Joshua L. Ruffin


From The Southeast Review Volume 30.1

They like to pretend The Good, the Bad,
and the Ugly
is a spaghetti western.
Sure, the ingredients are there: the villain

whom we know by his shoe-polish-black
mustache, the hero who’d just as soon
make love to you—with his gunbelt on
if you asked—as light a cigar

on your smoldering eye socket. Most
important: Morricone panning whistles
left to right, leaning on his wah-wah
somewhere past the horizon’s shimmer.

But the truth is this: the real
spaghettis, the dub-worthy ones
that earn their schlock and every drop
of tomato-paste blood, take the real

and explode it to absurd degrees.
Take revenge, for instance: in Django
our hero drags his eponymous coffin
into the street, hefts out the Gatling gun

and proceeds to mow down the corrupt
General and his goons, while in the saloon
whores dance a tarantella, their skirts
flashing, cutting across one another

like thrill-kill birds of paradise.
All this, for a woman murdered
before the opening credits.

And I imagine I’m telling you this,
reader, as we share some transitional,
tension-thick moment—you’ve told me
you’re pregnant, or the radiation

isn’t taking. You tell me beside a lake
as two warring cardinals careen
out of the trees, seeming to dance—

touching the water, they erupt
the lake into fire, and we watch them
fly out, away from the blaze,
shaking droplets from their wings.        

Joshua L. Ruffin received his MFA from Georgia College & State University, where he now teaches. He has held jobs as a bartender, peach picker, radio producer, trail crew worker, and was once the most un-intimidating bouncer at the Soul Bar in Augusta, Georgia. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Eclipse, The Pinch, 491 Magazine, and Poetry South.