• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 08
Image by

Portraits of the Entertainer Billy Tipton


Her back to the plains
and to the cottonwood
growing on the river bank,
to the ferns and flowers
that look like paper cut-outs
in this harsh sunlight,
Dorothy is waiting
for her first wife
to leave her.

She remembers
the notes she played
last night, the audience
she could not have
if she were a woman.

She pretends
only the morning
is making her cry.
She imagines leaving this place
for somewhere,
not quite Hollywood
but out West. Anywhere
will do as long as
she can entertain.


Portraits of the Entertainer Billy Tipton


His back to the edge of the country
(there is no place else to go),
Billy waits for the pain
to leave him. His fifth wife
is long gone, long remarried.

The tinny songs he used to play
shuffle through his mind
as he attempts to escape
his body, now booby-trapped
with headaches, gut-aches,
arthritis, and a tight chest.
The shuffle of the songs
reminds him
of the brown river back home,
the one his father flew him over.

As the drummer, long-dead,
keeps time, he realizes
all that remains is the smoke
that perfumes his pinstripe
suit. He imagines he could
breathe more easily
if he still lived beside
the river. He imagines