James J. Isaacs has written poems, novels, short stories, and articles. His prize-winning poetry has appeared in numerous regional and national periodicals and anthologies. He has also published articles in regional magazines. His essay, "A Free Ballot—A Free Country," won an award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
Talkin’ with a Woman
Reckon why it happens that a feller
gets tongue-tied when time comes to talk
with a woman—about most anything?
Why, I know grown men who can talk a mule
across a slat-suspension bridge, but ya
put those same fellers with some pretty little gal,
they cork up like the Colorado River
after them engineers finished Hoover Dam.
Time was I called on a red-haired woman
in Wyoming, intendin’ to ask her to supper.
This woman was so much a looker, she’d stop
your teeth from chatterin’ while you
were standin’ in a full-out blizzard wearin’
nothin’ but your hat, long johns, and boots.
Well. I got through the "Hello. How are ya?" part.
Then, my tongue tied itself into a royal granny knot,
an’ I just stood there breathin’.
Her green eyes flashed like emeralds in sunlight,
an’ next I remember, I was sayin’, "I do."
Boys, pay close mind to what I’ve said.
An’ if you’ve a notion to ride into the sunset
like them movie cowboys do, learn to talk
with women—without takin’ any long breathes.
Ancient wagon trails,
cut double wide
by a road-grader blade,
wind into mountains
still purple in sunsets.
Dry with summer heat,
the single set of ruts
offered slow but steady progress
for a wagon drawn by horse
or mule, but muddy
propelled by a herd
of three-hundred horses,
thunder up those trails
and pound powdered dirt
into washboards that rattle
loose the silver screw.