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John Wiley poetry

Cowgirl Buys the Ticket

by John Wiley

Over jumps, around barrels,
gliding fast over ground
that might come up to meet her;

but just now the ground behaves itself
just like her horse does, and anyway,
falling is the price of the ticket.

Get up, push the hair back,
find the hat, catch the horse.
The hair gets in her way and she’d

probably cut it, but forget that – cowgirls
have long hair, plus it’s the only thing on her
that really says “girl” (yet, anyway),

and she’d say “girl” loud and high and yippee-ky,
(if anybody actually said that), and if there was
a girl here she’d say it to;

not the English saddle rich girls, or the buckle-bunny
cowboy groupies watching the guys from the rail; the bunnies
are good for recreational fights at tailgaters, though

(she kissed a girl’s neck once when they were
tangled up in the dirt and got away with it,
like she just did it to piss the girl off).

But one of the Latino grooms,
his daughter picks him up every day;
never gets out of the truck,

but when they’re eyes-on…

What if she said, hey, Diego – tell your daughter
I’ll take her riding sometime if she wants to go –
what’s her name?

She’s pretty sure Diego’s on to her, and a
girl just up from Mexico is gonna be so deep
in the closet she’s in a trunk in the attic.

But that girl’s eyes burn her to the ground …

“Hey, Diego – tell your daughter I’ll take her
riding sometime if she wants to go –

what’s her name?”

Midnight at the Well of Souls

Bodiless, floating,
feeling like nothing
will ever feel, our faces
are drawn up like water

as full Moon’s light,
carefully touching down
and down the slick,
brick wall, realizes us.

She stops, a bright coin
in a dark circle,
to watch us quicken
in her rippling image,

and she looks lovely
over us.  She knows the Well
is a wishing well;
she breathes in, out –

and plummets to us,
her bright-coin body
flipping bright side/dark side,

and we fall up,
headlong through her

to the Mouth
as she tumbles down,
and her splash
is heavenly below us.

We hover as full
Moon’s light shines
up out of water,
shines on our faces,

on the soles
of our feet;
and we set our
soles on Earth

as she rises again,
roaring joyfully past,
stopping clean
over our heads,

dark, and new –
not shining, brightly,
on us.

Lanky Girl

Linky, lanky,
slinky, strong,
arms thin, legs long,

sleekly swift –
sling shoulders, slung hips,
rainwater wrists and fingertips,

hips drip drowsy,
easy angles,
gangly gangles,
sweepy circles,
elliptical elan.


John Wiley started out as a ballet dancer and began writing when his knees finally gave out for good. (It is harder to write poetry well than it is to dance well, but it’s much easier on the knees.) His work has appeared in Terror House Magazine, Outsider Poetry, Montreal Writes, and Detritus. He lives in Carpinteria, California, and works in his wife’s audiology practice.