From the James Tate Tribute

For Jim Tate

I can only remember fragments.
I’m ok. My memory is excellent.
My life has been fragments.
Tonight, traveling in an ancient
dream of the American West, 
I came upon a ghost town
where ceaseless winds kicked
tumbleweeds down dirt streets
and piled them high against
the clichéd sadness of a gray
wood & woeful world. So,
like any Indian cowboy,
through the swinging doors
of the saloon went I, wanting
something to wet my whistle.

A tall, white-frocked gunslinger
blocked my path to the bar.
I was stoic but smiling inside,
feeling the loving weight
of a Colt strapped to my side.
“My greatest fear is that I will
lose consciousness when I die
& my second greatest fear is . . .
that I won’t,” I told him.

“We shocked your heart back
to a normal sinus rhythm,”
he said. “Get some rest.”
I gave him a weak bitchy smile.
My trigger finger still twitchy,
but my old fart’s heart was not.

Adrian C. Louis grew up in Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984–97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation and recently retired as Professor of English at MN State University in Marshall. A new book of poems, Random Exorcisms, is forthcoming from Pleiades Press in 2016.