Love, it was your honey tongue that drove me
from the boom town in the summer, drove me
out in heat like gunmetal, summer shining
on the uplands. Take heart, my sweet, I’ve found
that summer passes. So will this.
I’ve seen the locusts come in thunderheads
from Colorado. Rattle and hum, they ate
the corn, lay heavy like a blanket on
the faces of the cattle. But what is that
to us: the passing of crops and cattle?
These towns will all be ghost towns now or later.
The madams in the houses down the strip
in Newton, Strong City or Bazaar avoid
the daylight as the days go by. The boys
die early or move on down the line.
We too have had our boom town, you and I.
Our perfect hour of freedom: a single ride
upon a stolen mare. And if freedom
ends its days alone and on a rope,
it doesn’t matter.
So when they rig my gallows, don’t be lonesome.
Your day will come, my love: the heat beneath
the jaw, the light like steel flashing once.
Love, I leave you nothing but my horse,
and just remember horses run away.
* * *
If I am growing old
so is my mother.
I see in her manner the girlhood
I never witnessed, the way
she startles when I open the door,
white-eyed like a colt, its limbs
too long for its body. Now
she will never outgrow
this awkwardness, never
lose this grace.
I look in her face:
bridge of her nose and chin
too long, are mine as well.
We age at the same rate,
now our growing is done.
The lesson now is learning
how to let go
of men who called out after us,
let go of husbands,
of sons who stayed
at the breast too long,
their voices muffled,
trying to speak, trying
to tell us, I am leaving now.
* * *
You wanted to come west, he said,
wanted open land. And now I go no farther
than this plot, so you stay hid
behind the uplands and the chert.
So babies came with bleached-out eyes
who had never seen the ocean swell.
And they don’t seem to feel
the heat that splits the soil.
Now you have your open land, he said,
gaping wide as heaven.
Gaping like a mortal wound,
like someone’s corpse cut open.
At dusk today I rode into the west,
but the trail within the gloaming
seemed to turn upon its haunches,
rip its limbs. I heard him say
you wanted open land,
as the trail within the gloaming
turned upon itself like it would tear
its thigh to sate its thirst.
* * *