Phil Rice
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A High Ridin’ Pantoum
(a rustled poem, for Helen)

“When veteran riders told me I could get kicked in the head, I paid no heed.” 

—Helen Gibson (1892 – 1977) an American film actress, vaudeville performer,
radio performer, film producer, trick rider and rodeo performer; she is considered
to be the first American professional stunt woman. Her last role was in John Ford’s
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1961), for which she was paid $35.

High boots up to the hip will
tame her, this breaker of hearts.
She’s a high ridin’ woman with a whip
(her astride saddle ruining the sex parts.)

Tame her, this breaker of hearts.
She commands and men obey
(her astride saddle ruining the sex parts)
like putty, is what they say.

She commands and men obey.
But if someone could break her — take her
like putty, as they say — it would be
someone big, someone strong, someone tall.

But if someone broke her they could take
her whip away. Whip away, some-
one big, someone strong, someone tall —
she’s only a woman after all.

Whip away. Whip away, like the first
woman to win against the fabled Hoot —
someone big, someone strong, someone tall —
riding front-saddle, squarely astride.

The woman to win against the fabled Hoot —
she could not be tamed, a breaker of hearts
riding front-saddle, squarely astride,
high boots up to the hip: one woman, sheer will.

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Phil Rice, a native of Tennessee, is a writer and editor living in Woodstock, Illinois. His writing has recently appeared in the Connotation Press, East Side Boxing, the Easton Press, the Duquesne Lawyer, and elsewhere. He and P.A. Merrill  founded Canopic Jar  in 1986.