The Country-Western Singer’s Ex-Wife, Sober in Mendocino County, California
Somewhere back East my late love’s all coked up,
another cowgirl wannabe lying
at his feet while he plucks a Willie Nelson song
from his beer-soaked six string and complains nobody
understands a rebel’s broken heart.
I’ve played her part, the star struck blonde in boots
and denim mini, pert boobs, and brains to boot.
Whiskey fed, dreamy, how I talked him up,
a sequined Tammy to his George, my heart
a backstage bed I wanted him to lie on.
It proved too hard, and when a harder body
came along, he said, The party’s over,
and left me listening to “Sad Songs and Waltzes,”
Waylon, steel guitars that struck like a boot
to the face. But that’s good country, right? A body
enamored with its bruises, praising its screw-ups,
the blood still wet in its wounds? Memory lies
as still as a rattlesnake until my heart
comes begging for its venom. Sink ’em in, my heart
says. I’ve been traveling on a horse called Music,
and he’s brought me here to die. I’d be lying
if I said I didn’t want to fill my ex’s boots
with spit the night I caught him with that up-
start starlet at the bar; when everybody
tried to hide in their shot glasses; when nobody
but a Broadway street preacher had the heart
to hold my hair off my face while I threw up
outside; when all the songs I loved—“Crazy,”
“Golden Ring,” “Jolene”—became like boots
too busted to put on, bent-pitch ballads of his lies,
my shame sung loud in the key of C. He’s lying
from the stage, in the bar or bed, when he says nobody
understands him. I do. I’ve burned my boots,
moved west to wine and water because his heart
was a dry bottle, cold as the black rose
rotting in his lapel, and I still wake up
to his tunes: the beer, blow, boots and love, the lies
they tell and don’t. Once, I was a good-hearted woman.
Now I pray, Lord, please, somebody, shut him up.