Steve McQueen, Leaning

Image of Steve McQueen, movie star King of Cool

How does one describe a look that resolute?
The left hand on a wall. The shoulder holster
and the black-handled .38 suspended in midair.
Maybe that unseen right hand holds the weapon
we have failed to notice like certain small facts
about furniture in the room the morning we die.
The best of us are equal parts enthralling and sad.
Some are one or two truths rendered more enduring
by a collision between Accident and Good Looks.
But the expression on his face is roughly the same
in any quadrangle of sunlight he’s asked to stand in
in a walk-up loud with San Francisco street traffic
and freighter horns warning small boats in the bay.
And he leans this same swaggering way each take.
Why? Because the King of Cool was a foundling.
An orphan knows the worst about us. And standing
like this, staring off into some unfaltering distance
in a turtleneck and slacks, wearing close-cropped hair,
he suspects he is relinquishing those parts of himself
he is likely never to get back. The best of a generation
model a look like his as one consequence of rebellion
and turning in the sheets at night in cold water flats.
A look that says Tell me how you want me to stand
and Show me that again. And, Go fuck yourself.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and will be publlshed in the spring of 2018 by the University of Arkansas Press. Work from that collection has appeared in Shenandoah, Pleiades, Rattle, Blackbird, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

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