Christine Pacyk

high ridin’ woman

But if someone could break her
And take her whip away –
Someone big, someone strong, someone tall –
You may find that the woman with a whip
Is only just a woman after all. (Repeat and fade.)

from “High Ridin’ Woman,” a song by Harold Adamson & Harry Sukman as sung by The Sons of the Pioneers, 1957

Snake coiled and set:
                bullwhip looped to rile, to crack.
                               She recalls childhood cautions:

stay away from storm-swelled streams,
                quagmire & loam. Don’t keep company
                               with snakes, & other don’ts & mustn’ts.

She views the color red
                as an invitation, wears milk snakes
                               mouth to tail as anklets,

follows the river to ends, wades thigh-
                deep & still, whispers come, come
                               coaxing catfish into open fists—

slurping what sustains. Men call her Danae
                & trail her down forked roads where forests
                               unfold like ribbons from her fingertips.

If they catch her, she will cast off
                skin to flee, her sun-tipped tongue flicking wind:
                               when you tame something, it is yours forever.


Christine Pacyk is a high school English teacher by day and a writer by night. Her poems have appeared in the journals Found Poetry Review and Beloit Poetry Journal, among others. In 2011, she received the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award for her poems “Postcards from Paris” and  “Valdosta.” In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, running, biking, spending time with her husband, and playing with her three crazy dogs.