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Mary Austin Speaker

Coward, Liar, Thief

 

The reporter has been waiting for this.

The aging astronaut appearing

 

beneath the overhang of a government building,

stepping into the sun as though he belonged there.

 

The reporter’s grip tightens around his microphone

as he moves it toward the astronaut’s sad face.

 

His look of surprise. Say it, the other grins.

There’s nothing up there at all. You’re a coward, a liar, and a thief.

 

The aging astronaut is wearing his starry night necktie

when he punches the reporter in the face.

 

The reporter has launched back into himself

and landed in the third grade, groundscrapes

 

on the heels of his palms, pain-thrill bounding

through his skull like a song. The astronaut’s shadow

 

lengthens in the gold, hot light,

til it’s longer than all the men in the world.

 

 

 

You Might Be the Last Light I See

for Brian Rawlins

 

The night between

Amarillo and Pueblo

 

was thick enough to drink

so we drank it walking beams

 

barely pulling God knew what

from the sands, cattle bristling

 

in their pens crowded as Christmas

trees, fattening, blank, all of them

 

soon to be surprised by the axe

or the air gun depending

 

on the technology darkening

the slaughterhouse—each of us

 

faces his death alone

and if we’re lucky

 

we know this soon enough

to fall down with each other

 

even if we know how dark

it’s going to be we never

 

know what shade

of day awaits us.



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