day 16: The Poem Masquerades as a Western


The Poem Masquerades as a Western


for Peter


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.

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