The Tehachapi Sheriff Buries His Native Wife Circa 1900
They saw me haul her out this morning
Wrapped in canvas and the hides.
Now they will not speak.
They saw me ride in alone at dusk
My horse slow and bearded with frost.
They know that having left her I slid down
From wind-bitten light, followed the telegraph,
Wire strung taut and cold as a nerve.
They know this is the way to find Tehachapi
When snow shakes down steep and stifle-deep.
Mr. Howard keeps the bar and hankers
For the closing hour. Molly plays piano,
Softly sings the refrain and sustains the final note.
I sit alone.
They see December, thin smoke spin
From stove-pipes, how the heart is skinned.
They know I washed my wife with cold water,
Clothed her in the gold-green gabardine.
The loungers drink deep, lick the suds
From their long moustaches, hold their jokes.
Boys circle and keep quiet.
They see me by the snapping stove, see
How I abandoned my wife in hills and winter storm
In the greatest room of her father.
Do they see I could not wreck tools
In the frozen church yard, laboring for a grave?
Surely, no harm comes to the dead this way.
The card-players ring me, silent, watching. I pray
For spring, when scent thickens, and buzzards
Draw down and take eyes.