Melancholy Hyperbole

Poetry about longing.

Deadwood Passage

an eyelid twitch, a nervous cough become longing tells
his Wild Bill eyes smoothed into blandness
 
an old habit learned and worn between fat moments
when everything moves too fast for any but the narrowest openings
 
a wilderness he lived in with a few other solitary hostiles
shooting at trespassers as would-be settlers
 
his sleepy look fooled even some who knew better
by now each player was a small notebook in his mind
 
body-and-face sketches matching cards thrown down in an hour
of feigned inattention, small losses and larger wins
 
but he’d sat where people could walk behind him
whiskey straight near 40; old age for a gunman
 
a sharp pop of a percussion cap directly behind him
felt a well-known surge no aim needed at that distance
 
saw a fat young armed thug in a mirror
that hadn’t been there a moment ago and wasn’t now
 
saw a yellow-white flash he knew he couldn’t see
knew he was on the other side of a fat moment
 
where he’d sent so many others with head-shots
seeing them thrown back by the blow
 
that time in Jefferson County four half-drunk cowboys
against him in a street, dropped three with head-shots
 
wounded the fourth; fat moments have two speeds at once
he called them fast-and-slow, knew you need
 
the slow to see and the fast to act, need to tune to the slow
as he did at cards coiled for narrow offerings quickly rescinded
 
saw two thin lights beam briefly by him, a misfire not happening
and him lurching immediately to his right not happening
 
felt himself thrown forward long red hair sprayed out his cards 8s and aces
flailing halfway to the table he was back in Abilene
 
in a hotel room with a sleeping woman and a window
sitting naked on the bed smoking a cigar
 
watching a half-moon draw straight up like a card back image
slowly decisively into blank black sky and wild silence
 
 

Don Brandis is a retired healthcare worker who writes poems because Wallace Stevens and Tomas Transformer did, has done so for many years, has published 6 volumes of poetry, and has published single poems here and at Red Fez and other places. He has a poetry blog here.

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