(All writing published here is owned by me unless cited otherwise.)
Buffalo Bill shook his sombrero
to start the crowd clapping for your big finale,
before your mustang lurched under your kick
each week for seventeen years,
and those in the stands of The Wild West Show
waved their arms like lariats in the dusty air,
before you tossed back your hair,
cocked that sleek rifle, and aimed
at the soaring glass balls
that splattered like pigeons at your bullet’s touch,
you were just
Phoebe of Patterson Township,
nine, a child with a gun,
distraught over the death of your father;
a girl walking away
from Woodington, Ohio,
into the wild woods,
where, before an audience of pine,
you would hunt food for the hungry
family you’d left behind.
Marjorie Maddox, “Annie Oakley”
(Happy Birthday, Annie Oakley)
You’re a sadist too, I know.
But I don’t waste much time thinking about you
Not when I am clamped all around-
Not when you are
Four fingers deep,
I’m a mess but I love chaos
Like you love evasion
Like I want power
Like you want me
And this is the way we fuck.
We fuck ourselves clean.
Cigarettes left his lungs like winter trees;
Hibernating behind grey-lidded eyes for months in lethargy
They told me it feels like
Walking home after dark: fresh and secret
Finally allowed to ignore the aches of nostalgia
But I don’t know what death does to a person
Last dream, last sweat, last three movements of the chest.
There was water in the lake now frozen, where has the water gone?
My friend Nancy tells me she’ll be buried on this summer’s hill where daysprings meet the aging farmer before dawn has torn the covers
from the night; where beauty is at home. And so it will be when
Nancy’s three mean daughters have grown old themselves
and one day travel long to stand beside her grave, they
will have to run the gauntlet of this grace, come face
to face with what is beautiful in what we have
not made, stand on the highest rise
above the valley
thinking what a thing a lifetime is.
Let not even I imply she should have saved her money, spent the eleven thousand, three hundred and fifty dollars on Lipitor and long term care insurance, thus assuring these three daughters—not even really nice as children—would burn her body up and pay some stranger to sprinkle the ashes (that is what they will call us then) out on the Atlantic, because, “Mother liked the sea.”
The sea: that grave no one will frown if you don’t visit.
There are not many ways to bring our children home.Linda McCullough Moore, “Hawthorn Mountain”
I never saw my father kiss anyone
not even my mother. Surely I’d remember—
a shadow image in my blood: him kissing
someone somewhere for some reason
even if only for duty.
(In that image he bends his head to a child
or smaller adult, touches a wrist with one finger,
slides his arm around a shoulder.
In the shadow he bobs his head near her cheek:
but do his lips really touch skin?)
What I can’t believe is that I was conceived
without kisses. There must have been kisses—
even if they floated out the window
to be smashed by the bombers rumbling overhead
nine months before my birth.
Here’s what I’d like to believe: before
bombs and blackouts, he was the sweetest
smoocher, the easiest man to laugh with
when someone like me strolled with him
beside the sea, her arm tucked warmly into his.