Minneola, Kansas (1916)
Oh, how the sun is a story of surface love
so fragile it must keep its affection at a distance.
Miss Henroy moves a chipped coffee cup
across her desk as if it holds funeral ashes.
Yes, I once played a game of catch
in Dodge City with Wyatt Earp,
and Doc Holliday was our umpire.
Deep and twisty as an ancient river,
Miss Henroy blows a kiss to each child
in her classroom. That afternoon it rained.
Wyatt, Doc, and I, beguiled with each other,
shared fresh baked soda bread
with strawberry preserves at the Dodge House.
The older children, veterans of Miss Henroy's
bumblebee-colored tales, square-shouldered boys
and over-inspected girls with full plum lips,
squirm and churn for wild recess,
roll their eyes. The schoolmarm
is nearly seventy, bears the rank odor
of fried cow tongue and boiled onions.
As Miss Henroy begins her morning sob
for lost love, magenta light shoots
through the open door of the school,
beautiful as lovemaking on an open prairie.
* This poem is included in Red Shuttleworth's 2010 poetry chapbook, Drug Store Vaquero (Phoenix: The Basement).