The Last Days of Calamity Jane

Michael Derrick Hudson Click to

Lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  His work has appeared in Poetry, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Georgia Review, Gulf Coast, Southern Humanities Review and others.

But in appearance Calamity had faded, and faded terribly.
(Montana) Enterprise, July 13, 1901

A lot of you Wild West codgers lived far too long – skulking
through alleys, unstoppered bottles unholstered

in Colorado suburbs, cadging dimes, dodging Ford runabouts
and flinching at the buzz of the first airplanes

wobbling overhead.  Yep, America’d changed for good, but

a lot of you got bushwhacked at sunrise
still staggering through it:  sidewalks and cops, some idiot

squelching around in green rubber boots
to water his flowers – there’s no place for you in a world

so dazzlingly trivial.  But Jane, you cashed out just in time

without some final juddery excuse.  I see you on your last
day spent nowhere, polka-dotted

by the spangles of dime-size sunlight leaking
through a saloon’s busted shutter, hunkered on your stool

in reasonable comfort, tucked into what’s left of a tattered
pink quilt.  To giddyup the drowsy barkeep

you bang your last half dollar against the glass.  Reduced

to nothing, you’d still insist on what’s
every American’s due.  A five-cent cigar.  A shot of rye.

And somebody, I hope, to listen to your old story of a lost
love and that old Mexican spur rowel,

the one hanging by a thread around your achy, grubby neck.