Dale Champlin

His hidden heart


the best thing his mother-in-law

can say about the bullrider

is the guy sure has a lot of dark hair

that and perfectly straight even teeth


but she doesn’t like

the way he treats her daughter—

he expects his new wife to wear

jeans and a barn shirt to fancy parties


he doesn’t allow a dress or heels

bitter jealousy stuck in his craw

the way she sways on her

beautiful dancer’s legs


driving him crazy

if she smiles at anyone but him

his lack of trust

leaves him chapped with desire


so he goads her into housework

straighten his crap—sharp steel

scissored  jumbled and rusting

on the driveway


women’s work to clean up

his dog’s shit smeared in the garage

his almost black blue eyes bore into her

with dilated bottomless pupils


the mother-in-law

before she was his mother-in law

had a sinking feeling a foreboding

on the day of the wedding


the way-over-a-hundred

hottest day that summer

in already stifling early June air

the saddest day of her life


as she remembers it

his hollow stare and claw-like hands

the limited vocabulary

to be kind about it


his mother-in-law had never seen his grit

his glory days on the circuit

the inborn tenacity and steely gaze

clinging for dear life to the bull’s tilt


legs splayed like pliers

the brute force of muscle memory

vice gripped on the heaving bull

with his landed eight second ride


she only saw the result—the crabbed rodeo hands—

one arm wrenched clean out of it’s socket

hanging a couple inches lower

on his shoulder


he didn’t expect marriage

to be such a hurdle

to be ridiculed

because he didn’t believe in global warming


his body wrung out

more like a trample than a spill

and his mind full of words like cunt—

after berating his wife


he admits to being a prick

but when she tells him

she’s pregnant again

he asks who’s the father



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