Jessica Jewell is a recent graduate of the Northeast Ohio Master of
Fine Arts program where she was the Wick Poetry Center Fellow. Her
poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Harpur Palate, Poems
& Plays
, Barn Owl Review, Touchstone, Angle Magazine, among others.

The Screech Owl Loses His Mate

The trill stops, he is choking
on bones and fur--
can't keep down the shrew

he tore from the patch
of desert chicory
whose white lashes opened,

fooled by the autumn moon.
Would you believe he is too fat
to fly? That he now tracks

his footprints through the pellets
of waste and copper dust
the wind mined from the pits?

His yellow eyes leer to the window
in the thirsty Saguaro,
but he does not see her.

The desert carves a dome
for the waking horizon. She calls,
pauses, but the harmony does not rise.

Slap Leather

If you want to survive,
you've got to show your weapon
first. Every Cowboy knows
the boon of outdraw.

Your horse will wait for you'

he's slow-chewing the grains,
mane loosening dirt into the trough.

You've got to keep your gun
slung low in your waistband.
Let the sun catch it,
but only that for fanfare,
no nickel digs oils-shined,
no gloves to keep the sweat away.

If you want to survive,
you've got to starve the appetite,
the ache of the newly blind
in his first auburn evening.

If you outlive the lawmen,
and mob roping for a lynch,
you better run to the railheads.

There's still the cedar bench,
iron bars, lonely judge sick
of silver prospecting'

that one who watched you,
from the Mining Exchange,
dress those brothers in bullets.

Mad, Merry Scamp With A Heart Of Gold

Spent even more time missing
Georgia, than he spent bucking the tiger
at the Oriental Saloon. A vision
for death, ash-blonde gunslinger
on the run West from consumption,
red clay Southern boy, born in the city
of irises, a few Oaks from Upper Creek Path.

Sometimes, after the shuffle settles,
and the deal holds the men still
at the table, he can almost hear Indian
Springs whitening its banks with the moon,
the sulfured waters that could not heal him.

And at night, when the whiskey stalls
his coughing, he lays his back to Tombstone
dirt, begs to remember the judder
of Stages going West from the Savannah,
the cry of Chief McIntosh's song.

Tell Me A Story

Of six roans wandering the wheat,
tongues lapping, spitting on cutworms.

Or the mare, card-won
and proud mother of her new homestead.

Of the woman in the black liquor night
of dreams, who arrives every hour
at her home on Pine Mountain,

taps at the door,
tosses stones at the windows.

Of the fields farthest from here,
where even hard rain
can't flood the sweet peas.

Tell me of the dead son
on the cloud tips of sky world.

What song is he humming in his sleep?

Who warms him in a blanket?
Who kisses the lids
of his emerald eyes?

Tell me how to survive.
How the pit of my stomach
can fill with a flower.

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