Mattie Ross

(True Grit, 2010)

black-plaited girl severe as the winter plains
a close trader
a bookkeeper
wears her father’s flat black hat
for he is dead
& she shall not smile
perhaps never did before neither
this is not such a time nor place for smiling
not a land for contractions
or quitters or mothers
or other fancies

she will see the body now please
see herself yanked from that fine pony
& spanked & switched by a ranger
see herself flung into the cold river
by the kickback of her rifle
see all those bullets
making their slow determined exits
see her arm lost to the snake
of the black hole of vengeance
see the marshal’s body reburied
atop her own plain hill

she will never marry
wifeliness would be undignified
after all that resolute time on the trail
newsprint in the crown stiff against her skull

Arielle Greenberg is the Resident Poet at Bright Wall/Dark Room. She is the co-author of Home/Birth: A Poemic; author of My Kafka Century and Given; and co-editor of three anthologies, including Gurlesque. She lives in Maine and teaches in the community and in Oregon State University-Cascades' MFA; she is currently teaching a course in American cinema to insightful students at the Maine State Prison enrolled through the University of College at Rockland (hi, guys!). Arielle writes a regular column on contemporary poetics for the American Poetry Review.