Day 20 – Use These words

The Cowboy, Bartender, Crook and Their Lover


The cowboy, usually so svelte,

looked like his own ghost

pulled from the gutter,

it could have been the quahogs

or perhaps a bad truffle

downed to impress the mercurial

girl, picked up the night before

for her willowy figure and owl eyes

a combination designed to make anyone bilious

thought Joe the bartender, who’d

seen it all and then some; seemed like

every dunderhead in town darkened his door

at one time or another

all their egos pounding drinks

swigging dry martinis with a lemon curl

and salt-rimmed Margaritas,

talking big about body shots

and seaweed sake.  That cowboy

could sling rodomontade with the best of them,

but last night he’d stayed upwind of the crowd

kind of preoccupied and elusive in his manner

didn’t seem to notice when the girl absconded

with his cashmere coat and all the change from a hundred.


“Cowboy’s normally a bit stingy,” thought Joe

“not one to squander,”  just then the generator

faltered, lights dimmed and when they came back up

the boy had gone, leaving behind a pack

of clove cigarettes and a small tip; he

wasn’t alone. The one-eyed man in the corner –

who’d been watching him all night –

he was gone, too, prison tats and all.


Now here it was, next morning

same cowboy, same clothes

same weird Cyclops and mercurial girl

coming through the door.


“Watch what company you keep.

Cowbird’s  a parasite.  Lays its eggs

in the nests of other birds.” whispered

Joe, rubbing a sweaty palm

the length of a sawed-off shotgun

stored beneath the bar.  Everyone knew

his nose for trouble was non-pareil

but this time he shrugged it off;

let the artillery lie quiescent.


He winked, turned his back to draw a beer

and never saw the knife flash twice,

heard the frozen glass mug shatter

against his barroom floor.

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