Zoe Shelton – A Collection of Poems about Classic American Character

A Horse Given No Name

Deep in the myth of the night
I found you, and you were mine
Completely and totally broken down by dust
I will raise you up again and you’ll be whole

Have you gotten used to sleeping outside?
Where we’re going you’ll be coated in cold.
I have no plans, but you’ll carry me
Over every plain I choose to hold.

Can you feel the pressure of a gun on my hip?
Pressing into your broken side.
If you gallop a little bit faster,
We’ll make it before morning light.

Do you think I’m good at this?
Although I can’t steal or rob or bleed,
But I can lie and spit and call you names,
I will blame you for everything I need

You are the absolute worst.
I should’ve left you back in town!
I’ve exhausted every measure,
It seems futile to break you in now.

Now stop here beside the water,
I need to stretch my legs
I waste bullets shooting passing fish
and I’ve been let down by the gods again today

I should shoot you now,
But I cannot walk to the next corral
I am not good at stealing
I didn’t steal you…I wouldn’t know how

Where can I find the Cowboy I hear of
And how can I be his friend
I know I must play this lonely man’s game
But I need someone to talk to until then

Do you believe all the stories you’ve been told?
Do you have any of them yourself?
Can you make me the formidable Cowboy
That lives in spoken word on an empty saloon shelf?

Are you listening to what I’m saying?
Well you’re not listening at all
I became a corpse of what I hoped I would be
When we exited that thick bitter fog

I’m sorry for dropping ashes onto your tired shoulder
The night is bleary and I cannot see
Maybe this life is not what I need
Maybe this isn’t for me

We will park here for the night
Under the moon and its empty glow
I no longer find it comforting
Is it the same moon I see from home?

Tomorrow we will find a way
To sharpen any of my skills
Maybe I will save a town over
I have nothing, but you and my own will

I apologize for any hurt I’ve caused you
But we both know I won’t change
I am the myth you’re burdened with
Out here, on this lonely range.

Bright Boy

Bright sailor, You are shining out upon the sea and I hate you. I smashed a bottle against the hull of your new bride before you left and the glass shattered around my toes.
Please sailor, will you come back to me.
I do not think of you as any great thing
When will you understand?

Bright sailor, you should come home soon,
because you know how angry I am with you,
is this how you want to end things?
Are you ever going to listen to me?
I hear you talking about me over the sea
I suppose you like making a fool out of me
When will you return?

Bright Sailor I’ve heard of your tales from beyond the docks
I enjoy the idea of a tiger in your boat and how one of these days its going to swallow you whole
And you’ll return as a shell of what you used to be, with your pretend gods dragging around your feet.
I’m positive that would make me happy.
My friends, they miss their sailors too
But no one has been missed quite like you.
My sailor, you are the biggest fool.

Bright sea, the water is shimmering
And I watch the albatross cast down from the sky
I’ve been waiting for your boat since the sun came up
And I’ll be waiting till the night is nigh

Water, only water, its all around
They tell me horror stories on shore
I guess I do not want you to sink all alone
I’d rather your boat capsize outside our hometown port

The cut of your jib isn’t faring to well with the continuous slapping of the waves,
That should be enough to make you stay,
When you left you were my hero, when you return you’ll be going gray.

Bright Boy, I’m leaving tomorrow just like you.
I’m leaving and I don’t know when I’m coming home.

Bright sailor I will stay if you agree to just one thing,
When you get home you will marry me and forget the open sea.

Powerful Man

The night rolls on and you and I are alone again
Bumping over the water on your sturdy spine
The lightening casts itself over the edge of what I can see,
but the world goes on around it.

Below is the rattling of the ghosts of our friends
That were floating facedown in the waves
They do not like when I talk about them
From the cracks in the slats of wood they call my name

In my most broken you were still whole,
Giving all of yourself to me.
As I run to the bow you are fighting,
Fighting for me against the waves of the surging sea

You are my only bride
And I’ll save pieces of you all my life.
Building you anew again
White-knuckling your brass rails for balance.
You will catch me forever,
You will carry me,
And I will give you nothing,
But the smacking of the sea on your side.

Red Sun Sea

Once my wife dreamed of the ocean
Of rocking on its waves.
I asked her if she wished to move,
She won’t tell me to this day.

I know we live far inland,
And the earthquakes rock us rough,
But I’ve been telling her we’ll get used to it,
I’m telling her it will make us tough.

I once took her to the ocean
After my final battle was done.
I didn’t like the vast water scape,
She asked if we could take a plunge.

It was cold under the water,
So cold with the pushing tide.
But she held my hand steadfast,
As I twisted under the rippling lights.
The electric current groaned
With the weight of the noiseless sounds,
Of swirling fish and castaways
And sharp rocks that covered the ground.

I haven’t returned to the ocean
I’m too scared I won’t come back.
I was trained to leave it all behind
I left her behind in fact.
I lost many friends at sea
They live beneath the shore
She was kind enough to move out here
So that there’s only water when it pours

I’ve been fostering a pearl deep inside my chest,
It’s rolling around at night
And It’s beginning to feel like a needle that pricks
My organs around inside
I fear I will not get it out
I’m praying it’ll be golden someday.
And this growing pearl in my tight chest
I want to give it to her someday

I’m trying to build up the courage
To buy a boat and show her the world
But I think once outside the nearest port
I’ll faint at the slightest concern

When I was last out at sea
They told me to be brave.
The sun should’ve been high,
But the clouds in the sky
fogged up as far as we could see
We were hit within minutes
By the red flag and her glowing teeth.
The airplanes above shot down like fireworks
When they fell they erupted into the sea.

