A City Full of Eyes (James Cilhar)

About James Cihlar
Author’s Notes

 • Rancho Nostalgia
 • ’Til We Meet Again
 • Night Song
 • Lonely, Deeply
 • Light and Dark
 • The Face Behind the Mask
Johnny Guitar
 • Undercurrent
 • Nora Prentiss
 • King Arthur and His Mob
 • The Normal Lives of
    Good People
 • English Poem
 • The Projectionist
 • Man Proof
 • The Reality Show
 • Modern Maturity
 • Epistemology Roadshow
 • Nostalgiarama
 • Let’s All Chant
 • Rancho Nostalgia II



Johnny Guitar

In the office politics of the American West
            you have to hate someone you don’t know.

I’d like to say Emma burns down Vienna’s saloon
            because she loves her and can’t admit it,

but that’s not the case. They love the same thing.
            Not the Dancing Kid, but power, success.

Each will find it her own way.
            That’s why they hate each other.

Emma is more man than woman.
            She makes other ranchers

feel like less than men.
            When she tortures a confession

out of an innocent boy,
            they back her up

like a church choir.
            “Young Goodman Brown”

meets fifties Western kitsch.
            After Vienna kills her,

they punch their timecards
            like workers on the clock.

Everything here is as it seems.
            The abandoned mineshaft under the saloon

that Johnny Guitar and Vienna
            use to escape

is known to all. Even the Dancing Kid’s hideout,
            which he reaches

by passing through a waterfall,
            is at the top of a hill, in plain sight.

Before the railroad comes to this desert,
            as in any work place,

no one doubts the truth
            of what we don’t talk about.

You’d think once the ranchers learn
            that Vienna’s hired hand

is really a sharpshooter
            they’d give him some space.

Instead they set him up,
            they throw him under the bus, I mean,

they stab him in the back.
            Ignoring the muscular strength

of his neck shaft, they issue an ultimatum.
            Get out in twenty-four hours.

Just long enough for two seasoned professionals,
            Crawford and Hayden,

to ignore their childish coworkers
            and flirt like mature adults.

I held up no stagecoach.
            I robbed no bank.

Why do you come here?
            I knew you would. But why?

I know, and I know you know,
            I’m innocent.

That’s why I sit here in my spotless white gown,
            playing my spinet piano. It’s my job.

For the last half of the movie,
            my saloon will burn on Main Street

my story heaped upon it
            with everyone’s before me

who was sacrificed for greed.
            Let the others reap the benefits.

I gave up the Dancing Kid
            a long time ago. I like being by myself.

  © James Cihlar, 2012


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