Elisabeth Workman Poems




Little Western



The bandit stops at the edge of a map and says nothing

as we see the stagecoach pass into old emotional patterns


again. Here we go. A WIDE SHOT. Every sound is too



(cuz I’m 12 years old and can’t talk about sex & there’s

nothing I can say) a religion, old or new, that stressed


the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by

an Alfa Romeo rolling into the FRAME and stopped.


Loops and a booming. Tumbleweed clings

to an emotional motel. A hill near the edge of


‘feminine features’ gouged not by wind or

snowmelt but paroxysms: BREATHLESS HYMEN.


As the American Old West passed into history, new

management full of old ideas came in to oversee


the department's function, the Common Task

of a Great People merely training another beginner.


We see for a moment FRANCE AT WAR—fade out

fade in to an old white school bus ducking  and swooping 


on the edge of the plain, red lipstick smeared across

the horizon bleeds into Americans long ago for a few


minutes in order to make words out of their blood. We

have a long history of shooting in our family. And


ravines. I was conceived in a gun nest in front

of the giant Mao statue from earlier in the day.


At the very least, the shooters said, if we have faith

and strength, we will see our houses and our dear ones again.


This is nothing more than a Revlon commercial with people

illuminated by headlights, halfway over the bridge.





A Brief History of Shooting from the Hip


By 1930 it had become a botched method, officially—

in every section of the city the gonged stupor future


You were wet and demoted

pettifoggers and freighters

horn lorn, prolonging


except in seventeen teepees

except the intervening hex

except in pixy ether


O deadpanned spirit!

O rousted prison frothiness!

A further frontier whirs


as the second togetherness troop

the largest ghost encoder


After some time herded desires entered listless

Here a hissing contest

Here, you again, thirsty,


rain reddened, settlers cast against slit from sky, so

called residual silt of the nth tide


Stop diagrammatic plots

Stop optimal hero mist

Stop heaven


(rented hum, modern lull caught in a duller menthol billboard)


Westward there were still vacancies

            under sod

            under sudden housing


Did you find something to understand among imported urns,

the prism room, its mirrored eggs, did it exude a luster


relentlessly afar, as if caves, cavern, rockfall

were part of a greater radiance that meant I miss you


depending on proximity

depending on collective commitments


            the community presses

            the community resists

            the community ingress


in this case the district recovered from doom fervor

but was dismantled in 1931


the winter photo of retouched ruins

inspected, alphabetical




Elisabeth Workman's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Abraham

Lincoln, Western Humanities Review, and We Are So Happy To Know

Something, among others. A new chapbook, Megaprairieland, will be issued by Grey Book Press later in 2010, and another, as part of the last Dusie Kollectiv in 2011.



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