Thomas H. Scholl and Elizabeth Boyd Thompson Poetry Prize, 2017

Science Fiction Suspense Drama

by Alex Mouw

I watch Westworld where Dolores the android is set up 
to believe she's conscious, making her own decisions. 
 
She's not. Major spoiler alert: Anthony Hopkins 
sets up the theme park and, frankly, the audience, like 
 
he's a god who knows better than we do how to end 
a story. Dolores doesn't know the man she loves
 
has paid to visit Westworld. They outfit him with a gun
and a cowboy hat and he strolls into Sweetwater, 
 
ogling the authentic plywood set. He finds Dolores 
outside the bar and she takes him on an Indian raid. 
 
While they kick up dust and fire their six-shooters 
indiscriminately, the god man sits in his office 
 
with a computer, programming me to feel sorry for a cast 
of automatons. That honky-tonk man playing the blues 
 
is grizzled as my father, who bought my guitar and 
scheduled the lessons. My grandfather, fat as the old-timey 
 
sheriff, rumbled the lyrics while I practiced Johnny Cash. 
I played hymns at his funeral and didn't hit one 
 
accidental. I played for the funerals of two conspicuously 
young aunts. One died at home, the other on the railroad 
 
tracks, doctors nowhere near either. I always arrived 
before the congregation to set up: me on a stool 
 
respectfully stage left, poised with a limp wrist, strumming 
a suspended chord over and over for sound check, while 
 
a man at the back of the church fussed with knobs 
and switches. I swear he knew something I didn't.