The Worn-Out West

By Pamela Davis

Featured art by Jannes Glas

I drive past motel signs advertising
free cable for bikers, truckers numbed
by cracked asphalt. A looseness,
as if everything is slipping
away, and the sky shaved thin as mica.

Stretch of dusty storefronts hung
with local art—warriors astride
painted horses, mesas. The Rio Grande
cuts in and out, shape-shifting
between cottonwoods. In the café,
regulars remove their hats, sit alone.

One gathers himself judge-straight
as the waitress refills his mug,
her bar rag slung over a bare shoulder.
She gifts him a sudden, chipped-tooth
grin. Yesterday she banned
a drifter for fouling the toilet she lets
everyone use. Today she walks a cup
of coffee across the street for
a homeless guy wrapped in his own arms.

On her own this young, every new boss—
town, lover—will treat her like a stolen car.

Smooth, how she glides
from radio to grill. Easy, her talk,
comebacks quick. And outside, a mountain
looms, split long ago by a blast. Wire mesh hugs
some of it back. I want to tell her temporary
lasts a long time. The air is thin
up here. It’s nobody’s idea of home.


Pamela Davis is the author of Lunette (2015), winner of the ABZ Prize for Poetry. Her poems are found in Prairie Schooner, Smartish Pace, Folio, Mudlark Journal, Cimarron Review, Zone 3, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

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