Wednesday, May 4, 2016

poem of the day 05.04.16

the cowboy

he used to sit in the corner chair
homeless and stinking of crotch sweat
with all of his possessions
in two big macy’s bags
a tattered cowboy hat on his head
and every time i tried to talk to someone
he’d grunt and laugh
or start talking to himself out loud
crazy shit about genocide and the white man
when i got up at the end of the night
to announce that we were closing
he’d starting coughing
like the devil was scorching his lungs
then he’d go into the bathroom and stay there
until i had to pound on the doors
and threaten to call the fucking cops
every time he was in he did this
two, maybe three times a week for months on end
the same routine
but only when i was there
but only when i spoke
hack! hack! grunt!
the cowboy did this to no one else i worked with
he’d be an anti-hero in this if it hadn’t happened to me
some nights i’d catch him
on the N train
the cowboy with his hat cocked back
those two macy’s bags like a fortress in front of him
when i met his eyes
i’d give him a knowing nod
and he’d glare back
the two of us too tired to do anything else
other than acknowledge that we had each other’s number
or mostly he had mine
me and the cowboy
i hadn’t seen him in years
until last night coming home on the R train
there he was waiting at 59th street
my old enemy combatant
the same two macy’s bags clutched in his hands
but sans the stetson
he started panhandling as he moved along
shifting his bags
bent and stooped from the pressure and weight
of carrying those marley chains around for years
the cowboy snapping at people
who wouldn’t give him any bills or coins
when he got to me
he shook his little empty coffee cup
but i didn’t give him any money
like i usually do for the others
he didn’t even grunt or cough or hack at me
just turned up his nose and kept moving
fuck the cowboy, i said to my wife
as he shuffled along down the subway car
i’d like to think that he took it as payback
from our time together
my own little coughs and hacks and grunts
my laughter
my talk of genocide and the white man too
but i’m sure he just thought
that i was another faceless cracker asshole
with a home and a job and a bed
and a fridge full of food to eat
who wouldn’t part with so much as a dime
for the homeless
and deep down
i guess in that moment
that’s all i was.


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