Monday, November 10, 2008

"My Favorite Cowboy Poem"

Ah, yes, the Poetry Corner. Two hundred and second posting, it’s my first poem. I like poetry, but I rarely, bordering on never, understand it. For me, poetry is like mime. You know they’re trying to tell you something. What it is? Not a clue.

In High School, where I generally did well, I did least well in English literature. For homework, as assigned, I would read over the poem before we studied it in class and, as a result of my preparation, exploring the rhymes and stanzas, the rhythms and the reasons for writing the poem, I would come way with…


A brick wall. An impenetrable forest of “I don’t get it.” I hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on. It took the teacher the next day to explain the poem’s hidden mysteries and subtle delights. They were there. The teacher found them. For me? A total blank.

As the years went by and I gained in knowledge, experience and, hopefully, wisdom, I’d notice some short poem in the New Yorker or The Atlantic, written by a name I recognized as a lion or lioness in the field, and I’d stop, respecting the reputation, and I’d carefully read it through. My reaction to the poem was invariably the same:

“What the hell are they talking about?”

Nothing has changed. I’m poetically challenged. Metaphors and allusions elude my comprehension. I need it straight. “Tell me what you want to tell me.”

Enter: Cowboy poetry.

You know I like cowboy stuff. The adventure. The excitement. The connection to a bygone time that will never return. Add to that, the directness and the simplicity. You’ll find it all in the best cowboy poetry.

This poem I totally understand. It says the thing, and it says it clearly. I offer it today for your enjoyment.


By John “Jay” Kulm

The West is disappearing, not so near
as once it was
But if you think the West is far away,
I was at a rodeo in Northern California
And the West was awful close to me that day.

I met an older fellow with a weathered
looking face,
His knees bowed out the way old
bowed knees will,
He told me that his father, way-back-when,
had shaken hands with
The man who we recall as Buffalo Bill.

I thought on this a moment, that I’m
Looking in the eyes
Of the son of him who looked into the
eyes of Bill Cody,
And Buffalo Bill Cody once looked
in the eyes of him
Who had a son who’s looking back at me.

Then I reached out to the man, I asked
him, “Could I shake the hand
of the son of the man who shook the hand
of Buffalo Bill one day?”
And as he shook hands with me I felt
The West was very near,
The West which once I thought
was far away.

So if you’re thinking that the West is
only something distant,
You can shake my hand and,
my friend, if you will
You can say you shook the hand of
the man who shook the hand
Of the son of the man who shook
the hand of Buffalo Bill.

Isn’t it great? If you like this poem, go out and buy something by the writer. If you do, I won’t feel quite so badly about reprinting his poem without permission. This exposure may actually be helping him. At least, that’s what I need to think.


rich schulman said...

Hello Earl,
We have similar stories. Brought up in Bklyn, NY hoping to be a cowboy.
Instead studied Lit.. Poetry tough study. Never did get it totally.
Like some music got to listen and read mucho times.
Ok here is my favorite Cowboy Poet.
Baxter Black. He is the real deal. Smart, funny and a damn easy poet.
He has written lots. I know he has web Try Generic Cowboy Poetry; a great tape. As a side note I actually accidentally bumped into him at work. Turned around and there he was buying water. Had a surreal conversation with him. "How do you know me" Saw you on Johny Carson.

growingupartists said...

Hey, hey, hey...great idea. I LOVE cowboy poetry.