The Conqueror, John Wayne,
fought in every American war
with scripts and champagne,
but never shot anything more
than flashy hollow blanks
from his silver-screen guns.
Yet, he still somehow ranks
a hero for many generations.
He was a Genghis Khan
who stole the glories
of other men, getting to don
their heroic stories
without taking the chances
they risked day to day,
his Western Romances
having a fraction of the hazard, tenfold the pay.
The Duke supported the Vietnam War
because he would not die
on another man’s shore,
beneath another country’s sky.
He supported taking the land
from the Natives who lived here,
saying they were selfish, out of hand,
and Whites deserved to commandeer
the land, via Manifest Destiny,
so the United States might grow
from the resources, lest any
one else try to upstage our show.
He was a propaganda toy
put under glass,
the American golden boy
given every wartime pass.
The screen made him larger than life
as he spoke to the world on a stage
far from the wartime strife
he read on every scripted page.
Scripted, but not conscripted,
John had the spotlight
of propaganda, a special cryptid
specimen of the Right.
On the world stage he was
a myth that had outgrown the man,
attracting other myths, through buzz,
such as Hirohito of Japan.
Golden boy of the Golden Age,
wherever John went
he was star of the show, center stage,
highly appraised and heavensent.
He would prance and prattle
for the war machine,
fight and die in battle
on the silver screen.
Little Mary, how ironic it is
that screen tests should kill you;
not tests by “show biz”,
but by the Military who
you supported every year
by being an actor
and an activist, your career
dependent on “THE MAN’s man” factor.
You played at being
something you were not,
like a Golden Turkey make-believing
itself an Eagle; the Upshot
is that you glowed during your screening
for cancer, the Golden Boy
playing a true drama at last, meaning
you had a real reason not to be deployed.
And it is good that you declined
of stomach cancer because it
proved that you had guts, of some kind,
even if you had no True Grit.
Your epitaph reads “ugly, strong,
and dignified” in Spanish,
which I can’t help think wrong;
a mistranslated wish.
What you were is what you hated:
a pretty boy of Hollywood, a “weak queer”
and you will always be fated
to play the part you loved your whole career.
You were so fearless in the parts
you played; it seemed you never knew
what true fear was, in your heart of hearts,
because you never went to a real war, did you?