My Darling Clementine
I never fail to see Daddy’s hands
every time I watch My Darling Clementine
and this is often, as I love that film.
It’s the point where Wyatt and Doc
might fight – first there’s the whiskey
that Doc Holliday sends shooting down
the shining bar counter with the back
of his hand, followed by
a forty five sliding up
from Brother Morg and sent sliding
down again before Doc and Wyatt
make their peace over champagne
and the whole room breathes
as men move back to the bar,
the conductor clicks his fingers and the Mexican
band starts to play. I
think of the story of Daddy suddenly angry
he had enough
and refused to be pacified with a drink
which he sent flying down
the Formica like Doc
with the back of his hand and that was
a funny anecdote to be told afterwards
the dramatic gesture so unlike him and I
think of his swollen crooked fingers and how
he was almost always powerless. I am sure that
no one was afraid for his life, if there
was a band, no way had it stopped playing
and the cowboys were drinking steadily
at the counter.
Daddy was more like Mack standing behind the bar
when Fonda asks, Have you ever been in love?
the small deferential bald head answers
No, I’ve been a bartender all my life.
This poem was first published in The Lampeter Review.