Wild West Days

by Jim Christy


Holed up in the bowling alley basement
Courtesy of our co-conspirator, the owner
With hairy fingers who claimed not
To give a shit about young love or anything
Else save Graziano and Marciano
And Joey Giardello. Hearing the hoofs

Of the posse in the alley, we smooched,
Theresa and I, and schemed til
Noon when we’d be inconspicuous
On streets of lunchtime children.
Over Wolfe, back to Ritner, down
To Porter across the wide Oregon
To the row of battered behemoths,
Cars like bulbous couches, a million
Lustrous ideals now pitted like old bumper-
Chrome, a million dreams
Down on their rims.

But what did we know, street urchins,
Age eleven?  Smack
Dab in the middle was that patch
Of hard earth flatter than Death
Valley’s floor, and horse hair and horse
Sweat vanished all oil refinery stink.
Not nags too old too old for the ice
Wagon with backs that sagged
Like hammocks, but Mustangs
Only half-broken, like Gene
And Roy’s, and sotto voce
We called them Champion
And Trigger, remembering how
The Negro’d laughed when first
He’d heard us. This was not
A piece of junkyard enclosed
By a fence of automobile hoods
And trunks but wide-open spaces
With hoodoos and crevasses just east
Of west Texas, not the extreme south
Of South Philadelphia. There were
Even real gunshots for verisimilitude.
We climbed into the saddle, the wind
From Oregon Avenue blew through
Your tangled Italian mane, skirts
Half up your coltish legs, and we
Rode off into the afternoon’s
Setting sun, reading signs of unshod
Indian ponies in patterns of spilled
Crankcase oil. Heading for the border
We ad-libbed lines of a dada western.

The Negro’s head lolled back to catch
The sun, or washed his hands over
An oilcan fire, humming Jack McVey
Solos, maybe, while we galloped through
The long shadows out where a friend
Is a friend.

They came and got me, Theresa while
You slept with your feet to the fire
Under a canopy of stars, the horses
Hobbled in the wild flowers. I kissed
Your lips that smelled of sage
And oregano. My parents
Made me go in a Buick.

It was years before I broke free
And headed west. I really did
Work on a ranch. It was in Nevada.
And I rode a horse in a Mexican movie.
Did you stay an outlaw cowgirl, break
Hearts in dance halls or marry a guy
From the neighbourhood, have
Six kids like a good girl with roots
Back on the other side? I’ve thought
Of you in many a saloon, waited
For you to come down the stairs
In fishnets and spangles.

Were any two kids as crazy
And in love, Theresa, as we were
On stolen afternoons
Of our Wild West days?