Yesterday’s Cowboy by Melissa Chappell

for David

The air is disheveled, like his beard in the morning.

A skeleton breeze stirs, a whisper of nicotine crackles,

dying oxygen. Some sudden absences hurt more than others.

This is not a mortal wound, but of the flesh. Once I thought

he was my future, but now he is the bedraggled figure in my

cracked rear view, standing cock-eyed sure in the dust,

still trying to rope in that last cigarette: “Damn,

it was just here”! Still trying to rustle up some cash at the

Stop ‘N Go. Still looking for the last rusted out drive-in theater.

He wants to go park there in his ossified Bronco with the girl

he used to run with. But she’s gone, too. Maybe she blew away

with that draft of prairie wind that came through. Nothing stays,

he thinks. Especially for him. Especially for me, a mote

on the breeze. Is redemption only for me? I think it will

startle him one day soon, just when he thinks he is lost

over the tipping point of mercy.

Yesterday’s cowboy, I wish for him a spacious range

with plenty of fencing, and a sun whose morning light

slips through shards of a shattered knife. 

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