I have an odd fascination with cowboys and the American West and in my poetry (which doesn’t translate to my non-writing life). Perhaps this is because my maternal grandfather came from Oklahoma to Alabama on a covered wagon in the early 1900’s, and he maintained an interest in the West. He loved the show Gunsmoke and Louis L’Amour books. He could also rock a bolo tie. In many ways, he was a hard man to get to know, though he was always loving and perched me on his knee and told me stories. He was also an amazing visual artist.
Both my grandmother and the heroic (or, in my case, usually anti-heroic) cowboy figure appear in my work. The following is a recent example:
In Honor of Cowboy Wayne
I can’t countenance what I don’t cotton to,
says Cowboy Wayne, in love with his scruff
and the tin alloy of his voice, the blue smudge
of life in his veins, the chalky cliffs of his teeth.
Li’l dogies burst into flame rather than incur
his wrath, which stretches from barbed-wire
to unsettled valley, old homestead to bloodied hearth.
When he coughs, mermaids boil in distant oceans.
In a closed theater, a talkie runs backward,
a great feat to the projectionist who whistles
past the graveyard in his memory, the black
and white grain of Cowboy Wayne’s gaze.
On the blasted prairie, the man of the dismal hour
bakes his supper to death, gurgles a hymn through
a cup of black cider procured from the medicine man
who warned him to lay low, avoid people, eschew praise.