Madison, Wisconsin, May 1970 (After Kent State)


Madison, Wisconsin, May 1970 (After Kent State)


                                  “Take off your thirsty boots

                                    And stay for awhile

                                    Your feet are hot and weary

                                    From a dusty mile

                                    And maybe I can make you laugh maybe I can try

                                    I’m just looking for the evening the morning in your eyes.”


                                    Eric Anderson, “Take Off Your Thirsty Boots”



Take off your thirsty boots 

and stay for a while    this was what

the curly haired lover sang to her on a dusty mile

on a day when there were fires sirens


clouds of tear gas stinging their eyes.

On a day when in a tear gaze rage and haze

they were armed with stones in their pockets

ready to fling rocks at the cops.


He saw her in the midst of

rubble yells and screams.

Pigs!  Pigs!  After gunshots

and fallen bodies  

after napalm rain fell in places so far 

away they couldn’t fully imagine the burning 

the scorched leaves in tropical forests 

or the darkness in country.



Wearily they held on to each other and stayed 

for a while.   He with his stout build                                                               

and wide arms that took in 

her still young and muddy soul

yearning for a resting place.

Her blue velvet riding skirt flared in the sun

stuck to her skin in early morning. 

Her open grin replaced by aching need.


On a dusty stretch of country road 

they shared secrets   the pale yellow 

green of the Plains stretching out before them. 

They told each other stories and watched the sun set    

stones still weighing down their pockets. 

Her hair in pig tails, her denim overalls collapsing  

over her thin body, she looked for the evening, the morning in his eyes.



Then later in the midst of dust and acrid smoke  

he gave her a damp handkerchief to cover her mouth 

her nose so she wouldn’t breathe in fumes of gas 

after nights with sirens blaring and search lights  

that framed the bedroom window 

after they rested in the curves and warmth of their bodies 

with their bloodied words and muddy selves                                                  

as the world reeled around them he was gone.


Without a word.  Gone.


Now the song returns                                                                                   

The girl in pig tails and cowboy boots 

is long gone and white stones 

gathered at the edge of the shore  

travel to grave sites and rest 

with shards of mussels oysters clams 

iridescent fragments in a bowl by her bed 

The girl treks through paths of memory 

through a dusty mile 

through present worlds littered 

with shattered glass  fallen bodies fires 

sirens and tears.   She wanders through  

the broken places in this world 

searching for the shadow of herself in the ruins.  

Looking at the evening the mourning in her eyes.









I Am Your Dutiful Daughter


Bess’s Lament


Madison, Wisconsin, May 1970 (After Kent State)