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Same Cowboy


from Texas to Montana
I see the same ol’ boy rattle-by
in a beat-up 50s Dodge wreck
cracked windshield & snowtires on the front
smiling howdy through stubble & warped teeth
Skohl stained posts & rusted barbwire

at 20 miles per
he risks a wrinkled finger from the wheel to
say he’d stop but he’s only moseying
to get the mail & find what’s happening

a stove-in straw hat & a pearl button shirt
Bull Durham tab dribbled out of the pocket
he’s never in much of a rush
stepping back like a horse
high-headed to calculate the distance
& size things up before stepping through
hobbled in pointed-toe boots
now with the gout but still
dragging phantom spurs in the dirt

I have seen him in bars some sleepy afternoons
nursing a long neck &
rolling another of his own making
with nothing to say but considering
the float of dust in shafts of inescapable light
casually leaning & quiet
like he was supervising on a horse
that knew all the business

he’s picked me up a few times
to bounce slow miles on dead shocks
under direct question he’s admitted
some dogs & horses through the years
glancing to keep that confidential
rode the local rodeo years ago
when he didn’t know any better
the reason was he was born here

pierced eyebrow ring
he’s not judging just looking
because there ain’t much happens here
some weather & another crop of weeds

worn out tools & cans of grease
rattle in the back
he’s past jobs & there’s nothing more to get
but he’s got a shovel just in case

he leaves me walking
stopping to turn in at an old ramshackle place
stuck out in the middle of nothing
but raw wind


       Next poem from Indians: Texas Jukebox.