then getting to a point where I could not quite stomach them anymore. My gradnfather loved Wayne and my father -who has a sense of humor about Wayne- appreciates the John Ford films.

    Wayne grates but he does have his moments. I just can’t get past the belief some people seem to have that he was a real cowboy, a real frontiersman. Whenever I think of him I also think of Ronald Reagan and how people attribute to both of them imaginary feats. They are two great symbols of “the great man theory” of history.

    • Oh, Jeremy, you nailed it! I was trying to use Wayne here as a metonym for the great man/great nation, and Ronald Reagan fits here as well, with that instant-squeeze-cheese brand of machismo/nationhood we seem to like the taste of in this country.

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