Watching Westerns

I like the way
the bad guy gets it
with a bullet
between the eyes. I love
that look of surprise
as he tumbles over
in a landscape
larger than life. It's
great the way clichés
come together
in a place where man's barely
emerged from the cave
and the hero
always a passing stranger
quietly arrives
to gun down evil
while cattle endlessly
stampede through the town. As
heroes grow older and slower
and always more
and more alone
I keep hoping
they'll eventually find
somewhere safer
where they can quietly
settle down.

Photo by Jane Usher

Now in his ninetieth year, Peter Bland's first NZ collection, My Side of the Story, was published in 1964. He has an international reputation, having been given both the Prime Minister's Award for Poetry and a British Society of Authors Poetry Award, as well as a Melbourne Festival Literary Award. He lives in Auckland and regularly reads his work on Facebook.

Peter comments: 'I’ve loved Westerns since I was a child. The best of them have an Odyssean feel, with the stranger as hero and a good-versus-evil theme. Even the landscape is more myth than actuality. The poem has fun with these themes but seeks a happy ending and retirement beyond the usual bloodbath.'

​Poem source details >


Academy of New Zealand Literature author page