Michael Cantor poetry






At the end of Breathless, when he dies —
Belmondo dies, that is, not Richard Gere,
in Paris, not Las Vegas; the original
and not the stupid remake — when he dies,
this handsome thug — Jean Seberg wipes a thumb
across her lips, the signature adopted,
message sent; her lover sprawled on cobblestones.
An angel blinks, and turns, and fades to FIN. 

There is an ancient story from Japan:
a conquered feudal lord about to die
called blood and curses down upon his captors, 
vowing that he would come back from death
to bring an awful vengeance to their lives —
burn lands and houses, savage wombs, kill all
the daimyo’s men who viewed his headless body.

To be a jump-cut, loosely muscled hood
adrift in grainy black and white in Paris
in the Sixties — Christ, that was the dream
of dreams — a cigarette rolled lewdly in the mouth,
the frantic puffs, loose shirt, loose tie, a hectic,
jerky kind of motion that propelled us
in and out of bars and beds and automobiles
and down gray streets of tracking shots and death.

I have no fear of ghosts, the daimyo said.
One swordsman’s stroke  will end your life — at once —
and there it stops.  But if you think you can return
to haunt and torture us, then send a sign. 
Do you see this golden pennant with my crest?
If will alone can make your severed head roll on
this far, to grip the staff and hold it in its teeth —
it means you are a man who keeps his word. 

Since Paris is the place one goes to dream,
Michel Poiccard/Belmondo joined my troupe,
and wandered with us down the Boulevards,
full-lipped and feline, arrogance and grace
behind dark shades.  He played supporting roles
as well, in scenes set at Le Deux Magots,
and said his years spent on the run had taught
that film absorbs a life, and life a film,
and life evolves from cameras rolled on chairs.

The head fell straight, took one small bounce, and then
eyes wide and staring, mouth agape, bumped on the length
of one man’s arm, and when it reached the daimyo’s
pennant, clamped its teeth down on the wooden staff.
A wind of ice went through the daimyo’s force,
and then he spoke: in order to become a ghost,
to fight again, to seek revenge and blood,
a soul must think of nothing but  that need
at the instant it finds death.  He toed the head,
its eyes still open, teeth clenched fiercely on the pole.
This one thought only of its piece of wood.


First published in Raintown Review