the museum of americana

a literary review

What I Learned from Ambrose Bierce — Poetry by Rikki Santer


In 1913, at the age of seventy-one, the famous writer saddled up a horse and rode into Mexico. He disappeared without a trace. – Forest Gander,
Very Trustworthy Witnesses, The Paris Review 

My story pales, sometimes slapdash,
sometimes elegiac, my stunt double,
wave of ten thousand starlings. But
lately, Ambrose, you’ve visited my

dreams. You urge me, with your
dual-edged charm and twist endings,
to pick up on context as I trudge
behind you through merciless brush

of Mexico’s Zone of Silence. Our
footsteps chime through lacy shadows
that whisper how you will be museumed.
I am a pauper of timid trajectory while

you, with skull in your palm, are celebrity
of your story, speculation has kinged you.
Did you wrap another hoax
around your shoulders or head

south for sombrero and revolution?
Old Gringo, you harvested many
deaths there: boiled alive near a
Mayan temple, gripped by pneumonia

on a two-wheeled cart, submerged in
maelstrom of tequila topped with riddle
of bullets, or evaporated while walking
a well-worn path. O Bitter Bierce,

my stubborn specter is not bloody Shiloh,
Chickamauga, or Kennesaw Mountain,
but simply which day will arrive as my
finale for the heavy paw of obscurity.

 

~~~

Rikki SanterRikki Santer’s poetry 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 tenth poetry collection, How to Board a Moving Ship, is forthcoming from Lily Poetry Review Books. Please contact her through her website:   www.rikkisanter.com

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