The first sighting he appeared at dusk.
Just stood there, statuesque
on the shoulder of my childhood
lane, upwind of my father’s lover’s house. Outfitted
in black boots, black Levi’s and a black T-shirt
his long wavy hair and long black duster flared out
like terrible wings. He was a vision of virgin androgyny.
Lame in the left leg, his right hand crippled, tenderly
he gestured toward November’s fallow fields
where the image of a stag’s head loomed
there behind him like a halo and desire
became the sinew binding my bones. But then
he began to shift. An evasive self-publishing peer
from graduate school, he forced his way into the old
house on Bent street where the affair began, drank
my father’s whiskey decanter dry and bounced
tennis balls off the walls waking my mother
from her ignorant coma. Out on the street corner
beneath the halogen lamp waning in the dawn
he seized from alcohol poisoning.
I was his savior. After reviving him
I knew he would have to die.
Some nights he arrives as an anonymous General
rattling about in antique armor, girded beneath in black
mail. Perhaps Agamemnon with his captive mistress Cassandra
in tow, searching out his escaped firstborn daughter
Iphigenia to sacrifice again for his fleet’s smooth sailing.
Some nights he wears a black leather vest and Stetson.
He comes as Will Smith, a synthesis of Enemy of the State
And The Wild, Wild West, deliberately
stalking down some deserted street, spurs chinking,
silver pearl-handled Colts drawn, sweetly
singing my name. He is trying to find me.
Last night he was the U.S.
Marshall Wyatt Earp; Kurt Russell in Tombstone
and the line between law and outlaw blurred,
the distance between him and me closed. He’s
mounted now, fully outfitted in his black ten-gallon
triple-X Stetson, black snakeskin Tony Llamas,
black ankle-length duster, leather holster, pearl-handled
forty-fives. Gathering momentum and audacity
he’s dogging me, tracking me like prey, running me
down like bounty, trying to wave me over like an express
rider delivering a letter that I forgot years ago I mailed to myself.
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.