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A Crooked Mile

Maureen Thorson

When the law’s not straight, nothing is.
A broken-toothed Italian. Whispers at the recital.

A scratched-up tin star appended to a weathered vest
looks like a cactus-flower, spiky and forbidding.

The sheriff’s spurs don’t jangle so much as they creak,
prodding down the rough planks that make up

Main Street. He’s an eye for his business,
and that’s this town, from the livery stable

to the schoolhouse, to the canyon just beyond.
A gold tooth. A red mustache, waxed at the edges.

But one man’s crooked is another man’s straight,
and if he milks this town like an orphaned steer,

he keeps the flies off, so to speak. Nothing
furtive about it. All right in the open,

like the townsfolk themselves, tipping their hats
as they look straight ahead, past the sheriff

and out to the canyon, where ghosts rise,
and the banditos fall hollowly away.

Maureen Thorson

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