Sestina for Leigh Brackett

Hiding his gun, he steps off from the gutter
And slips between the shadows of the city
While far away – so distant that the stars
Are out of shape – a man winds on a reel
Strung from a rocket, focusing his gun.
The shadows that he glides through are the sum

Of every planet’s night – but this is some
Boy’s fantasy of space, far from the gutter,
The warehouses and docks, the lonely gun,
The fatal women of the hard-boiled city.
In lurid covers, both these worlds were real,
On pulp and screenplays, lit by different stars.

Spaceman or gumshoe, guided by the stars –
The laws of physics, politics, or some
Perplexing moral code – he knows what’s real:
For whether it has conveyor belts or gutters
There’s nothing so deceitful as a city.
And what could be more honest than a gun?

So, paranoid, half-worshipping the gun,
We watch the screen, agreeing with the stars
That our dull world’s a stage-set, Culver City,
The true world – Crime or Science – known to Some.
We flush poor Neo’s worldview down the gutter,
Say “Welcome to the desert of the Real”

With Morpheus. Of course, it isn’t real,
Or even realism, but we’ve begun
To need the gritty taste of lab or gutter,
The fingerprints and swabs, the names of stars;
A shred or two of fact to give us some
Assurance that our fables, like the city,

Are built on something solid. From the city’s
Loneliness, we shelter in the real.
Strange comfort, this – the vast, Liebnizian sum
Of physics, or the ways in which a gun
Can end a life; that galaxies of stars
Will one by one turn red, and fade, and gutter.

-We wake up in the city (where’s my gun?)
Remembering this: we’re really in the stars
But some of us are looking at the gutter.


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