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The Bossy e Meets His Match

e, nothing but a masked c,
slack-jawed bandit,
scrabbles on the roof

of the train as the music swells.
Below, through the dusty
window, o and a cling

to each other, skirts rumpled,
mouths circled
in single terrified moan.

At the back of the car, e kicks
open the door, pistol poised,
shouts Freeze. Empty your pockets.

The train rattles on.
A requisite close up:
the bad guy’s boot heel,

each step, a thump
doubling the dust.
He was playground bully,

putting the a in shake.
Now he has a shack,
a hidden stash, a posse

that has his back.
Vowels murmur, mutter,
stutter, shuffle, drop

their names into his sack
while x unholsters, rises
at the front of the car.

Both feet planted,
taking aim,
he demands

What sound does x make?

e’s forgotten, hisses kiss?
question mark stuck just
behind his teeth.

Then he remembers the axe
defiant, wedged in the block,
hears the shot, lets the sack drop.

As if in a tunnel, the screen fades to black.  


Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s first collection of poems, Steam Laundry, was published by Red Hen Press (2012). Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Women’s Review of Books, and other literary Journals. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she lives and writes in Fairbanks, Alaska.