Cowboy Poetry

During the first dirge of this empty age,
and way south of god’s good land,
we roll low bellied beneath
reams of sheet metal clouds
with cattle caged in tow,
and clank late through the gate
into the lot of a state not so fair
as many claims may warrant or want

Yet there exists no recompense
for the wicked west, so we brandish the best
of our branded flesh, victims of habit,
habitual at best, considering the cost of regret

But the auctioneer awaits our solicitations
with unsteady eyes and an awkward gait,
so we drop with well-known repose
from cab to curb to dirt,
carrying our contraband concerns
and conspiratorial hopes close to the vest,
for the peace that comes from profit alone
must be kept quiet
until the last imperious figure
proffering our convictions
is sputtered in staccato diction

Under pools of latescent lamplight,
swarmed by sharp bullheads beaded
together like so many ruthless rosaries,
we gather our abstract blue gazes
with famous precision
as if understanding certain understandings
are more important than others
and best kept in pocket,
while our starched white linen kerchiefs
turn into chalky disintegrating moths—
the monotony of cheap tricks
and small town politics,
where broken jaws once broken
become jaws wired for double talking

Stalking with poker-faced patience,
we haggle over ranges, qualifications,
and grades that simply appear fair and reasonable,
but there is time for repair; nothing is lost,
though no moment holds any real repose between
the malignant misaligned lamppost offerings
and naked corrugated ribcage coffers,
the lachrymose limits of commerce,
the knowledge of animal weariness, dumb despair

But the dull auctioneer,
yawning, stomping, and fingering
his creased jeans, seems bored enough
to care for none of our peculiar beliefs,
as he moves mutely towards a ruthless drawl,
through the cathedral arches of sling-blade trailers
and the twisted rust remnants
of noon’s non-sequiter squeeze chutes—
but we always have promise,
yet persuasion is costly, is it not—
just nod cautiously

Never mind, need never stalls,
and caught like so many night-crawlers
creeping upon the milky mulch
of midnight lawns, we await the word
that seems final enough, final and tough:
the word reworded into words,
half-light hooks lowered into scaly jaws
and slipped into bowels slick with brown water,
the wonder-word, wound-word, word of mouth
made of greenback teeth and gunpowder

And once the word appears pronounced,
surely, as tradition dictates, we must yowl
at 80 proof rot gut moons
and then discuss weather patterns in neutral tones:
satiated and saved of all embarrassing defeats,
our expertise of the sudden seems equitable,
even, even mutual, for we share
the heritage of grim accounts,
cigarette papers and cattle prods
pushing through swinging saloon doors,
flintlock pickpockets who burn barns down—

But pop-guns and penny postcards
remain expected this far south—
and yes, why not, why indeed worry
about the locomotion of cowardice,
mangled dusk lowers now,
mingling wail and low, and so we shuffle
to stare at steel barge rivers
awaiting the rich words
our famous humility elicits
in the marketplace of a washed out world
full of well-meaning fools
and well-heeled hypocrites

We think, therefore we think, that’s all:
a wish, a wink, a raised eyebrow and arm,
a kicked over spit can,
a visit to the stalls,
a cough an hour or so on,
and then two more dollars per pound:
the shifting weight of startled cattle,
the soft soil of hoof battered ground
where distracting patterns emerge,
distractions that keep us
from undue comparisons
of wealth, titles, deeds—

Astounded by insignificant jealousies,
we review the new diesel, ostrich boots,
fattened limousine calves, while we rifle
through the all-important papers
that might right the air rife with ripe flesh,
palely fingering imaginary pastures
of pastoral grace, we imagine
an image of eminence bygone at best

But we will wait
and maybe find rest, after the auctioneer adjusts
the hung jury of his vest;
a taut target over walls of loose flesh,
red and bruised blue tartan buttoned up to his neck—
a fight, a prize, a purse, an investment, a bet,
yet nothing so much as fulfilling hunger—a necessity

As wise as time might have made us,
we cannot react otherwise:
our life lies entirely within
the almighty crosshair of cross-purposes,
yet our designs are best kept secret
if we are to succeed
in believing them ourselves

Maybe with fomented force
we will re-thorn an old timey tune,
a song of yellow rose, and include
a verse which will allow the wind
to thresh weed and seed, so we can justify
bleeding a man, nostrils flaring acetylene,
while we wait out some brand of knowledge
we believe was bred in immoderate hardship

Perhaps between the bile bred under-
bite of our cross-stitched grimaces
we will manage to mythologize
our indistinct incapacities
and turn an Indian nickel on its head,
all the while twitching
like so many unwise misers
with itchy trigger fingers scratching
the bald brains between our heads—
hard heads where meaning
brings nothing other
than the strictest stead;
a mean heartache—
a lean, lonely, lurid land


Caleb Puckett is a writer and visual artist living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has recently published work in "Philament," "Megaera," "Shampoo," and he currently has work in Softblow .




Copyright © 2006 Caleb Puckett