Conjunctions:24 Critical Mass

Calamity Jane
Here, the season of manifest destiny
And breaded trees

Land-hungry time
Backstairs time

In each of us
An eye witness

Marthy Cannary
By herself

An eye witness


Born 1852, Missouri
oldest of six brats

rider until I became an expert rider,
able to ride the not rideable
horses, which I spent
my early and later life riding

overland to Virginia City, 5 month
journey, hunting the plains
or adventuring, shooting
and riding way beyond

many times crossed
the Rockies
to Montana, our wagons
lowered over ledges,

boggy places, no use
to be careful

lost all, horses and all,
then there were dangers,
streams swollen; mounted
a pony to swim through currents and save

lives or to amuse ourselves.
Narrow escapes. Simple escapades,
reached for obstacles and overcame
as God is witness.

At Black Foot mother died,
I buried her under the spring.
She taught me weather,
strength and to cuss. Then

To Salt Lake. Where my father dies.
Joined General and his campaign.
Between Deadwood and Custer
Molested very little.

Ordered out to the Muscle Shell
Or Nursey Pursey Battle; in saddle
Swirled to catch and cradle
Egan in my arms. Christened
Me Calamity, heroine.


To rely on what
One had once
Lost faith

Perseverance keeping
The quiet outer

Synchronicity and spirit

Doris Day is Calamity sipping sarsaparilli

Bill can’t see her beauty till she drops
her coat, can’t see her
face or coif. Or hear her
sing, “My gun got so hot had to sit
with a muzzle between my legs.”
Her magic: pink chiffon.

made into a woman

“no changeless essence ... no eternal verities”

      Custer, Custer, elle était plus qu’une prostituée
a true star of gold
      ornée d’une étoile
la défroque 
of all théâtre
      tout le monde

Jane Russell and Jean Arthur,
John Wayne and Bogie too.
The frontier’s Florence Nightingale.

Custer, she is more than a prostitute,
an assassine-squaw

First met up with her long about ’75. Business was off so rooming
cottages built and ladies called for to occupy them. They was of the
sporting variety, would have to be wanna come to Fort Laramie.
Common like Jane. Her and some few others followed Gen. Crook
and when Gen. Merritt sent wagons back home the women rode
with the wounded.

Tongue River

The Gold Rush was a period in American
history when men were digging and mining.

      Oremos, oremos
      angelitos semos,
      del cielo venemos
      a pidir oremos

of riches and respect, out of gulches
came jealousy, destruction of the unseen.

      ... we little angels
      from heaven come
      to ask for treats

selves, hearts and emptiness

War vets sit

Incrusted black

Hero infatuations
And Methodist

Painted sex
Front tier stage
Ghosting tips

Chartreuse plumes chanteuse.
Cheyenne. Le chuk wagon.
Young muscled whackers,
Triple-barreled and stallion-tailed

Deadwood, New Dakota
Derring-do boom
Gold Black Hills

From Kingdom Come
Calam & Wild Bill
Parade down Main

Donned in buckskin, in beaver,
hammered silver, the sun
children, five men

And Jane joins the pageantry
on horse, not prospector
but sentimentalist scout

The Queen with rosemary
potpourri and cowhands
never bedded sober
or pennies in her pocket

                                        to awaken on a familiar cot and recall
a fairy tale

“you’re a wonderful little woman to have around in times of
calamity,” says Captain Egan when I save his life.

                                        to awaken in an unfamiliar fairy tale

Letters to your
self, inflammation of bowels
weaver and vowel lover

sense of restriction like touch

part of her
life nutrient

confessions encoded
in the photo album
diary of a surface

Your rest in her sleep

Master says, “With your eyes, what have you
Seen? With ears, what have you heard?
What have you said with your mouth?”

As none of these was ever practiced

From where come such colors, sounds and scents?

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises

Hat Creek
Calamity Peak
Drunk at Jack’s Bar
Fell in a lake

Relationship with memory,
the dark star

“Deadwood Dick,
Rider of the Lugubrious Hills”

(Now, isn’t that rich)

Beautiful white devil of the Yellow
Stone, Heroine of Whoop-up,

In the melodramatic role
Calamity Jane she expounds

(Tight as a three-leg goat)

Billings, Montana, Gazette.
Daughter of Janie & Wild Will
Exclusive. Mother’s secret diary.
her confessions. her letters.

The real Calamity Jane for one dime only

Her deeds and miscredits

Student asks, “Are clouds
running from or chasing the moon?”

“With your mind, what have you fathomed?” replies Master.

Basic fears never materialize
Wherever the body travels
Hometown strangers send it back

      of characters she once was

As in the Noh play, when the lover
Arrives at noon to find no reflection
Alive, she collects change of dreams

      after the lust is gone

They can meet in different parts

      previous world

Shadows lengthen
in anticipation of shades

Replace the word power with ...
The costume of one’s sex.
Passion for male clothes
and companionship
a paradox-mask.

“Pard we will meet again
in the Happy Hunting Ground
to part no more,” the stone signature,
written, not in letters, but in her
where signatures of all things
can never be erased, ceased
the afterglow



Hog ranch on the outskirts
Institute for Ladies and Gayeties

to accept her
sleep as his access to her pleasure

exhibit her

Bill she thinks she is.
And discovers the cruelty
of identities, difference

Forces of air into peaceful
movements; sound
(gentle and
the deep
vertebral column

They weave sashes and blankets
Swap stories

migrations over imaginations


held in irons for that which they depend upon

one custodian must bear
the water jar

must gather
clay, shape and fire

beside the power
behind the prayer of ocean

will draw water from the distant
moon without end

until the sky is dry
her eyes


A door above
your head left ajar
for the emergence

of far-off planets
echoing eloquence
toward bottom.

They switch the date of death
to coincide with Bill’s
and bury her by his side

Which animals befriend her?
the cat, the kite, the mule:
stubborn, hunter, stray

Le Diable Blanc
at the Number 10 Saloon
Mount Moriah

broken light and grasses
chilled in winter glass
a double sunset

That you choose to destroy, but save
instead, is the purest act of Love.

Martine Bellen’s most recent collection of poetry is This Amazing Cage of Light: New and Selected Poems (Spuyten Duyvil). She is a librettist of Moon in the Mirror (colibrettist Zhang Er, composer Stephen Dembski), which will be performed during the Chinese New Year at Cleveland State University.