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"Ponderosa" by Madeleine French

CW: Suicide

I don’t mean the ranch, with Little Joe and Hoss,

and their calico-caricature women

—pointy breasts, big hair—

No, this was a cafeteria

Dead cows strung up in the walk-in

it wasn’t like the meat counter at Publix

I herded customers through the line

with a fake smile under my cowboy hat

Side salad, ma’am? Right here

While Alan bussed tables

Hey, listen to this!

He’d raise a stack of trays

like a set of chocolate wings

and release them perfectly,

drumming the song:


With the kit from my fringed suede purse

I sewed a button on his shirt

The night our manager’s hand brushed my ass

and I stomped his foot—that was instinct,

and striped Adidas fury—

Alan said, Right on, Mad

In the end, I was no more his friend

than our hats were real straw

All he said was

they broke up; his girlfriend hated him

But she’d made a wish he was dead,

and he granted it

Fifty trays beating a dirge now

hoofbeats clattering down a canyon of grief

Would you like sour cream, sir, on that baked potato?


Madeleine French lives in Florida and Virginia with her husband. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Dust Poetry Magazine, West Trade Review, The Madrigal, Hole in the Head Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Door Is A Jar, The Westchester Review, and elsewhere. You may find her on Twitter, @maddiethinks

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