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poetry 3: June 30 (from CROSS COUNTRY)

June 30.

Man, you don’t know what lonesome is till you go to herding cows.

Come upon over a thousand head about a mile and a half outside  Moonstone.  The wranglers eating lunch, the cattle on their own between the fencerows of Route 68.  No other choice but to work our way through, high and proud in the saddle, whoop and yell- come along boys and listen to my tale.  They trot in rhythm to my singing, every cowboy song I know, hustling black Angus and whiteface Herefords- can tell by your outfit that you are a cowboy, singing loud cowboy songs, a mighty peculiar skinny blue horse you’re riding on though.  I get them jogging along at a pretty good pace, which isn’t all that good, of course, all we can do, rump by pannier, to gain on them.  Now and again a defiant roan, long-yearling, turns a hard, baleful stare, appalled- I know a greenhorn when I see one, the man got no ten gallon hat, god damn his hide, not going to budge another foot- eye to eye with me till panic overwhelms her, or maybe my singing voice, clatters and spins on the pavement, the whole damn crowd thrown into minor turmoil around us, looks like we’ll have to drive the no-count bufords all the way to Boston.  Be hauled before the judge for rustling.  Or find the big auger to collect my drover’s pay.  But up ahead they reach a cattle guard painted across the highway:  stripes hinting at pipes and shadows they cannot navigate. Members of the clan who’ve never seen the real McCoy still know:  do not transgress.  But what to do with a thousand sisters and neutered brothers pushing on blindly from behind.  Confusion.  They wait, mill, nudge and press, bunch and split.  We break on through the breach to the other side.


© philip kimball 2009