LILY BARTELL, ABOUT TO BE MURDERED BY LEONARD CAVENDISH: THE GOLD SLIPPER BROTHEL, GOLD CREEK, COLORADO TERRITORY
He expected me to kiss him, run my hands
down his chest, call him, "My King of Love."
‘Stead, I spat something nasty, tired
of his thinking he owned me, ‘specially
since Doc’s sweetness was still honey on me.
I wanted Doc to carry me out of that brothel
to a picket-fence cottage, but he’d took his leave.
Mayor was yanking back his arm to smack me.
I dug out my blade against troublesome men,
Miz Jezzy screaming, “Stop your foolishness,”
“Foolishness?” I shrieked, “I’ll show you
who’s the fool.” But Cavendish had my knife;
I dodged, Doc somehow rushing back in,
but one of Mayor’s boys leveled a .45 at him,
stopped him like barbed wire stops cattle.
I slapped Cavendish hard, us locked hotter
than when I’d have to count ceiling cracks.
The blade hot, cold; I scratched at his eyes,
tried to grab his gun and blast him into eternity
with me, Doc struggling with that butcher boy.
But I felt so tired: a child that’s played too hard;
and heard, faint as a wheezing bellows, Doc hissing,
“No!” trying to stanch the blood, crying;
I slid down, knowing I’d never fix him
the fine supper I’d always promised.
Doc, make him pay, though it ain’t in your nature.
Nancy Scott reads "Lily Bartell, About To Be Murdered...":
Cooperman confesses: "This poem is part of a manuscript I'm working on, entitled, Hell is Empty. It's about some very bad men in the Colorado Territory, one of whom, John Sprockett, is based on a real Colorado badman (Mountain Jim Nugent), but who has become my strange alter ego, and the patron saint of women in distress, both in fiction and in real life. I needed a poem to set the plot in motion, and this is what I came up with."