| The Rancher
When he rises from his naugahyde recliner
to shake your hand, he cups his fingers
behind his ear to catch your name.
He grips your hand to see if you're man
enough to date his daughter, and though
you're barely man enough, you've got
the strength to pass his test.
You meet his eyes that know exactly
how to judge a lamb or yearling's face
and what he sees in yours he doesn't trust.
How could he? When his daughter's dressed
and wearing make-up, he calls her cheap,
a floozie. His wife's her pimp.
He's not bad, his daughter tells you.
We're all women in this house, that's hard
on him, and Mom's such a bitch.
When he's drunk, he comes into her room
with what she calls his badger's muzzle
and sniffs her neck and shoulders.
But what's worse, she tells you, is when
she comes home from her dates and if he's
still awake, he lifts her dress or puts
his hand inside her Levis. And so each time
you came to pick her up, he looked at you
as both the one who'd save his daughter
and use her. He told you once, She lies,
don't trust her, and then, as if to prove it,
he led you to the service porch,
where a freezer, as large as a grave casing,
paralleled his beat-up truck. He propped
the freezer open with a piece of 2x4,
high enough so that the light inside
illuminated rows and stacks of plastic bags,
clear, the contents blurred with ice.
Each one contained what looked to you
like scallops, though larger. He reached inside
and knocked a bag loose with his fist,
then picked it up and said, She'll do to you
what I did to sheep to get these,
then threw the bag back in, closed the lid,
slapped you on the ass and squeezed you,
hard. You felt the badger's muzzle then,
prickly and wiry, his cheek like a shaved pelt,
and then heard what he said, a whisper,
You tell me what it's like with her
and I'll be glad to listen.
-- Michael Collier