THE NEVER-ENDING SERIAL
When I was a boy, the Varsity Theater
was a mile from our house. Saturdays
we were allowed to walk there, and for a dime
we got a cowboy double-feature and
a long-running serial, which involved
an incredibly stupid, weak and helpless
but beautiful woman, upon whom
unimaginable indignities and cruelties were
enacted by darkly evil men with mustaches.
Week after week we waited for her to die
but at the last impossible moment, tied
to railroad tracks for what reason we could
not possibly imagine, and with a fast freight
bearing down upon her, a heroic white man,
he was always white and so was she,
leaped onto the tracks and
ripped her from the jaws of impending death.
Imagine what the young girls in attendance
were led to believe about their femininity and
how, as long as they lived, they were trained
never to doubt, but to wait for that white man and when
he never showed up, imagine their disillusionment,
the bitter sorrow of their loneliness and despair.
And the young boys in attendance, we who
sat enthralled and believing, imagine
the burden of our lives when we were unable,
fumbling and shaking, to untie those ropes
and were struck down by the thundering train.
—from Rattle #66, Winter 2019
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist
Red Hawk: “Red Hawk is my Earth name, given to me by our Mother’s Grace, after a four-day water fast by the Buffalo River in the dead of winter during the worst ice storm Arkansas had seen in many years. I write poems because they are given to me by Grace, as this name was. Grace is all that I have to work with, not talent or intelligence, just Grace.”