Robert Hogg

Roy Rogers -- a jazz elegy

Roy Rogers you come galloping across the silver screen of my mind tonight
just as you did fifty years ago in the Roxy Theatre on the South Side
my brother George & I wd ride to across the treacherous High Level Bridge
the trolley swaying dangerously or so it seemed summer or winter
always a Saturday afternoon our nickels clenched in sweaty palms
or mittened and fingered there in the endless ride that seemed to be
more in the sky than anywhere I remember the conductor would just sit back
nothing to do but stoke the coal fire once in a while and look round at
us kids hooked on the long thrill of the ravine below or pressed up against
the straw seats yellow as the day they were made to hold you up not
comfortable that was not the purpose then convenience maybe yes but
we didn't care we just wanted to get there get over that North Saskatchewan
menace that roiled tinily down below everything was down below the tram
ran on top of the bridge no side rails nothing out there but emptiness which I
misspell as em pitness the pit we all hover over whether Jonathan Edwards
and his Angry God or Roy and Trigger dashing to freedom across equal tracks
in time galloping full tilt guns ablazing the bad guys falling
like flies eventually though it takes time it takes time
but then the Bad Guy none of us can outrun gets off a lucky shot
and bang bang you're dead you have to play dead  you can't get up
that's cheating that's not the way it is in the film and no fair
shooting the horse out from under that's not fair either
especially Trigger a horse that could almost talk he was so
like his rider galloping galloping across that silver screen
Tonight they tell us on TV which was really your home for nearly
forty years that you died in your sleep last night eighty-six years old
and still hopeful still riding to that eventual horizon that forever recedes
like it does in the fade ins and fade outs of the movies Roy are you fading
now or are you sailing into some cowboy heaven the memory of Dale and Trigger
firmly planted in the brim of your ethereal Stetson that never falls off no matter
how precipitous the plunge over the cliff the leap to freedom across the chasm
whole Grand Canyons opening and closing beneath you as you hurtle on your
					Palomino Pegasus to the other side

Roy Rogers why do I love you and mock you at the same time why
do I sing your praises and cringe at the corny simplicity of your impossible
war against evil and outlaws bandits tricksters cheaters of women and kids
why do I balk at the trivial facts of your life the stuffing and mounting of your
favorite horse--our favorite horse let's face it--the opening of endless chains
of fast food outlets in your name the perfect smile and mannered squint of the eyes
that every kid of my generation envied and emulated to the nth degree
the colorful black and white dazzle of your perfect horsemanship riding
full speed the reins wrapped around the horn those mother of pearl six guns
twirling round your index fingers and firing so perfectly the outlaws seemed
to fall and die but not really it was just like the make-believe we also played

Jesus Roy did you know all that when you practiced your squint in the mirror and yodeled
all those songs on the radio nights we were too young to know any better and thought 
					it was real romance?

You did and you didn't and that's the beauty of it I mean you were so much the myth
it just had to be played that way the old battle of good against evil white against black
no further consequences right it was just law and order and a little dusting up nobody really
gets hurt and America gallops half way through the century Tom Mix Gene Autry The Cisco Kid 
Lash Larue and the rest of the rough and tumble heroes of the old Wild West made over 
					into fun and games and playing playing dead.

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