After a night of blue ruin,
cowhands shoot at the moon,
or the lampposts, those dipped
bells of yellow and white light
they confuse for constellations.
No quick draw I dreamed
up from stories Michael
told me in San Francisco,
eloquence of shined carbine,
cavalier finger against trigger.
No romance to his own death
either, stench of his leathering
body in afternoon sun, the rusted
bullet someone pulled
from his spine for the copper price.
The woman I use to be is sleeping
now, canít get escape the noises
of boomtown, sex groaning
through the alleys, coaches heavy
with beef or women come to marry
a man rich with invention,
all of the grinding and rock shifts,
unfed horses whining by the grain
bags, bullets and glass, pocked iron,
whiskey bottle dashed against brick.
ANNIE, QUIET AT THE
All of the desert is distressed
by the drunk hollering outside,
the digging in the pits, mine-fires,
the un-tuned piano in the parlor
announcing itself above the wind.
Not your fingers plodding Pinafore
while the girls shake for businessmen
new to town. Nor her body curled
around you, last night, on the wool
mattress she built up from the floor
with sacks of stolen grain.
Nothing can assuage your animal
thoughts for her. She passes
with a tray of bourbon and French
champagne. A blooming Ocotillo,
she is covered in rubies for you.
ANNIE PRICE AND CLARA
SILENT AS THEIR ROOM BURNS
She could not reckon what would be lost in the fire
only what was safe in her arms
The men donít look us in the eyes.
Suddenly, a loon,
like a terrible secret,
gusts up from the flames,
her fathers burning,
the smell of cooking bones.
We wait on the corner
in our night-silks
awash in shadows.
And the awful smoldering.
And every word we donít dare say.
CLARA MILL RECALLS
NIGHT AT THE STONE SALOON
Alton made me sit with miners
in the parlor who werenít spending
enough silver at the tables,
who had an appetite for unhinged petticoats,
and the puzzle of hooks in French braziers.
I was with one who said he killed
a black bear in Bisbee
with an Apache
knife he found in a cave in the Huachucas,
as if I might be trained to believe
that legend alone makes a man a savage.
Later, on that dirty mattress stained
with copper dirt and sweat,
all I believed was the smell of whiskey
caught in the strands of his beard.
I didnít know yet, how to unwrap
the stench of the room,
how to move away from the man,
to go to another sense,
like the sound outside the window:
a grain bag slit open by a hoof.