The Poem Masquerades as a Western
I don’t know if it’s the season
but I’ve been seeing cowboys by the dozens.
A cowboy stands at the pump across from mine, gassing his red pick-up.
Another crosses the street on a dusty brown stallion
while I’m staring out the living room window.
There is a cowboy serving me coffee,
walking his dog unleashed past the Asian market.
When I tell Andrew, he mimes the removal of a wide-brimmed
cowboy hat and says “At your service, ma’am.”
In the coffee shop window, Peter and I
are talking about westerns. The Sheriff who
arrives as the outlaw turns a corner. The Native shaman
looking burnt out and hungry. The femme fatale,
untouchable. The damsel on the train tracks,
screaming and screaming. The way the drifter becomes
valiant but never not lonely.
The wind kicks dust up onto the glass
and another cowboy is ordering a mocha frappucino at the counter.
I am thinking about the bartender, spit-shining
tumblers with a smeared grey rag, watching
the saloon doors blow open and shut again,
open and shut. There is, occasionally,
the distant sound of gunfire. A leak springs
in the keg. The same drunk saps,
extras, eventual casualties,
order rye and soda
and mumble their stories into the counter.
Wife passed from consumption. Fields with blight,
Another calf found whimpering, its leg broken by a coyote.
The bartender wipes the counter with the same grey rag.
He is nodding, he is listening. He opens another bottle.