The cloud had turned on its V-8 engine

and started to swoop down on me like

some of those filthy seagulls but I

blew it back with a mighty gust

into the plaid-striped sky and made it cry

great big silver tears I thought it might

get its friends to gang up on me but I

was wrong

the cherry sun whisked in to save me

gathered me up in its shiny arms

and set me down, nicely bronzed, in Tralfamadore.



He saunters in from the open range

and plops himself down

on a counter stool,

ten-gallon straw hat always

in hand or on head.

He wears mahogany

polyester pants that cover

swinging limbs that constantly weave in and out.

I sigh and gather his usual –

year-old coffee (his whiskey),

spoon (his six-shooter), napkin (his bandana),

and water.

Gingerly I set it down

in front of him, waiting for his pained

eyes to focus.

Painstakingly polite, he thanks me

and empties the cream container

into his overflowing mug.  Reaching

into his fringed jacket,

he pulls out his cigarettes,

lights up a Marlboro

and breathes deeply, never failing

to exhale in my face

when I walk by, nauseating me.

I cough and gag, partly

from the smoke but mostly from disgust.

He drops ashes on the formica, oblivious

to the glass ashtray.

Oftentimes his friends will tag along –

Alice, who should be someone’s grandma

or the zoned-out hippie who says another planet

is coming to reform him.

All drink cream with coffee in it

bought with America’s money.

Cowboy Mike sometimes carries a model American flag

and waves it proudly, trying

to tell me about the war

but I never listen.

I block him out.

Then he carefully pays,

leaving a few pennies

in the puddle of coffee and ashes.

He turns and shuffles out the door

toward the road

and home.



the retarded child drew

a picture of a stallion

it was the blackest horse

with the meanest red eyes

I had ever seen.

Then, in broken wet speech

he told how only he could

ride it.

– Jim Van Sweden


4 responses to “1985”

    • Thanks. The first two are mine, from senior year in high school (hence the “1985”). The third was painted on the wall in my creative writing teacher’s classroom. Always loved it.

    • I do plan to post more poetry, though it may not be mine. I spared you the teen angsty stuff. And I posted those two just as I wrote them back then – probably would do the second one a little differently now. Glad you liked them.

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