:: Article

Cowboy

By David E. Oprava.

Gorgeous full-tank-at-a-hundred-bucks feel
sends me high with help from the fumes,
sky looking down at the ascending mood,
me in a basket with a lifetime in tow
coming higher until the rest area sign
pulls us over for a ponder and wander
through the dog walking lanes
exclaiming that the race wasn’t about race,
it was about change,
explaining to the cleaning man
in the bathrooms that I hadn’t clogged the toilet,
I just needed a drink from the tap,
           
morning mist from the
road hanging, bored, waiting for
the first crash to come

not potable, he says, now he tells me,
feeling queasy, might have been the enchiladas
eaten at the burger van
on cloud sixty-nine, mile high, bad idea
to mix altitude with beer
and find the morning after fear
of regurgitated thoughts in the motel sink,
the stink of old ideas gone off,            

two heads bob to rock, 
icebergs lost in the desert
fighting the suns rays

back on the road,
jettisoned by common sense
and off-roading well into the new millennium,
this is it, here, now, all that counts,
she says with sunglasses masking spinning steel rims,
she spies the man next to her in the flying car and wonders,
who the hell is that?
Fat, sizzling in the fryer of the diner,
leatherette philosophers with jet-black handlebar moustaches
on their motorbikes parked in a line
that don’t belabour the notion
of wrong or right, flee or fight,
another riot in the cities last night,
took a thousand men to subdue a hungry mother
and her two kids,

cop sunglasses sit
on the counter, empty seat
and pie crumbs he forgot

it was the west that won,
the rest are just people scurrying around
under the light bulb filament sun,
one hundred four degrees in the shade
almost boiling the lemonade of the kid
who ran in to tell his mom
the libertines had come to town,
only it’s me and the missus driving down route three

road kill splatters the 
tarmac canvas, Jackson P.
was here, gone today

into the horizon which ends,
we hope, with a slip-slidey dip in the sea,
at least that’s where it used to be,
says the man on the horse,
looking perplexed,
an anachronism wearing chaps,
Marlboro smoke flows from his nose,
he clasps my shoulder and says,
son, the west ain’t never done,
it just goes, and goes, and goes,
but even I can see the sky
is draining into the sea,
clouds drowning and lighting
littering the reefs, custodians
not sweeping them away
for fear of electrocution,
they don’t get paid enough for that,
insurance won’t cover the risk as the sea
fills up with heavenly detritus.

dolphins on strike, 
protesting their turn in the
next evolution leap

She suggests we drive into the mouth
of a whale heading south,
so I count out change from the ashtray,
just enough to get a one way trip
on a clapped-out humpback heading to sea,
covered in barnacles and rust,
needing an overhaul, but the Japanese
owners don’t have the liquidity,

hear the dead sea song,
requiem sung by the drunk
crew of Nautilus

cheap seats somewhere behind the lungs,
rising bellows next to the old lady
who has taken out her teeth,
flashing gums and smiles,
offering sweets to the other submariners
who’ve left for the on-board bar,
squid juice and tonic with a dash of bitters,
discussing politics, debt, the cost of babysitters,
I turn over, trying to get comfortable
whilst sleeping sitting up,
she says, sorry, my fault, maybe should
have splurged on a cup of chowder for the trip,
don’t worry, I smile, in a while
we have to rest a bit for the journey ahead,

ribs like palm fronds arc
towards the midday sun,
guarding tender souls within

but instead,
jump ship for an albatross who
was an anarchist, flew for himself,
didn’t have a boss, was a freelance
aerial photographer doing a piece on
the human beast as seen from above,
look like fat, fleshy blobs, he said
with a mouth full of chewing tobacco
and a grin that was gripping, the way
we hung to his legs, he almost left us
for dead on Krakatoa, but came back,
he needed the company,
we got off at the next stop anyway.

so loud heard from one
thousand miles away, a baby
sleeps through, unbothered

Don’t like economic boom so skipped Asia
whilst looking for a phone box
to call my mom, tell her to send clean socks
and not forget to feed the cat,
vote democrat, and pay for the cataract surgery,
she reminds me, mom’s dead,
you just left a message for the tranny
who moved into her flat, but kept
the same number in case Avon
came calling, he likes cosmetics
and banal chatter, not a bad guy really,
he might send socks, weirder things
have happened recently.

oasis springs up 
and sinks again, hide and seek
in mirage clothing

Desert sandstorm brought the post
wrapped in brown paper, heavy weight,
he said, sorry I’m late, got caught
up in a bar fight in Mogadishu,
drunks with Kalashnikovs, damn near
blew me in two, wouldn’t have made it to you
with this package from some guy named Fred,
hey, I said, the tranny sent the socks,
they were clean with a note that read,
enjoy the tube socks, again, sorry your mom
is dead, thanks for letting me keep her clothes,
ah, she says, those, yes, he’s most welcome to those.

floral print drapes hang
above the sofa draped in folks 
mourning tuna snack bites

Bedouin hookers light up the night
with fluorescent rave sticks whilst
blasting psychedelic caterwauling camel
songs that remind me of New York in ‘83,
remember, I said, the parties, the clubs, the blow,
she says no, you were only ten,
living on a sheep farm only just
discovering beating your meat as you dreamt
of redheads bent over your lap,
you woke up with creamy sheets.
You’re right, I yell, yes, it must have
been a movie I’d seen with hookers
and camels and clubs and lights and
death of disco, pre-AIDS sex, people
still listened to T-Rex, bang a gong,
get it on, and the camels just grunt
as the hookers shunt us out of the way
to make room for more passing trade.

shoes full of sand,
worn thin from walking, like eyes
after fitful dreams

Not another ocean, she says, dead
tired, had to walk two thousand miles
without any preparation H,
piles of black market bones marked
the way to the beach, lets just float
and see if we reach the other side, ok?
We do and six years later wash up in New Jersey,
lets get a beer I suggest, drinking in a no name
bar with a kid strangling a guitar in the corner,
the next local rock star, Springsteen, Bon Jovi,
hey, what’s your name, kid, I say,
Mr. Claude Debussy he replies,
what’s yours, he wants to know,
I haven’t thought about it in so long
It takes me a while and another three of his songs
Before I get the words to come out right,
Cowboy, I say, on a steel horse I ride,
He snickers, man, your too old and not bold
Enough, he scoffs, just go somewhere else,
Like Florida, sleep off the rest of your life,
Take your wrinkled, sunburnt wife,
The world’s moved on, get your ragged shoes
and go, just go.
So, we do.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David E. Oprava writes, because he has to. He is terrified of what will happen otherwise. It makes him prolific. He has been in over thirty journals online and in print and his first full-length book of poems, VS., is due to be released in mid-October by Erbacce Press. When he isn’t writing he is battling against his raging sobriety and trying to live up to the high moral expectations of husbandhood, fatherhood, and humanhood. Not necessarily in that order and not necessarily succeeding.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, September 25th, 2008.