This Country Could Break My Heart
Slicked back hair, tooled boots,
ten gallon hat that makes the head seem big.
Broad hands, callused, quick to clench
those women always running into fists.
Blood’s easier than love, love’s short,
somebody’s gonna cheat and break my heart,
this country says. Oh lonesome road
I can’t resist, outside the law’s not cold
but free. Ain’t nobody can challenge me
without a fight, this country says.
Those old vows, hard to make, prove
harder still to keep. A roving
eye, that’s what this country has,
and jealous heart. And sweet talk
that could melt the Arctic ice. And does.
Draws toxic rush deep in the lungs
and blows out perfect smoke rings
that could wreathe
the worst defeat. On borrowed cash
stands on its own two feet.
Sticks up for friends, that’s what
this country does, even the ones
that lie and steal and cheat.
And never met a man it didn’t like,
and never met a man it couldn’t kill,
and has a most prodigious appetite.
But when that song comes whistling
down the lane, that familiar step clanks
on the porch, I curse us both before I hear
the rap, unlatch the triple-bolted door again.
Mary Makofske’s latest book, Traction (Ashland Poetry, 2011), won the Richard Snyder Prize. Her other books are The Disappearance of Gargoyles and Eating Nasturtiums, winner of a Flume Press chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Poetry East, Paterson Literary Review, and Asheville Poetry Review, among other journals, and in fourteen anthologies. Her work received first place in The Ledge journal’s 2012 poetry contest, second place in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg awards from Paterson Literary Review, and was a Finalist for the 2015 Lois Cranston Prize from Calyx.