Masquerade at The Buckhorn Bar, poetry by Shelly Norris at
Panagiotis Misdeal

Masquerade at The Buckhorn Bar

Masquerade at The Buckhorn Bar

Laramie, Wyoming

written by: Shelly Norris


October 31, 1990

Varmint skulls, rodents, two-headed calves, anomalous
freaks, and gargantuan beasts once nearly extinct
stuffed with sawdust and mounted by spikes
to the ceiling blindly overlook the whole affair
where a hideously Grim Reaper jitterbugs
in black beret and regulation camouflage
(though we all guess who he was)
with his current partner, a pasty corpse bride
of generic origin, cuffed to his left wrist
occasionally rising to blot perspiration

from his bony brow. The Pope
habitually crossing himself, passes out-
side with an entourage of nubile nuns in black
crushed-velvet miniskirts averting eyes
from the crowd schooled at the window
waving, cheering, mouthing
Bless us, O Father, for we
continue to sin; sad, contaminated fish
in our amber smoke-filled aquarium.
Culpa Eorum.
Culpa Eorum.

Then, Jesus (from-the-upper-room) Christ
appears on parade sporting Vaurnets
and a king-sized percale sheet dragging
His hanging tree and greets the crowd’s
applause like Homecoming Queen.
He props the ladder against the doorframe
so that none can exit there without
seven years bad luck, and Judas and Peter
lend Him a leg up where he hangs out
snapping His fingers and bobbing His head
like a spineless blind piano player
keeping time for the Black Leather Band

while gruesome costumed twosomes circle
in ecstatic agony beneath the hanging tree
and the surveillance of once deadly now dead
beasts, each dancer leading with the left
each right foot nailed to the floor
inside the amber wave
inside the faint rose glow of Feeee-ver!
Fever when you hoooold me tight!

As the gaping bullet wound
in the bar mirror webs out cancerously
the onerous voice of The Keeper drones
and warns us over
and warns us over
and warns us over
Last call.

Shelly Norris

Shelly Norris

Shelly Norris currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. A Wyoming native, Norris began writing poetry around the age of 12. As a single mother of three sons, Norris had to concentrate on achieving an education and beginning a career to sufficiently support the family. Early in this journey it became clear that pennies from publishing poetry would not feed and shod hungry barefoot boys, so she necessarily dedicated her time and energy to building a teaching career. Meanwhile, working in the shadows grading sub-par essays, and editing for other writers, she has been slow to send forth her own writings into the cold world of rejection and possible publication in obscure volumes. One who struggled furiously with the art-life balance, Norris knew her destiny to be—like Burroughs, Bukowski, Stevens, and Wilder—a more dedicated and widely published writer later in life. While pecking away at various essays, short stories, and a couple of novels, Norris is wrestling a pile of about 100 poems into cohesive chapbooks and manuscripts embodying the vicissitudes of unrequited love and loss, dysfunctional wounds, healing quests, and the role of cats in the universal scheme.
Shelly Norris

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