Rodeo

By Sunni Brown Wilkinson

Featured art by 2 Bull Photography

Tonight is a rodeo night, the announcer blaring his bull
and clown doctrine so loud it carries two miles
east to our block, where just now a hummingbird
hawk-moth drinks from the pink phlox
with its long wand
and I’m alone for a moment and the sky
is bleeding itself out over the train tracks and the brick
abandoned factories. The lights
of the carpet store by the mall flicker carpe
and I wonder just what I can seize.
The homeless shelter bearing some saint’s name
fills up every night and spills
downtown next morning,
wings of strange creatures brush our flowers
while we sleep, and a hapless moose wanders
a schoolyard before it’s caught,
tranquilized. Everyone’s looking for it:
a warmth, a softness in the belly, in a bed
of grass. Take it when you can. Seize it.

Lately sleep is a myth and my brain
is so hard-wired for worry my whole body
crackles, then a deep fog rolls in and all day
I’m lost. Unlike this moth, greedy in its guzzling,
drinking sweetness without asking,
and now the buzzer of the bull riding sounds.
I think of the grace of that single man,
one hand on the saddle
and the other a flag waving violently
above him. A wild show of surrender.

Some days it’s like this: one part
anchored while the other begs for mercy.
And some days it’s the other, the posture
he begins with: both hands together, holding tight.
Sometimes you hold your own hand.
That’s all there is to take.


Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry can be found in Western Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, SWWIM, BODY, Crab Orchard Review and other journals. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field and The Ache & The Wing (forthcoming). She also won New Ohio Review’s NORward Poetry Prize and the Joy Harjo Prize from Cutthroat Literary Magazine. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in Utah. 

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