Poetry in Motion

A corpse was carted down Main Street of Langtry, Texas, and deposited at the steps of the Jersey Lilly Saloon and Court House. The judge stepped through the swinging doors and banged his Colt .45 like a gavel against a whiskey barrel.

“Hear ye, hear ye, court’s now in session!”
He pointed to the dead body and asked one of the spectators what had happened.

“The bridge collapsed on him, yer’onner.”

The judge snorted and craned his crooked neck to examine the still-warm corpse.
“What’s the defendant got in his pockets?”

A quick search turned up $40 and a pistol.
The judge cleared his throat and began, “It is the judgment of this court that you are hereby tried and convicted of illegally and unlawfully committing certain grave offenses against the peace and dignity of the State of Texas, particularly in my bailiwick. $40 payable to the court and confiscation of the illegal weapon, next case!”

Aristotle put forth in his Poetics that poetry was ultimately more important than history, myth more important than fact, because within it spiritual and moral truths could be found. These are truths that inform and define, upon which cultures and societies depend for their continued identity.
Going by this philosophy and since official records weren’t actually kept by the Justice of the Peace in Precinct 6, Pecos County, we can feel morally safe in asserting that it occurred on February 25, 1883. Accurate or not, the legends surrounding such bold and larger than life characters like Judge Roy Bean contributed to the American ethos, that exceptional identity which propelled the expanding nation through a next half-century that had much of the rest of the world reeling from amnesia. It would take but a few more years before America began to show its own symptoms.


td Whittle said...

Intriguing piece. I think all this still happens, don't you? Police confiscating evidence, etc. As you have pointed out, we don't change much. I like especially that you brought Aristotle's Poetics into the post. That is a timeless truth, in my opinion. A friend of mine just posted a review in Goodreads, in which he discussed "Death in Venice" and said, "To paraphrase Anthony Heilbut, I’d prefer to 'contemplate the metaphysical implications than the sordid reality'."

cyurkanin said...

Yes, it happens, but I think the innocence that we could always take for granted is no longer there. Aristotle also wrote much about "the tyrant" in his Poetics too, and I think that's probably much more relevant to today than his thoughts on poetry. Thanks as always for stopping by :) and I love the GR comment!