The Calling

By W. E. Butts

Again the boy calls after the man, and again
I’m walking through memory with my father,
following the trail of theater aisle lights,
down the carpeted path to our seats.
It was 1953, and we’d come to see Shane,
and what a nine-year-old might learn
about the friendship of men and clarity of evil.
When I watched Jack Palance, as the hired gun
dressed in black, shoot a stubborn homesteader
and then grin as his body fell
in the mud-filled western street, I knew the name
of all things wrong with the world
was “Wilson.”  And later, I wondered about the future
of what was right, as a wounded Shane
rode away from that Wyoming valley
and those settlers he’d saved,
the boy Joey hollering for him to come back.
I was too young then to dwell on the enigma
of the woman he could have loved, guess the reason
for the hero’s stoic silence, or contemplate
the symbolism of mountains shrouded by clouds.
In the lobby, after the film, I passed a full-length mirror
and imagined, for a moment, who I would become.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 9

W. E. Butts is the author of seven poetry collections, including Sunday Evening at the Stardust Café. The recipient of two Pushcart Prize nominations, he is the current New Hampshire Poet Laureate, and teaches in the Goddard College low-residency BFA in Creative Writing Program.

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