She wakes early, dash pressed to her bare
temple, fractured yellow light splayed
red across her hands. Clyde rolls another
cigarette and recites the five states
bordering her breezy smile. Easy-speak
cuffs the wind and the rifle in her lap, loaded
with a rustle of skirts and the advancing
frames of a Kodak black box tableaux.
Why not now wish for wings with outstretched
arms, and such subsisting sweetness
from an overheated radiator? Her stolen rogues'
gallery sings with poised sentence and cash
for the rumble-seat. Down, down she goes: dusty
roads traversed, the law in tow, to the sound
of her laughter, rich call of a sagebrush siren.
Only this resembles pleasure and matters of grave
importance, or what goes past the pale streak
of unmarked ambition to drive with the clock,
the shots, the pall, and the dry glance of her
Gwen Wille's work has previously appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Divine Dirt Quarterly, and Willows Wept Review,and is forthcoming in Writers' Bloc.
Inside The Barrel
His head bent, his black Stetson nearly covering his eyes, Colby Hanson peered into the wheelbarrow as if looking for something inside it even though it was empty. Then, abruptly, he reared back and pushed it toward a kid not much older than his son, picking up speed with each step. Soon he was moving so quickly the front wheel began to rattle and shake. He was within a couple of feet of Lonnie when the kid jerked his head as if he were going to move right then went to his left, and immediately Colby smashed into his left kneecap.
"Damn, Colby!" the kid whined after he fell to the ground. "That hurt something fierce."
"You're lucky it was only a little red wagon that hooked you, son, and not some slobbering 1,500-pound Brahma."
Chicken(poem found in a saloon bathroom)
Just when I thought
it couldn't get any better
she brought out the chicken
could she serve
, Montana native and associate professor of journalism at Western Washington University, has published over 70 poems in literary journals and anthologies, such as "Idaho's poets: A Centennial Anthology” (University of Idaho) and “Weathered Pages: the Poetry Pole” (Blue Begonia Press). See his poems here.
Vast shimmering clouds of mist, thick in sheets and moist blankets of slowly moving shadow, chased and flirted with the edge of the frayed desert horizon. Bully Scrap moved closer to his fate, the reward, or perhaps the punishment that lost cowboys and desert wolves, coyotes and saddle sore survivors were destined to endure, forever, lasting as long as a snakes unwearied name; thus the temptation to unknown pass, to vistas of discovery, dreams and wonted adventure.
The horse moved in slow steady rhythm and Bully coaxed the wind, parables and the promise of mysterious deliriums. Bully borrowed the courage of sagebrush riders and stallions in abeyant purpose as he entered the mist, the eye of the tempest and the point of no return.
The flow of warm summer rain fell on Bully’s shoulders and the mist abated to reveal sunshine and sporadic rain, the sweet season, the blossoms of a lush sylvan wild and a riddle borne by the sky and the clear lines of youth.
Bully cried and prayed, thankful, accepting the newness of his soul and the fresh breath of an unraveled whisper. To be reborn in castes of sunglow dew, by the distance between here and the past. Bully looked toward the orange fire of a nascent sun and an azure heaven. Cowboys commune he thought, cowboys commune. Gently he spoke, “ I have a wish to labor, onto the light evanescence of the river, thereby I live, thereby I live for the next horizon.”
Ron Koppelberger has written 92 books of poetry over the past several years and 16 novels. He has published 261 poems and 90 short stories in a variety of periodicals. He has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Freshly Baked Fiction and Necrology Shorts. He recently won the People’s Choice Award for poetry In The Storyteller for a poem titled Secret Sash. He is a member of The American Poet’s Society as well as The Isles Poetry Association.
Shelly had spent the first of her tip money filling up the Scirocco on her way out of town, and then she decided that the jar was opaque enough with bills to enable her to buy a carton of grapefruit juice, a pack of Marlboro menthols, and a tube of cortisone cream stronger than the one she had been using. The cashier’s eyes flickered over her body as he scanned the cream. Shelly hugged her waist with one arm, suddenly fearful he could see the diseased skin, even though she was wearing three layers to prevent such an occurrence. She tugged the bill of her hat lower to hide her bruised cheekbone and slid her license across the counter to prove she was over eighteen.
