Alan: This poem, admittedly something of a pastiche, treats the death of Wild Bill Hickok through the conventions of 1950s TV westerns, with echoes of the verse I was exposed to in junior high school: cummings’ “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct,” Noyes’ “The Highwayman,” and the ballad, “Lord Randall.” The soundtrack: Ravel’s “Pavane Pour Une Enfante Défunte,” a piece no TV western has ever used, I’m pretty sure.
Wild Bill’s, too,
Hear the somber strings’ refrain –
that sad refrain –
as cellos’ pizzicatos wring unusual rain
on a cottonwood coffin six-man-handled to the browned-off edge of town.
Another blueeyed boy laid down, oh Death,
Terbaccer-chawin’ boy got plugged:
just like some slicked-down tinhorn moon-faced on the old saloon’s
stained, stinking, sawdust-covered boards; the swinging doors still creaking,
Hear that ringing gong-spittoon?
Our man got juiced, my friends,
by Jack in the back: the old poltroon,
old Jack McCall, poltroon.
But Bill, why weren’t your buds there watching, covering the sneak attack?
Ah yes, I think they were there watching, watching
dealing some different game, some sawed-off, nameless, shameless game,
and then they were watching you writhing,
writhing – writhing –
a used-up gunman writhing,
a laid-low lawman writhing
your life out on a juice-stained floor.
(Hear the somber strings’ refrain.)
And now you are bundled away, oh blueeyed son,
oh handsome young one,
into the tight-lipped clay, oh son,
oh Bill, oh blueeyed Bill,
oh son. Oh bundled son. Oh son.
(That sad refrain.)
Nancy: In elementary school I learned that girls weren’t allowed to play mumbletypeg; in high school girls couldn’t take shop; in college, where I studied archaeology, “we never take girls on the summer digs.” Ah yes, those good old days.
As we did
as we all did
names and dates
on the kitchen door
shoes and boots
carnival rides and
photos and desks
sometimes at the
head of the line
the middle, sometimes
sometimes the wrong end
Today I look at the bone
they're calling it
and look at the man
lying there, dirty
lying there next to the bone, it is longer
than one of the men
really it is longer than two of the men
I would be much
I look at the bone
and see myself see myself