Jun 12, 201309:53 AMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Poem Of The Week: June 12, 2013
The Old Cowboy
I’m not sure when you first sauntered into my heart. Perhaps
while I memorized lyrics to the ballad of Pecos Bill playing
on Grandma’s wind-up phonograph, straddled a log over
a waterfall, reading Zane Grey, sniffled farewells in darkened
living rooms and movie houses at flickering images of Hopalong,
Tom Mix, Alan Ladd, Gene Autry, Sky King and Roy.
In my mind, you were 6 feet tall, lean, lanky, circumspect in speech,
and wherever you walked, the smell of roasted chicory
Wafted from an enameled blue pot, stars shone with a clarity
and brightness captured only in glossy magazines, eagles soared
majestically, coyotes howled in the distance, horses looked
somehow prouder, cattle more dignified, pastures more verdant,
horizons more expansive, and clouds, well -- more welcoming
to wool gatherers on sultry, summer afternoons.
Two nights ago, when I dreamt you were dying, I held my son
in my arms and consoled him. He felt your passing, as well.
This morning, I know you are leaving me. A chill of certitude
grips the air and a shadow falls on the foothills. The harshness
of our world is anathema to you who could no sooner wrap your mind
around an unkindness than rustle another rancher’s livestock.
You stand for something idyllic, true, a bygone era, a mystique
of innate goodness, an unquantifiable rightness. I refuse to make
my so-long permanent. With your bandanna around my neck,
creased Stetson on my head, and denim shirt enveloping me,
I will lasso only the purposeful and noble, sidestep malice.
Astride my palomino, I take it all in -- zigzagging tumbleweed,
a spectacular sunset heralding Technicolor glory. On cue,
daybreak is full of bluebonnets and promise. You're Hopalong.
You’re Tom. You’re Shane. You’re Gene. You’re Sky. You’re
Roy. You’re a little girl's comforter and incorruptible hero. You’re
in my very breath. You’re in my bones radiating warmth. You’re
my compass, my North Star. You’re glowing. You’re glowing always.