An Old Cowhand Went Riding Out One Dark and Windy Day
I have managed to empty my head
almost completely, creating vast hollows with
crusty thick walls, except for that one dim room
reserved for old song lyrics
which permits neither additions nor erasures
so today just when I think I have achieved total
mindlessness I find myself humming
Ghost Riders in the Sky, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer. No, not humming. I know the lyrics, every
relentless word, and when I try to segue into, say,
Bartok piano solos or Etruscan poetry (for instance)
a thundering herd of red-eyed cows insists on center stage
“As the cowboys rode on by him
he heard one call his name” (Hey, schmuck, we always said)
and the cruel reindeer won’t let Rudolph play their games
so the room is filled with sweating bodies until
there is no room to breathe, just flesh on flesh
sweat and stench, and an ominous red glow
through the fog and it’s too late to switch to
Some Enchanted Evening
Why do I still carry these heavy keys?.
This one was for the Print Center on Varick Street, which I left eleven years ago. No one in that building
would know me now.
This was for the ’97 Toyota I sold to Omar for $400 three years ago. It ran for twenty years and It was
my friend, but true friends don’t insist on getting parked.
This one opens the door at the top of the stoop. It hasn’t been opened in fifteen years. One day movers
will carry out all I own, maybe including me.
And what is this key for? I don’t remember it but I’d better keep it. It might be the key that unlocks the
universe or the doorway to oblivion. I might be engaged with that door.