Justified: A Poem Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens

When it’s time for Raylan Givens, U.S. Marshal, to catch
a hillbilly bad-ass villain dressed in the uniform of the hills,
Levis and a T-shirt that says I Eat Cornbread and Beans
Shit Freedom, you, who discriminate against difference,
will likely feel nothing for whoever draws his Glock first.
This episode is your chance to ask why pain or incarceration
attend disenfranchisement and scarcity like a bad credit rating.

I hear selective memory at work in their story of America.
I see that two-timer lover called Democracy cheating on us.
I fight the romantic in me, my failing to see what’s before me
and act upon it as I would any truth about myself and others.
Still, I love the lie. And I have lived most of my life with it.
It’s about trying not to think the worst is true all the time.
And, if it is, how does that shape the next and next step?

Hillfolk practice the habit of holding fast, failing to change,
while the world offers alternatives that shape shift and erase
the biggest part of any account of good and bad becoming
about the same. Depictions of unfair exchange aren’t new.
And lawmen like Raylan may self-identify as Appalachian
then put multiple gunshot wounds in others because they can.
It might be the right time in our turbulent history to question

what we mean by justified. Angels charged by God to follow
certain hellbent kids around from birth and to keep them safe,
the same angels surveys tell us that over 87% of you believe in,
have failed utterly in the task or are not that skilled at their job.
Maybe darkness itself is an angel in a laurel thicket, wrestling
the deep fangs of wolfish winds for the souls of the departed.
All of whom passed from this life justified in their disbelief.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of four books and several chapbooks. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, and elsewhere, as well as the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. His collection of poems Nosferatu in Florida is currently in search of a publisher, having been a finalist for the New American Poetry Prize (twice), the Moon City Review Poetry Prize, the Gerald Cable Book Award, and the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. He has received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (in poetry) and fellowships from the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. He lives in Pataskala, Ohio.

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