Trip to Wyuka
for Paul Brandhorst, 1966-1998
His first night at support group he wore
a western hat low over his eyes, a toothpick
in the side of his mouth, thumbs hooked
in Levi pockets, pretended to be a cowboy.
He said nothing save his name but afterwards
followed me out to ask a question, the kind you
just know is an excuse for conversation. I had seen
enough before this night to know how it would go.
His family had scattered like quail
at the mention of AIDS, were still in hiding.
He was driven by the unfairness, injustice,
bitterness, loneliness. Under the brim
of the Stetson he was desperate to connect.
Near the end he asked to see his mother’s grave
in Nebraska. We walked the streets of Lincoln,
while he pointed out landmarks, his mother’s
grave in Wyuka Cemetery, the pauper’s plot
of infamous Charlie Starkweather.
Our second time in Lincoln, I carried him
in an urn, left him in that place where mothers,
sons and murderers lie down together, all injustice
and bitterness swallowed up in the dirt.
Dorothy Alexander is the author of The Art of Digression (Village Books Press, 2015) and Lessons from an Oklahoma Girlhood (Village Books Press, 2008). Her work has appeared in Women Writing Nature, Malpais Review, Blood & Thunder, and Cooweescoowee Journal, among others, as well as in the anthologies Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, 2015) and Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the 60s & 70s (SheWrites Press, 2013). Dorothy lives in Oklahoma City, where The Oklahoma Center for the Book selected her as recipient of the Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award for her services to the Oklahoma literary community in 2013.
This poem was awarded the 2013 Christopher Hewitt Poetry Prize and appeared in Art & Understanding Magazine.