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.