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Louis McKee

What Cowboys Know About Love

Last night on the sports channel
I watched the rodeo.
Those cowboys have it right;
the best and the beauty of it.
You cannot win, so you ride
for as long as you can and enjoy it.
When you dismount,
whether it be on your own or not,
it won't look pretty. You'll limp off.
But you'll feel good; your heart
will be pounding like it never has,
and walking away, one crazy step
after another, your ears will ring
with the loud approval
of those who never felt so good.


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The New Theory

A butterfly's wing
moving gracefully
in a still Asian dawn
works up a storm
that beats the hell
out of us in Pennsylvania.
I used to think it was
a woman somewhere
on he other side of the world,
turning, maybe, in her sleep,
or tossing the hair
from her face with a soft flip,
that has wakened me
on this lonely dark night,
not a sound, not a glint
of light out the window,
and no air at all
on this night when I need
air, even if only
what comes of a butterfly

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The Blackthorn

The blackthorn was his father's,
a piece of Ireland
that the old man could still get his hands around
even as his hands grew weak,
refused to hold. My father
never knew Ireland;
when he gripped the walking stick
it was something else he was holding on to.
I watched my father
get old; he would stare at his hand
and open and close his fist,
try to fight the arthritis.
By then he had lost the stick,
and he could have used it
to work his grip, to beat
at the hard knot that was tying him up.
When he died he was laid in the ground
only a few feet from his father,
while in Ireland the sturdy blackthorns
were defying that sad land

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American Beauty

The perfect American Beauty Rose,
is it diminished
by the slag heaps on Rt. 11, just west
of Scranton, or by the dark cloud
that seems to have settled an inch or so
beneath the surface of Lake Naomi,
or even the swell of soot that hangs
like a troubling thought over the town
on the other side of the river?
Is the rose there any less beautiful?
Or this woman here; right now
she is standing in the impatient way
women have, a hip thrust out,
a shoulder let low? She is casual
this Sunday morning, in jeans
and a simple top, and she stands
at the top of the hill holding a cigarette
and a leash, waiting for her dog to return.
You'll have to take my word for this:
she is as lovely as any rose

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Inevitable

Somewhere in Forster—was it Aspects of the Novel?—
there's something to the effect of,
How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?
I've always meant to check the quote, but I'm half afraid
it won't be there, or if it is, that I got it all wrong,
and I pretty much like it the way it is—
I pull it out and toss it onto the table like one of those
really brightly colored chips that only get thrown into the pot
after the hand has gotten out of control and someone wants
to say something a bit more heady than, I'll see you,
and raise you, but that's what he always says, it's inevitable.
In fact, it is inevitable, the word, inevitable,
that has bought me down this road in the first place,
that made me remember Forster, and whether or not
something is inevitable—now, this is the leap—like, say,
the week I just spent in Illinois with a married woman,
who for a long time has been burning
like one of those sad wildfires they have had
all summer long out West, that gets bigger and hotter,
and spreads, it seems, forever, and while this one burned,

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