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
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),
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
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
– Jim Van Sweden