‘Trail’ & ‘Jockey Box Talks’


It might have been easier in the past
to deliberate. The day gives to night and in a pasture
stars are still candent. In a town a general store
is still general, its shelves warp
under dichotomies. Do we buy the food
or take the ammo? Saloon doors are never quite shut.
A family in a wagon is called a party. On the trail
there’s an amber spot in the canvas
the little ones stare at. The same sun hits the oxen,
the Kansas River. Do we ford the river or caulk the wagon?
In the water there is more than water.
In the oxen more than skulls.



Jockey Box Talks

Sometimes Pa’d be up on the jockey box and he’d have his whip folded like serpentine in his lap like you know a snake and he’d be lookin back at us his boys and me and John we’d know from the serpentine folding that we’s about to hear some talkin you know the way pa’s talk when time’s gotta get passed and most times John’d stop indian-burnin me jus enough to draw up the canvas and Pa I suppose would reckon the dust was jus happenin to get in, but sometimes like this time I’m tellin you about we figure we oughta give him his and like he’s always sayin Pay Mind and that, so this is one evenin when Pa’s whip is folded up and his prairie grass is hangin real parabolic from his mouth the sun’s hittin it all beautiful like the sun if you’s can picture it it’s comin through the tasseled head of it, the grass, like it’s still in the ground where he picked it and when Pa starts talkin it stays on his lip bouncin when he talks which I don’t know about John but I couldn’t stop lookin when Pa starts in about Remember Ma didn’t die of dysentery for nothin which I thought was like a hell of a way to start in but Pa probably’s done the math he’s got our ear for jus so long before we’re indian-burnin or you know drawin up the canvas, so he goes Ma didn’t die of dysentery for nothin boys we gotta pay mind to that we gotta pay mind that dyin is like dyin is like remember the snow we’s had in Casper when John’d said, ‘Pa is this gonna be the new landscape?’ As in, ‘Is this what it’s gonna be?’ And he’d meant like can the world change like that, as in underneath you? As in jus in a night? Alright and so the thing with Ma is like that. Remember John? What I said after the snow? About it’s like the trees the way they get quiet when they don’t got their leaves? Even when the wind’s blowin good? And then me and John we didn’t say nothin but only cause we was thinkin, jus you know thinkin about what Pa said, and part of what I was thinkin I’ll tell you was the sun wasn’t long hittin Pa’s grass the way it was.