“Stetson” by Rikki Santer

You’ve made a name for yourself, a lifetime
protecting heads from the aloof of stars.
In your ribbon band still nests a dime novel
& season tickets to all-you-can-eat spaghetti westerns.
Addicted to the notion of legacy, you hunger
for emoji status, boss of the plains, desperado
on horseback atop a silver saddle.
From sentimental pools of childhood, I never
was a chocolate box heroine but a high-crowned,
neckerchiefed badlander roaming manicured
suburban sidewalks on a piebald bronco,
my fat-tired Schwinn. They say Custer died
in his cattleman-creased Stetson. My Annie Oakley
knock-off from the local K-mart suited me just fine.
Whistling to the rhythm of hoofbeats tucked
under my brim, I squinted at tenderfoots tossing
their baseballs, my bare-boned yups & nopes
at the dinner table, mama’s lasagna never as good
as campfire beans. So I didn’t use you to slap a steer,
smother grass fires, or serve as a target in gunfights,
but you were my gateway to the unbridled joy
of playing out my world theatrically. How
illiterate I was of ways to endure a hard land.

Rikki Santer’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Slab, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Grimm, Hotel Amerika and The Main Street Rag. Her work has received many honors including five Pushcart and three Ohioana book award nominations as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her eighth collection, Drop Jaw, was published this spring (2020) by NightBallet Press.