Sometimes You Get Pancaked
Decades before massage-'n'-lingerie shops,
with the sun blood-splashed and blazing,
even going down, no sweet bread from the store,
a man might have been lucky to own a compass.
They stopped in order to live. Time wasn't even a shadow.
No roads, two cows, slender children with pin worms,
human skin jackets on the backs of range-tough men
they had reason to dust off murderous carbines for.
Rain came in hard squalls... if it came at all.
The man grew a beard. The wife lost teeth.
The children caught night birds in crude traps
of grass: their victuals came skeletal... or didn't.
A dog came down a cow track one morning.
They could almost allow the eating of it.
A card player drifted through with a fake diamond.
They used his horse to crush-down grave soil.
The grandchildren used words like street,
mirror, ice box, muave linen, and sonofabitch.
When the old folks tried to cash in a gambler's diamond,
a Scottsbluff jeweler said, You got pancaked at purchase,
Colonel Sanders is dark tonight. No fried chicken.
Bartenders are turning on hidden cameras,
mixing something a bit stronger than Shirley Temples
to finish off a night. Wind swings through the cemetery.
These are the days of chocolate Easter eggs,
consternation over the vagaries of DirecTV,
the kids fringed on Emo or Goth or whatever.
Even the Dirty Thirties are past memory.
They promise high paid work at the junior college...
if you complete the dental or medical assistant courses,
or oil jobs over in Wyoming or up in Williston country...
if you're muscled-hard like the forgotten ones...
the pioneer ancestors of sparse luck and knowing eyes.