Traci Rae Letellier

Outlaw Country

I come from a country of bootleggers
and horse thieves, of hanging judges
and picnics, of a people who loved
and loathed their outlaws. By day,
we hunted them; by night, we read
their dime novel tales to our children,
and when the time came, we killed them,
gleefully. We laid their bodies on tables,
rifled through their clothes, and marveled
at their effects, holding each coin, pocket
watch, comb, to the light—turning it over
and over. And once we were satisfied,
we propped them up like trophies, set them
slack-jawed and stripped shirtless in chairs,
took long-exposure photographs of their
lazy stares, dark wounds gaping. And when
that wasn’t enough, we embalmed them,
stood their coffins in barber shop windows,
charged admission to curious townsfolk.
We loomed. We gloated, finding our outlaws, too,
were human—as prone to dying and as carnal.