A Drunken Cowboy Looks at the Modernist Canon

Well, to tell ya the truth, which ain’t an easy thing for me to do,

I can’t say I know much about cannons, ’cept I wouldn’t want

to find myself on the wrong end o’ one,

but dulce et decorum est the stink o’ fresh horse piss

mixing with the burnt smell o’ my coffee first thing in the morning,

bringing back bad memories o’ the home I come out here

to get away from—the ineluctable modality of stench.


Not much I remember, leastways not much I want to remember,

’bout the effects of my repressed childhood on my unrecollected unconsciousness,

but I do remember this one time me and my cousin, Archie Duke,

filched a six-pack from my old man and went fishin’ down to that

little mudhole down by the abandoned quarry and caught us

an e-normous speckled fish, after we got so etherized you couldn’t’ve

told if we was waving’ or drownin’.  ’Course we couldn’t eat it

or nothin’, ’cause it was contaminated with some chemical,

I don’t remember which one exactly, but anyways it’s gone now,

the pond mind you, not the chemical—them chemicals don’t never

go away, I reckon–dried right up in that long drought we had, that must’ve

been eight or ten years back now, even though it sure don’t seem like it.

Anyways, the king of fishermen couldn’t catch a fish in that wasteland o’ dust.


Thought we was headed that way again this year ’til we finally

got us a pretty good shower last week, filled up the water trough

so I didn’t have to do it myself for a change.  Fact, I was sittin’

right here on the porch, just like we are now, watchin’ the trough fill up.

Saw an old rattlesnake come up in the yard and crawl right past it.

Now, a lot o’ folks ain’t got much use for snakes, I reckon,

on account o’ all them stories they been told, but I kinda

like ‘em myself ’cause they’re so down-to-earth, if you know what I mean.

’Spect I’d change my tune if I got bit, but still . . .


Anyways, if you’d been here then, you’d’ve seen the rain

puddlin’ on that wet black cow over yonder by the fence.

We needed the rain, wherever it come from,

but a rainy day sends an old cowhand about the business

o’ getting’ good and drunk.  ’Course the good part

ain’t so easy, but the drunk part works out all right,

up to a point.  Experiencin’ the variousness of things bein’ drunk

makes me feel pretty good at first, but then later on, along about

the time the bottle runs dry usually, I get to thinkin’ about

how things was better awhile back.  Fear death by firewater.


Don’t many people know it, but this old cowpoke

had him a woman one time, name o’ April.

She had her merits for sure, if ya hear what I’m sayin’,

but I’m gon’ tell ya what, that heifer could get cruel.

Kicked my ass right out o’ the house, and I hadn’t

never done nothin’ to her ’cept eat them fuckin’ plums

I didn’t even know she was savin’. Shee-yit.


Anyways, they say it’s gonna clear up tomorrow,

and if it’s a fine day, you can look past them pylons

over yonder and see a windmill off in the distance.

Got a light on it so you can see it at night too,

just like a lighthouse in an ocean o’ grass.

You can see it, but you can’t never get to it,

’cause no matter how far ya drive, that damn thing

is always five more miles away.  It’s like it’s

as far away in space as my old life seems to me in time.

But here I sit, still halfway hung over, getting

high on the High Plains, “somewhere I have never

travelled,gladly beyond.” It’s a lonely life out here

under the alien stars, but “seldom is heard a

discouraging word” and all that shit.


Ain’t no kind of word heard much around these parts

’less you count  fuckin’ “moo” as a word, but then

so much depends on the ripe cow patty,

glistening with rainwater, beside the purple thistles.

Ya know, ya look long enough at any flower,

even a damn old thistle, you start seein’

some scary shit, even without the peyote.

Anyways, I reckon there must be a good thirteen

ways o’ lookin’ at a black turd. . .


After more than a couple o’ low, dishonest decades,

I’ve finally learned to tell it more or less like it is,

but now I reckon, I’ve just about got to

the age o’ anxiety, ’cause sometimes when I’m

out on the prairie all by my lonesome,

I start to feelin’ all worried-like,

and I holler out to the universe, “What the hell

is going on down here anyways?”

And the universe hollers back, “Fuck off down

your happy trail into the sunset, Cowboy.”


T. Allen Culpepper

Copyright 2013


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