He was like all the others:
a soul trapped into the phantasmagoria of cinema.
Once you enter, you can never escape.
You’re in the collective unconscious,
you pretend to be other people
while the people who watch you pretend to know who you are.
It’s all projection,
we mourn our icons not because of who they are,
but who we think they are.
This world of endless identities,
and countless deaths,
belong to the actors alone.
Your face has to be on the screen,
your name alone is not enough.
He was one of the faces, people remember the faces, they wonder about their names,
they look them up.
Wasn’t he the singing convict in Cool Hand Luke?
Wasn’t he the first victim of a grown-up xenomorph?
Isn’t he from that one movie where he snorts speed with Emilio Estevez?
Isn’t he that sad old guy whose afraid of death from that Twin Peaks movie?
Wasn’t he the brother who had a stroke in that movie where Richard Farnsworth travels on a lawnmower to see him?
Wasn’t he the guy on the tractor that got blown away in Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?
Isn’t he the lead of that movie about the ninety year old atheist? It’s called Lucky I think. David Lynch is in it too.
They look at their faces,
sometimes with shock: oh man, he’s got so old!
And sometimes with comfort: oh good, he’s still alive! If he can live so long drinking and smoking, I might still have a chance!
They reflect ourselves,
but they become more human than any of us.
It’s okay if they fuck up,
they can escape in all these different kind of roles,
the face might stay the same,
but the soul can travel in all these different vessels.
And then they die.
You watched them on the screen as a child,
you hear about their deaths when they are an adult.
So you sit still,
Then you begin to mourn.
I was hoping to meet you one day.
I would imagine leaving the meeting,
telling the world that you were so down-to-earth, friendly,
your wise words would never leave me.
I would tell my friends about my meeting with you; this is what he told me, isn’t that great? It gives me hope for the future.
Tell you the truth, your death isn’t a huge surprise.
You were ninety years old,
I recently told my father that you were probably on the list.
But goddammit sir I hoped you would prove old age wrong.
And you already did, your lifestyle was your own, your dignity was never taken away.
The way you inhaled that smoke,
you never quit like I promised myself I never would- but I have, because I’m not as brave as you.
the way you drank,
your crystal clear words in interviews- you were a greater poet than I am sir,
the history of your sad eyes: I can see you were beaten, your heart was broken, but you survived.
You survived the war,
and at some point in time, you might have wondered if you could survive death.
None of us can, the rules will always stay the same, but I bet you pissed off death when you raised your glass at him.
Your wrinkled face wasn’t the convention of beauty,
but you were beautiful to me sir.
You were a real man,
and you left this world,
leaving your mark,
your performance in Paris,Texas- if that would be your last role you said, you would be satisfied-,
seeing your enjoying your cigarette and looking into the sky in Twin Peaks: The return- only for that peace to be shattered by the brutal death of a small boy-
I’m sure your final performance, the leading role in Lucky, will be incredible.
You’ll play a defiant atheist pondering his mortality,
in a town full of weirdo’s played by incredible character-actors (I know you hated that term, I’m sorry, but it just fits this poem).
It’s a role that seems to fit you perfectly.
In a trailer you sing,
you perform yoga,
you look so damn old and so cool.
You are gone now,
left this world for another.
You’ve gone to meet Sam Shepard,
who gave you your favorite part.
You’ll smoke and have drinks with him,
in the place where barflies never need to drown their sorrows.
He’ll write you a transcendent sequel of Paris, Texas; where Travis finally finds happiness, where love comes back to save us all.
Or perhaps his tragedy is where we should end.
It’s such a good story
and that story will never go away.
Just like your days as a Repo man,
sharing the prison confines with Paul Newman and George Kennedy (both there with you),
in Missouri playing an outlaw alongside Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando (he’s there with you too),
in a dystopian New York with Ernest Borgnine (gone as well),
walking the green mile just like angelic Michael Clark Duncan (they all go, even the young).
The stories will never go away,
but we’ll miss seeing you in new ones.
But it’s like you said:
eventually you’ll accept all of it,
suffering, horror, love, loss, hate.
”It’s all a movie anyway.”
It will take some time for me to accept your departure,
but I know I will,
we have no choice in this life.
We know how this movie ends,
we move on or we let life destroy us.
We die inside and live another day.
I think I’ll take a page from your life,
and try to survive this movie as long as possible.
I don’t think my movie will end as gracefully as yours,
I don’t think I’ll be as beautiful as you were at the end of your life,
but that’s because I’m Chris van Dijk
and you were the great Harry Dean Stanton.