James Heflin takes home the 2nd Annual Amherst Live Poetry Prize!
Thanks to Matthew Duncan for his memorable performance of the poem Saturday night at the Kirby Theater, and to our audience for adjudicating the outcome. Here now is Heflin’s poem in full:
At first I hardly noticed the itching of my heels.
I thought “bad socks” or “uh-oh! Fungus!”
I spotted a silver tip, subtle, undeniable,
nudging its way through the skin.
I thought, “What fair light in yonder window breaks now?!”
It wasn’t long till a couple more showed.
It got a little tough to explain my pacing
to the ladies in Accounts Receivable.
At last, upon flinging off my Florsheims,
the gig was up. Spurs. Silver. Clanky.
I’m not one to jump to conclusions,
but this struck me as unusual.
Why would I, so far from the prairie,
grow these rustic appendages?
No one seemed to catch the gleam beneath my cuffs,
but the itching wouldn’t stop.
Soon it was boots,
pointy-toed and creaky.
I was polishing like mad
all morning and night.
I figured a meeting with the gentleman
in the executive suite wasn’t far away.
Whispers filled the cubicles when I clunked by.
Soon enough, chaps sprouted and my knees spread.
A handlebar moustache waxed into curls that couldn’t be stopped.
My buckle weighed heavy and I pulled my Stetson low.
Somewhere out there I knew
was a cowboy fire and a cowboy cook,
and a cowboy airing out his feet while the cattle bedded down.
“Not long now,” I said to the horse, “it’s all West from here.”