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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Double Fantasy

I remember December 8th for two reasons: 1) It was the Saturday before my 18th birthday and the boy I had a crush on didn't come to my party because he was busy mourning John Lennon. (Dodged a bullet with that one! No pun intended...) and 2) This is the day Marty Robbins died of a heart attack. I wrote this poem in 2006 after I accidentally found a copy of Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs at my job. I will never get bored of this album, so here is my poem about it.

double fantasy
“God speaks of Marty Robbins.” –Pete Townshend

the cowboy
looked down at his chest
where once had lain
tousled, bedded curls
was now
split by sutures
cracked like red rock canyon
over a broken heart
holster replaced by a bag
bleeding life
into a soul crying out
for the cantina badlands
of new mexico.

the first attack
came on like an apache raid
fast motion fray of pain
like the stampede of a thousand steer
in a valley of certain death.
he clutched his chest
feeling for arrows
and woke up
under white light
in the burning sunfire of his imagination.

opened his eyes to
the lord’s face
offering a day of television
could he find five dollars
in the folds of paper gown
rustling like cattle
looking for a break in barbed wire
and embarrassed by the slaughter.

the lord
rubbed his hands
on standard issue
gray uniform pants
turned a key
and produced a miracle of
vision and sound.
you remind me of my dad
he said
before turning on
rubber souls
and leaving the room
bathed in the
heavenly blue fluorescence
of what
no one really understands.

televangelists spoke in
gestures breaking
like lightning
under an electron sky
and the cowboy
bit true grit
into cotton sheets
like adam
waiting out the storm in his ribs.
his insides
locked in a stare with fate
a showdown at the o.k. corral
and the television
blinked away
mascara tears
and the self righteous
dollar signs of salvation
turning instead
to blackclad mourners
at a strawberry field
wet eyes
showing through spectacles
like preachers
tapping a cross
into dead prairie dirt
and praying for rain.

the man mourned
at the strawberry roan was
taken by surprise
shot up by a
gunslinger
made desperate by
dry dakota air.
the walls and bridges
of the city
felt gritty
in his teeth and
compelled by
madness
feeling like sand
blew away his borrowed time.

the cowboy
bucked in bed
gripped by
an unseen wind
whipping his
heart and lungs
the sterile light
and green wallpaper meant to soothe
boiled his eyes
and in a breath
his outlaw heart
was free from
the powwow beating
and rhythmic insistence
that chains both
horses and
men.

the grim reaper wears a black hat
and shoots from the hip.

john lennon
bit the bullet that day, too,
and news anchors
tapped the glass television
screening emotions
and imagining
under hairspray and teleprompter
a world without song.

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