Poems » don marquis » cowboy on horse in desert


Little cowboy, painted on
a paint-by-numbers picture
found in a junk shop. I have had you for ten years
now. I carry you with me wherever I go
because you are so lonely and never quite make
it through to the canyon arches you're aimed at.
Someone aimed you at something, forever.
Kinda like me and a couple of dreams.
I wish I could paint in
an arrival for you.
As it is, we keep each other company you and I.
Your icons become my icons, that cactus presiding over your
path, the cotton candy clouds in blue I see some days,
the arid dirt and boulders, that rock face that
looks like the snout of a benevolent large dog, neither
asleep nor threatening, like the poised
chances of my own life.

There are so many wonderful paintings,
cowboy, but you and I, we are simpler than that.
We are done with shades, and textures and the meaning of
tilted faces in amber light --
we are doggedly going, you and I, called by neither oasis
nor homestead, just moving in the brash sun
that neither parches nor woos.

What I watch is your stillness, caught in neither leaving nor
arrival -- an image of me. I could almost take you
out and feed you, put you to bed, tell you stories
of the prairie, my prairie,
and I wonder if whoever made you, loved you as much as
I do ... an old man, given to the soil, before he could give you
away? -- a dreamy housewife, pining for the springs
that her husband hadn't? I don't think it was a little
girl who made you -- you are too full of
unremitted hope for a child to know much about.

Perhaps you are just a factory thing,
the lineaments of stasis just right for the
frozen moment as I dream it.

Still, it gave you birth, little cowboy,
I even made a journey to Saguaro, after staring
at your cactus for a year. Another year, perhaps I'll become you.
We want to represent our heart to others, don't we?
Isn't that all we want to be for each other,
identifiable pictures of what we give and can't give?

Your sagebrush is badly done, your shadows
cheat, the peaked stone towers in the arroyo
unmatched from anything out here ...
so much like me, your world,

and the flowers, the total absence of flowers,
and you seem at peace with that, as if
you sang them in your heart
like a ditty you might be humming under the
brim of your hat.

You are satisfied. I can see that,
and you are better than any Moses, or extravagaria.
You are my little self, what little there was, taken
into a future that never comes.
Whether I have my glasses on or not,
I can see you clearly,
unlike what I have made of myself,
where you have found a home.

I can wish you nothing you do not
already have,
and that is your wish for me.