Clio Heads West

Her manifest destiny unravels
A journey through manuscripts
Burning in the fires of infidels or
Believers. She crosses the meridian
Of what’s plausible, dons the coonskin
Cap of a pioneer, shoulders the long
Rifle. Bears and wolves follow her spoor
Scenting the story she tells of women kissed
Into verisimilitude. She wings plains great
With horizon, badlands gnawed by dwarfs,
The watersheds where she divides
A river’s purpose. Clio in latigo
Boots and Stetson mounts the mustang,
Sets her spurs to its flanks, gallops
Over rimrocks, the vast caldera
That holds the fate of the earth.
Ah, Clio, foretell how the geysers
Obey that latent pulse, the fire
You kindle in the wilderness,
Outlaw of the heart.

Wagering with Clio

She smiles as they cast the dice.
The crucified man moans
In despair, then assures the good thief
Of paradise. Such odds are those
She admires. The book that inspires
Seas to part, a homesick woman
To harden with unshed tears.

She takes up her pen. Another century
Of risk inscribed. She likes the forlorn hope
That storms the breach. No prize but the
Scope of her imagination. The starry casino.
The running horse. Count cards or tilt
The brilliant machine. She’ll let you cheat
Then call you out in spades.

It’s pluck she authorizes, how with energy
And will, you make your luck. She winks.
The wheel clacks through its cycles.
The bets you place. The coins you toss. The ace
She palms.

Last Night

Wreck after midnight. A girl pinned
to the smashed windshield, figures milling
in the dark, lights bobbing, remember
the power line arcing blue bolts
down our lane. All it takes is a spark.

That curve. They’d just moved in.
The house where Helen died, a twisted scar
on her shaven skull. This year a proliferation
of hawks, red foxes, the redwing survivors
of West Nile. Last night a pack of coyotes
chorused the creekbed behind the barn.
Something shrieked and died. The lost house.
A trapdoor with a rope ladder leading down.
The bride of darkness sitting with a candle.

Watch out for falling branches in this wind.
A state unlikely to prosper, horses shifting
locking their hocks in sleep. Barn swallows
in clay and wattle teapots. A skinned moon.
Orion with his bow. Forget the candelabra
of occasion. We’re in the back pasture staring
at too many stars. It’s unconscionable
how we’ve been ordained to these
scant lives. Lineage of nebulas, frenzy
of distraction. The slot machines, the novels
of romance and betrayal, hemming the stories
of non-existence. Meanwhile the ambulance
has finally arrived.