So understand
Why I fear the ocean,
And the red sun flying high.
I cannot hurt anyone else
I cannot have sea foam act as guide.

My wife was packing up our car
When I arrived home for the day
I swore she was deserting me
She promises we won’t overstay
She drove me to the ocean
Two states over and I knew.
She stopped at a quiet beach
Somewhere out on the coast
My fears they rose up to my chest
Now I think they’re in my throat

She struggled with the bags
As I stood silently by the car
My heart was beating awfully fast
I think I might be seeing stars

The water’s glittering blues and whites as far as I can see
The sky is moving faster than I ever though it should
I’m scared it will come raining down
Leaving me the dark for good

I pulled myself down to the sand
And again down to the edge
I do not hate the feeling
I’m more distracted by what’s overhead

But I do not like the waves
They are violent, crashing down
And when they slap the rocks enough
They make a dreadful sound

My wife is gone to the waves
I’ll never see her again
She’s floating out and I’m dumbstruck here
What will I tell her friends?
But there she is still alive and well
Dancing in the sea
She begs me to join her
I tell her that’s too much to ask of me

So she sighs heavy and lays back
Becoming one with beach
I whisper prayers to myself again
‘Praise God and pray for me’

I made a streamline for the water
Just like the good old days
I ignore the call of my old friends
Begging me to stay
I stand ankle deep in the water
And I feel nothing but dread
She asks me to come out farther
She asks me to try again

I do not know if we’ll move to the ocean
Or if the desert is right for us
I do know that everything I’ve lost
The ocean gave back to me at once

I still ache for all my friends
And they’ve all been gone for years
but I was right to tag along
And drown out my long had fears.

No, No
They do not like me back at camp, where the guns are pointed inward at the mahjong tables and the food is caked with dust instead of rice flower.
My friends called me a traitor and scribbled two letters two times across their cards
Mom said they bombed home good and well, she says this with a sigh.
Dad told me I must fight for this country, fight with every will to survive.
I did not want to go that much, but I thought it’d be better than a chain link fence
Where everyone I’ve ever held close lives in a series of barracks
And we’re all stacked up, just how the guards say they like us

They do not like us here at camp, they call us names
And spit at the sun
They condemn us for being uprooted from the red origin
I think they’ve been to more times than us.

I’m scared of going to war
And I’m more scared of going home
Does home mean Idaho barracks
Or a ransacked Seattle room.
But moreover, what will they say
When they see me again,
Will I go to war and prove myself
But after lose all my friends?

Now we’re in a foreign land and I have no idea what to do
My captain says we’re here
And here is nothing, can it be true?
Here is another camp
Much different than my old
Here is a camp where I can feel
The pain seeping into souls.
Here we are alone in this city,
Where not one person seems to be whole

As we break down the doors
It seems that nothing is alright
‘Here, you’re free!’ My captain screams
And he yells it with all of his might.

I walk through a quiet camp, too quiet with its pain.
And I begin to cry so hard, my chest, it feels so strange.
I see the face of my friends, stumbling out from their small beds,
I see my mother cry out in pain.

But back at home I think we’re lucky
Although there’s only dry land far as we can see
Even though I can’t help my friends, even if they now hate me.

We stand outside the camp, once all our work is done
Here we are, my terrified brothers
Roosevelt decided we’re worthy sons.
When we get back into the states, they tell me where to go.
‘Back to Minidoka’ they yell, I guess I’m headed home.
And when I return to camp, the ground, it’s lined with snow,
My mother is here to greet me,
My friends, again, say no.

But here I will stand tall, and duck into my barrack with pride
The war can’t last all that more,
Soon enough we’ll be let outside.

Be the Cowboy

There he stands
In the entrance of an old saloon
His gun held high, it pierces the air
Acting as if he hadn’t created the mess that stood

I hate how his lips pull across his teeth
He starts all these fights
Shooting down his foe unfair
Then leaving in the dead of night

Even his horse is mean
She bit me with all her might
When my brother tried to set her free,
just to ruin that cowboy’s life

So here he goes again,
Standing face-to-face with smaller men
No concern for the blood he sheds
Staring down those around, whose life have no expense

What are you looking for you awful cowboy?
You know we want you gone!
Can’t you see you’ve hurt this town
How many times will you do us wrong?

He laughs quite loud and closes his eyes
And again he draws too quick
He’s slinks into the dust, unscathed
But he’ll be back in the crack of a whip

I tell my father about the Cowboy
He sighs and turns back to read
‘We do not need to kill him,’ he says
‘We just need a better cowboy than he!’

I want to be that Cowboy
And protect this ransacked town
But how do I become a Cowboy,
Other than stealing and lying around?

The next morning I left my home and my brother and I went to the ranch
We watched men throw bales of hay
This is not what we envisioned at last
So we went down to the saloon
And sneaked into through the swinging doors
We watched men sit around lazily
‘This isn’t what cowboys are’ I scorn

We trudge back to our home, and the sun is going down
When we get to our door my brother begins to cry
‘What’s your problem!’ I say with a tired frown
‘Can’t you see we’ll die soon!’ He sniffles and wipes his nose
‘It’s only a matter of time before the Cowboy arrives home,’
I pondered that idea, but I think the Cowboy’s are already here.
I will be that Cowboy, I will not hate or strike in fear.

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