From Digging For Bones - 2011

 What if John Wayne

"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”   John Wayne

 What if John Wayne

had been in the Macy’s

Thanksgiving Day Parade

slapping the reins on

a huge stagecoach float

surrounded by Sioux

Indians riding stick horses

and waving pictures of

George Armstrong Custer.

 

What if John Wayne

didn’t die at the Alamo

but instead went after

the Mexican drug lords

his Winchester blasting

away piles of heroin

cocaine and amphetamines

the bad guys fleeing

Juarez, Nogales and Tijuana

like so many cucarachas.

 

What if John Wayne

had made a movie

with Clint Eastwood

The Dukeand

The Man With No Name

their faces grim

riding side by side

into some corrupt

company town

the “bought” sheriff

laughing at the newcomers

until he draws first and

is turned into swiss cheese.

 

What if John Wayne

were still tracking

some barely clad

female pop icon

kidnapped

for continually foisting

lousy vocals and a miserable

life style on a suspecting

public, the girl finally freed

when John threatens to blare

singing cowboy songs into

the captors’ hidden lair.

 

What if John Wayne

could now take America

on his broad shoulders

and carry us across

rivers and prairies to

that sacred place where

honesty and respect

are a given and

the sky at sunrise

is streaked

with possibility.

From Desert Moon Rising - 1992

The Lazy D

 

 Each weekday morning

I ride

a counter stool

at the Lazy D café.

Regular as sunrise

I order strong coffee

two eggs over easy

bacon

crisper than

a waitress’s starched

whites.

 

Becky Sue

pours the coffee,

her left eye

like a stampede’s aftermath

the black and blue

still fresh.

My questioning glance

prompts the whispered

assurance,

“It’s alright, don’t worry.

Sam only did it

because he loves me.”

Before I can reply

she is taking other orders,

the culprit changed

to an errant baseball.

 

Becky Sue lingers

at the counter’s far end,

my coffee growing cold.

Beyond the café

stretches unbroken desert.

A female jackrabbit

is teaching her offspring

that red-tailed hawks

do not swoop down

out of love,

and kangaroo rats

know better

than to share a lair

with rattlesnakes.

From Great American Success Stories - 1977

Anna Marie Pallachi – Roller Derby Queen

 

Sophia Pallachi had just started in on a

plate of lasagna when the pains began

coming regularly.  An ambulance was called

and Sophia was rushed to St. John’s Hospital

in Brooklyn where she was delivered of a

healthy six pound baby girl.

 

The child, Anna Marie, struggled through

childhood as one of eight Pallachi offspring.

Home was a crowded apartment on the top

floor of a five story walk-up in Little Italy.

Silence was in short supply.  The air was

habitually filled with the sounds of crying

babies, fighting parents, snoring grandmas

and the Great Caruso.

 

Anna Marie was taught how to make pasta,

knit shawls and take care of babies, but

none of these things held much interest

for her.  One Christmas, however, Anna

Marie received roller skates from her

father, Vittorio the butcher, which solved

the interest problem forthwith.

 

Whenever she had a free moment, Anna Marie

spent it on her skates.  Careening down

neighborhood sidewalks, her ribbonedpigtails

streaming behind, Anna Marie terrorized young

and old alike.  Over the years she plowed

into ice cream carts, garbage cans and cops

on the beat, but nothing could deter her from

skating at every opportunity.  She was the

best in Little Italy, maybe in all of Brooklyn.

 

When Anna Marie was seventeen it was arranged

that she would marry Joe Lola, an up and coming

soldier in the Brotherhood.  In case of trouble

Vittorio wanted some instant protection in

the family.  The skates were reluctantly put

in a trunk to be replaced by cooking, sewing

and babies.

 

Anna Marie tried to love Joe, but it was

hard, especially when your husband can

never talk about his day at the office.

After six years of marriage and two children,

the roof fell in when Joe was wasted in a

gang war with the Spitale brothers.

 

After the funeral while sitting at home and

wondering what to do with her life, Anna Marie

absent mindedly turned on the TV.  A roller

derby game was on.  It was a sign.  Leaving the

kids with Grandma, Anna Marie set out to become

a roller derby queen.

 

Though only 5’3” and 100 pounds, Anna Marie

was soon tearing them up on the banked track

of the roller derby circuit.  In public she

was known as “Little Italy.”  In private she

was lovingly referred to as “Wonder Wop.”

 

Little Italy could block and jam better than

almost anyone, but her real fame came as a

result of the spectacular fights she staged

with other skaters.  Crowds went berserk as

she pummeled Big Martha into wining submission

or knocked a skater over the rail and into

the fourth row seats.

 

In just a couple of seasons, Anna Marie

landed an exclusive contract to play for the

Bay City Bombers and was featured in Sports

Illustrated and Ladies Home Journal.  At

the peak of her popularity, and made fabulously

wealthy through lucrative endorsements, Anna

Marie undertakes a goodwill world tour on

roller skates.

 

Well received in Africa, Asia and Europe (She

is given the key to the city in Rome), Anna

Marie is on the last leg as she skates through

South America.  Then disaster strikes as Anna

Marie disappears from a jungle trail deep in

the Amazon.  The search goes on for months to

no avail.  She is lost.

 

Her jersey is enshrined at the Roller Derby

Hall of Fame in Port Arthur, Texas.  Flags fly

at half-mast in towns which get the games on

TV.  A school in her old neighborhood is

renamed Anna Marie Junior High.  She is sorely

missed.

 

Every couple of years some expedition reports

having sighted a petite figure on roller skates

barreling down a trail in the Amazon River basin,

but the sightings are never substantiated.

Though her fate remains a mystery, Anna Marie

lives forever in the memories of true sports

aficionados.