Welcome to day six of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Scene from a Western” by Brad Trumpfheller.
“Landscape is character,” wrote Henry James, and perhaps nowhere is this remark more visibly true than in the traditional genre of Western films, where landscape saturates and governs every character’s action. In Brad Trumpfheller’s “Scene from a Western,” a family is fused with the mythical Western landscape. In this poem an absent father’s palms are plains, his eyes “like the rolling yucca trees,” and the land itself gives a ragged cough “which the wind would then fashion / into the shape of my mother.” A newborn foal drags itself down the steps of a family home, no—Trumpfheller, the actor, the director, the author, draws a newborn foal down the steps of a family home, “..and this is how / the audience knows my father….” This a poem of clear pulse, astute attention, and wide horizons, swallowing a rider in the sunset. -Sophie Klahr
SCENE FROM A WESTERN
Below the canopy of day, a foal
drags itself down the stairs
of my childhood home, threadbare
mane slick with blood. & this is how
the audience knows my father
is never home for any of my birthdays.
I will only see him when the night swallows
the sun or something needs
to be fixed. & after my mother came home
from the hospital, the storm
door had come off one of its hinges. O God –
his hands like flat & empty plains, his eyes
like the rolling yucca trees. Now do you see
how the sandstorm crawled its way across
the desert? A dead landscape mustering up
some slow seize, some cough of dirt & bone
which the wind would then fashion
into the shape of my mother: bed-ridden
for days, thighs reddened
into clay. But there is something honest
about the sand. How it shocked the windows
with rattling. How the house was buried
& unburied while my mother’s pillows etched
epitaphs into themselves.
Before the audience leaves the theater,
or before my father can disappear
again – the scene ends with the foal, collapsed
in the desert, its body curled into the shape
of an empty crib.
Brad Trumpfheller is a student at Emerson College, studying literature & musicology. He was raised in the south, but spent time all over the United States. His writing has appeared in / will appear in the Nashville Review, Lambda Literary, Red Paint Hill, and elsewhere. He reads poetry for Winter Tangerine and handles business development for The Adroit Journal. In his free time, he writes about music.
Honorable mentions: Ariella Carmell (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL), Deepali Gupta (DY Patil University, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India), Samantha McLaughlin (Denison University, Granville, OH), Eloise Sims (University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand), Em Sutliff (Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH), Oriana Tang (Yale University, Livingston, NJ), Eli Winter (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)