March 1, 2016

Showdown

 

at the grave of John Wesley Hardin

By Brad Maxfield

Two tourists pose for the camera,
turning their fingers to guns while
flashing menacing smiles, ready
to become, in their minds alone,

quick-draw artists, poised at noon
for a show-down with a cartoon
desperado. In their version, bullets
are bees streaking toward crimson

blossoms of old world roses, becoming
wounds in the paper skin of a no-good,
vicious hombre. At their feet, a wiry mutt
gnaws thorns from its paws, in the pain

it collected as it ran, or sometimes limped
ahead, the mongrel guide that led them,
like so many more before, to this spot.
Neither simple nor pure—even the dog

forgot which injury to fake, changing
with every couple of breaths which foot
to hang for sympathy as it stumbled along
like a wounded drunk just counting on

a piece of the picnic before trotting off
to leave tourists in peace in the far east
corner of the graveyard— where a monument
to a killer, a national shrine, is well-

preserved not twenty paces from a wall,
behind which, goat-weeds overwhelm
the flat, black stones which quietly speak
Chinese—with democracy’s heavy accent.

Brad Maxfield’s first book, For All We Know, was published by Backwaters Press in Omaha, NE. He has an MFA from the University of Oregon. After teaching in Oregon, Idaho, Texas, and Ecuador, Brad has settled in eastern Oregon where he lives, teaches, and writes.

Follow me on Social Media