Antonito to Chama
June could hardly hold a wind in Antonito.
Rock embedded 'neath our nails,
Our fingers more like dynamite then dexterous.
None of us could tell the difference from our skin and the dirt.
It didn’t matter a skin color,
We were all men
Layin' the same line.
The dust I coughed was no different than the next man.
The sun does not discriminate,
We all cooked.
I got paid good for that work.
I struck iron stakes into railroad ties from sun to moon.
Hydrated with whiskey after the whistle sound in Osier.
Dreamt of easier livin’,
That gorge claimed better and lesser souls by the dozen.
But this was the West.
We blasted the sides off them mountain hills,
Slid rocks into ‘blivion.
We pulverized our way into Chama.
Man can conquer mountains,
Spread himself all over creation.
Here to the kingdom.
But we traveled alone
Faceless amongst each other.
Sure we knew names,
But never really spoke true,
About dreams or nothin’ else.
A silent family bound by work and circumstance.
None of us prayed.
But somehow we knew what God was.
I’d never admit to seein’ Him.
Or even knowin’ what to look for.
He was always there though.
That thunder rumbled and we knew what wrath was.
Lost bodies in rain with eyes.
Sought out each and every one of us sinners.
Either spooked us or took us.
But no one. Ever. Prayed.
We all died tighter then wire.
Stiff hands and eyes squinted at the sun.
Our mouths wider than the tunnels we dug.
Silent. Without a word.
Edward Doughert is a teacher, poet and ponderer from Taos, New Mexico. Pedaled his bike from Taos to Chama over the San Juan Mountains just to write this poem. Last night he dreamt of empty wine bottles banging his hollow skull. He woke with a hangover.
Grandfather fermented the moon
shine, taking clandestine fragments
of lover’s kisses, distilling
poetry of love into liquor.
If it smelled of frogs
writing their verses of loss into the night,
then so much the better. For regret
is always a white rose in the low sky.
Sometimes, his efforts exploded,
lightning singeing his eyebrows.
The moon shines its white grandfather’s beard,
part sour mash, part vinegar,
reams of fiddler crabs spitting plugs of tobacco,
sideways quarter-moon smirk, drunk,
fallen in stinkweed and skunk cabbage,
too saturated with excuses and bald-face lies,
sets some hooch in pan full of gun powder,
lights it, standing far as a stretched arm,
letting it flame, flannel underwear red
good stuff, if you survive to tell about it.
Grandmother searched the night forests
with her lantern of moonlight,
a white lace nightie. If she found him
in drunken stupor, urinating streams
with golden bass, she would yank him
by his potato shaped ears. If she found
his hidden still, bubbling crude whiskey,
she would shatter the night with it,
shards of black fall, white stars whorl,
steeple of crickets would hide drunken songs.
She would sample some to make sure
it was potent as a mule kick, or full of hellfire,
or it was tepid as a woman without a candle
smoldering at both ends and a man exiting
every open window. If it unbraided her hair,
set it screeching like a tormented cat,
if it was fit enough to serve notice
from the health department as hazardous waste,
if it made her blue eyes flame and spin out spiderwebs,
then it was too tame for grandpa.
Only if it spoke Swiss and grew four legs
was it ready for his consumption.
If she had a certain pride in his failures,
a peace in her face lifted as a veil
when bragging about his liquor.
The Day I Shot William Quantrill
I stepped slow and jerky towards the table where five men sat, one yelling he'd pass, another in buckskin jacket saying he'd call. I drew my gun and aimed it at the one with a sailor's tie. My legs started to wobble. I spoke in a voice sharp as an army bugle, I thought of the twisted licorice my sister, Nellie, kept in papa's old mason jars. Would that give me strength or draw naught?
“Sir, “I cried, “might your name be Charles William Quantrill?”
He raised his head from the card deck and his steel-blue eyes bore through me like I was a glass of cheap whiskey shot.