The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Susan Aizenberg

Western

 

               --Lonesome Dove


He’s what we once thought we were,
the aging Ranger,


what we meant when we said
America,
and when he smashes—


without warning or wasted motion,
his single move elegant


as Astaire or theoretical math—
the insolent bartender’s face


against the bar and breaks his fat,
stupid nose, we’re happy.


He should have shown some respect.
We like how he’s sentimental


even when he’s sober, and not afraid
to weep over the young cowboy


he once was, or the love he lost to his need
to ride on. And we like that he rode on.


We like the weary shake of his head
and the way he grins, a little sadly,


when he has to shoot yet another
savage fool. We like his tenderness


toward the broken girl he rescues,
how he kills her captors,


ten against one, and calls it
fair odds.
He’s what our fathers meant


when they taught us the lie
that only cowards are ever afraid.


We want to cling to him
the way the girl does, and we


like the way that, in the end, he chooses death
before he’ll let the drunken sawbones


take his gangrenous leg, binds
his only friend to a quixotic promise,


and leaves his fortune to the girl.
It’s for us she grieves, inconsolable


beside his coffin, for days.

 

 

 

SUSAN AIZENBERG is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, _Quiet City_ (BkMk Press 2015) and lives and writes in Iowa City, where she also teaches in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She can be reached through her website at https://susanaizenberg.wordpress.com. 

 

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