Sunday, July 26, 2009


I got a piece of really great news the other day: I was asked permission for "Fistful," a poem I published in Ninth Letter a few years back, to be re-printed in the latest forthcoming edition of Janet Burroway's Imaginative Writing. It's both flattering and humbling. Mainly, it reminds me that I need to get busy writing.

I thought I'd put the poem up, in case anyone's curious.


"The dead can be very useful sometimes."
-Clint Eastwood, A Fistful of Dollars

Sometimes, it's all about how you wear your poncho,
or the layering of dust on your boots.

or how you sit a bucking mule
while five men scoff from a high-barred gate.

Where words unhinge from speaking mouths,
it's useful to be the man with no name
or the dark-eyed woman, clamped in a locket that laments its own opening.

Engineer the corpses,
and the dead are only sleeping,
secrets ever-burning on their cold parched lips.

All the Winchesters, all the Remingtons,
all the six guns unholstered in this border town
are not enough to kill the dead;
their stories hide in the sheepskin vests
of the nameless living.


  1. Hello Sian,
    I`m an aspiring author and in my English class I read your poem. I congratulate you in your published works and just wanted to drop you a line. William Power

    1. Hi William,

      Thank you for writing. How flattering to know that my poem was assigned in your English class! I'm so glad you dropped the line and that you enjoyed the poem. I wrote it while I was working on my first novel, Borrowed Horses, which is due out October 2013. It's been a long road for that book--years of writing and revision and more writing and more revision. The whole experience is proof to me that, if you work hard enough for long enough, good things happen. Good luck with you writing and your writing career!



  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sian, I'm studying at University of Maryland University College in College Park, Md, and I wanted to let you know they have assigned your poem to us in our creative writing class. It's in our Imaginative Writing book. It's very interesting, and I love the imagery. Thank you for your contribution!

    Cecilia S.

  4. Hi Cecilia,

    Thank you so much for posting this!! It's cool to know that my humble little poem is out there and being read. Writing can be lonely work, and I tend to forget that anyone ever reads anything I've written--even when it's been published. Mostly, writing feels like making a small noise in a large dark room, something to say "hello, I'm here." When someone responds and says "I'm here, too," I think that's the coolest thing ever.

    Good luck with all you write!


  5. Hi, I am an aspiring writer and I chose your poem "Fistful" in my creative writing class to write a brief essay response to, because I don't know what it's talking about. I think it's neat that your work is published and used at our campus at Columbus State. What is this poem talking about though????? I'm sure I'm completely wrong in my interpretation.

  6. Hi there,

    You know, I haven't read your essay, but I firmly believe that poems belong to the readers as much as they do to the writer. I'm really curious what you see in it.

    I don't know if I'm very capable of saying what the poem should mean to you. It means many things to me. I've been taken by so many of the Clint Eastwood westerns, and in some ways, this is a love song to some of those movies (particularly A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) and the lush, suggestive images that drive them. I love how those films look at life and death and what each means--and how our approach to each changes that meaning. And yet, even as I type some of these things that, for me, the poem is about, I worry that I'm reducing it.

    I've always loved what Flannery O'Connor said about how a short story isn't really great unless it successfully resists paraphrase, unless it hangs and expands in the reader's mind. It seems true in my experience that the writing I found most important was that which got bigger and bigger the more I thought about it, rather than the work I could summarize in a line or two. I aspire to write poems, stories, and novels that are expansive in the way O'Connor describes.

    Sorry that this isn't more help--but I hope you really do feel free to take part in the poem and determine what it means to you. It's your poem now as much as it is mine. I tell my own students that, if you can make a compelling argument about what's there, then it's there whether the writer knew it or not. (This terrifies me as a writer, but there it is.)

    Good luck to you in all your writing! I'm so glad you wrote and that I know you are out there, a fellow writer, aspiring to find the words to tell your truths.

    All the best,


  7. Hi Ms. Griffiths.. I really appreciate the beauty of your poem. The way you use metaphors in it is really awesom, but I'm a little bit confuse as to what really the meaning of the poem.. May i know its meaning?

  8. Hi Ms. Griffiths.. I really appreciate the beauty of your poem. The way you use metaphors in it is really awesom, but I'm a little bit confuse as to what really the meaning of the poem.. May i know its meaning?