Finalist in the 2011 Alumni Poetry Contest
From a great distance approaches
the man on horseback.
Reaching the simple well
he dismounts, waters the horse
his eyes never leaving the homestead
where the beautiful widow
and her children are fearfully waiting
for the credits to roll two hours later.
I also remember watching with my father
as Lord Jim sacrifices himself for an island,
as one by one and unceremoniously
the samurai go down defending a village,
in the twilight Shane slumps in his saddle,
later on Bogart watches the plane
take off for Europe in a cloud of lonesome.
It took twelve-thousand miles
to figure out what returning is,
to realize the specific joy of doing
the same thing twice.
I walked through the door
that was my door and it shut
behind me differently.
Holding me close at first
Zoe ran a bath and cut my hair.
To my child self this was
step one in taming cowboys
but it never worked for long.
Easing myself down in the water
I felt for the first time that I knew
why they let themselves be tamed,
longed for it more than
the freedom to leave tomorrow.
I asked my floor if it missed me.
I asked my clothes and my pots
and the books in sunlight.
In my asking I knew as well
I wasn’t meant to be a wanderer
I just wore the face of one for a while.
I was the frightened child
watching the steely horseman in awe
seeing the glory of his violence
even as he saw the glory of the homestead,
impulses that gave unto America
its filmreel fantasies and unmarked graves
and a market for curtains before the end times.
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