The Death of Charles Bronson
Like a hand grenade, with the pin pulled out:
John Huston describing "Le sacré monstre"
As the French called Charles Bronson; but
They might as well have been talking about
Poetry, itself a hand-held weapon capable
Of massive outward impact as it splinters
Sending metal and other fragments everywhere;
And is not poetry, in France, a sacred monster?
Charles, you had the same name as Baudelaire,
And a similar face: were you his disinherited
Country brother? You too had spleen, derived
From years as a child miner, earning one dollar
Per ton of coal. Later your performances mined
Darkness for more money, fist-fulls, which bought
33-room mansions. Your last name was altered
Thanks to Senator McCarthy: you suspected
America might not be ready for a Buchinksy
Holding the machine gun of Machine Gun Kelly.
Death Wish , of course: every man half hopes
To have his wife murdered, daughter defiled,
So he can explode into action, ugly-handsome
And driven, like your brutal 70s character.
I prefer Mr. Majestyk - especially the scene
When the villains shoot up your water melon
Warehouse. You had the scarred visage of
The sort of existential immigrant men love
To imagine they might amble off a boat to be.
Women imagined your violent torso tensing
Above or below their taboo-behaved selves.
Then in Alistair MacLean's Breakheart Pass
You may've surpassed yourself, cheroot-smoking
In that Colorado blizzard. Today, in hot Paris, I
Asked a waiter about your last escape: he shrugged,
Said it was not like when Camus crashed, ecoute .
He is wrong. You inspired the brutal in all of us
To dress up to walk the streets with one purpose.
Todd Swift is the author and editor of seven books, including 100 Poets Against The War (Salt, 2003) and Cafe Alibi (DC, 2002). He is the poetry editor of nth position and has several books forthcoming in 2004/05, including Rue du Regard .