by Alejandro Escudé
The photograph is startling because of the humans
who pose in it; they are not from a time with cell phones
because the tall bare tree in the background
isn’t frightened of them, the hills do not appear
scorched by a radioactive sun, and even though
these are gunslingers, in the picture no one has a gun.
Sepia, holy sepia, on horseback the supposed newlyweds
unsmiling, the dirt road running along the wooden house
and the croquet mallet at his side, William, the Kid,
worshipped by some as if he were a god, an American god
striking the croquet ball under a hoop, from good to bad.
The auctioneers need Billy to stay the Billy of the darker tintype,
the pose defiant, shotgun at the ready, the wry expression
of a wise and wistful youth: you can take my picture,
but you will never take my soul. We may never know the truth,
yet we marvel at the photo, sense the unfettered breezes
that blew over the rolling hills, stroll in the orchard
above the safe house, Lincoln County, New Mexico, on that day,
the Kid wearing a red sweater, his face half-melding
with the stock of cowboy lore—so evenly spaced each ancestor,
the women, the kids, the photographer distanced enough
to halt the jittery horse of time for twelve seconds.
Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems, My Earthbound Eye, in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
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