Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cowboy Song





Cowboy Song

The fire's burned low and the coffee's all gone,
the biscuits are dry and the stars pushing dawn.
I lay on my back in this cold desert waste
wondering why every star has your face.

The cattle are restless when the wind's out of tune.
Clouds tug up their bandana and cover the moon.
It's a bandit's mask, and the eyeholes are black
with emptiness cold as a shot in the back.

The fire's burned out, and the cook's waking up
to make coffee so bitter it might break the cup.
I'm still laying here and I still feel the same,
wondering why every cloud has your name.


~June 2013





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Challenge: Cowboy Poetry with Margaret
The multi-talented Margaret Bednar has brought together two perfect ingredients, cowboy poetry, and the photography of Merri Melde (@ The Equestrian Vagabond.) Thanks, Merri, for letting us work from your striking photography.

Though  I grew up in Chicago, forty years here in the Dustbowl have left me pretty Okyfied. And like the song says, my heroes have always been cowboys. I've borrowed the cadence and a phrase or two for this very derivative poem of mine from an old Utah Phillips song,  about an old chuckwagon cook('the old woman,' a term of affectionate derision for a cowboy who can't cowboy any more, but can't leave the trail, either, so stays on to cook for the hands) on the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail, named after Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, which I first heard in the No Exit Cafe in Chicago, sung by folksinger Art Thieme.

Here it is, sung by one of the great American cowboys, Chris LeDoux:






Since we're doing cowboy songs, here's another one Artie used to sing, by Cisco Houston, who often sang  beside Woody Guthrie, back before they put the country in western, then took it out again. It sounds rather dated now, but that's part of its charm (for me, anyway.) I think both these songs are better cowboy poetry than my effort, which is definitely 'Lite!'--but I did want to play with this challenge of Margaret's and the  photos by Merri.

"As he fell his hand was grabbin for the gun he'd get too late/with the notches on it showin' like the vagaries of fate..."







Images  © Merri Melde
Used with permission



28 comments:

  1. i rather like cowboy coffee....we had a ranch near where we lived in MD tht would do a community dinner and cook over the fire...even the coffee in traditional ways...it was pretty amazing...in a rustic kinda way...
    love that last line, each cloud having their name...made me smile...

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  2. This is a perfect song and perfect cowboy song, the perfect blend of sweetness and longing and harshness and freedom (as in affection for a certain kind of harshness--no attachment to softness holding one down.) It is really wonderful. You have the cadence of a song, and the simple tuneful language (though the images aren't so tuneful) and that kind of "real-time" narrative flow = not real time -but sequential narrative flow - it is just terrific.

    We all know the music - like the song you played. Perhaps even a little Nashville Skyline. Especially like - well everything - but that sweet and kind of archetypical longing about stars holding face, clouds name - but the very new twist on the Bandanna - that whole second stanza kind of breaks from tradition, but works just terrifically. k.

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    1. Thanks, k. I'm just a drug store cowgirl, but I do love the land, and the history, brutal as it can be. Those cowboys spent an awfully long time on the trail, caught between the monotony of looking at a cow's butt all day, and the crazy-sudden life and death dangers of the unexpected. It was a solitary life in a lot of ways, despite the company. Appreciate the insights, and love Nashville Skyline, even though modern Nashville has pretty well killed authentic country music. Thanks for reading.

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  3. I don't know about "Cowboy Poetry Lite". This rings very true to my ears. I love how you tied emotions to the landscape and lonely lifestyle of the speaker, and your form is 100% authentic.

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    1. Thanks Kerry. The form is very heavily borrowed from the songs below, but I do love them, and hope some of their grit has gotten into my word soup. ;_)

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  4. Classic cowboy poetry. Converted into a song with a country music setting can be a good option! Nicely Joy!

    Hank

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    1. Thanks, Hank. Always good to see you.

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  5. Cowboy LITE? ... I don't think so. It has longing for a love and the big open sky, the campfire and ... well, it rocks! I will be back to enjoy the music - we are off to the barn this morning to ride in the heat. But today is supposed to be MUCH cooler than the past few - high of only 82.

    Thank you for this stunning poem. I have bookmarked it!

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    1. Thanks, Margaret. Have a good ride! it's cooler here today too, thank heavens.

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  6. Wonderful memories of the westerns I watched growing up in the 40s/50s. That old rotund, weather-beaten cook banging on the coffee pot yelling 'come an' get it' ~~ thanks for the reminder.

    ** yep, my socks were indeed dusty but not from dancing ... from walking about in a horse barn not far from our home!!!

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    1. Have to be careful doing that, I've heard it can add a few inches to the heels. ;_) Thanks, Helen. Glad you enjoyed. Loved yours.

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  7. I LOVE your cowboy poem, especially the stars having the loved one's face. Perfect!

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  8. From what you said here, and what you said about Ian Tyson (born in BC, same as I was, now living in southern Alberta, where I now live) I know you know a thing or two about the subject of cowboy music and cowboy poetry. I enjoyed your poem very much. I love "this cold desert waste" and the stars and clouds both having the loved one's face.
    K

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    1. Thanks, Kay. I grew up on folk music; Ian and Sylvia were favorites, and I followed Tyson's solo career. I used to love country music, along with rock and roll--now that it's become all about patriotism, cornball pop and money here, not so much, So glad you liked!

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  9. I like the wistfulness of the cowboy's thoughts contrasted against the strong coffee and hard ground.

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  10. I have a friend, Bill, who claims a spoon will stand up by itself in any coffee he makes, cos it is so strong. I've had some, it really is pretty serious rocket fuel!

    Who knew a Viking chick could impersonate a cowpoke so well?

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  11. Sometimes "lite" is just right for the situation. Coffee in a tin cup, a mess o' beans and a great cowboy song.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. Just playing around, but it was fun getting the music together.

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  12. This has cowboy poem all over it. I really like the lines that say every star has your face/every cloud has your name...it is the echo of loneliness. Lovely piece!

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  13. Okay, so I'm over-dosing on cowboy themes and I thought I was reading at Shay's for a moment and, yeah, I'm an idiot. When I read this, hedgewitch, I could immediately hear Gene Autry's voice. Cowboys always remind me of sailors - both have the wanderlust.

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    1. No probs, Talon--I consider it a compliment--and I have done similar. Commenting will melt your brain! I really appreciate you reading. Thanks.And I agree, cowboys and sailors have a lot in common. The prairie back then was as wild and dangerous as any ocean, and required the same sort of specialization and mindset to handle.

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  14. I thought I left a comment here yesterday...sure it'll show up in some random place : )
    Your cowboy song draws my senses open. I've not read much or ever listened to cowboy song lyrics and feel like I've just open a flood gate. I feel, taste, hear your -wind's out of tune- and so many other sharp lyrics in your song. Everything from clouds and stars to coffee takes on a complex livelihood. really intriguing write, Hedge.

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    1. Ihanks, Jane--this really is almost a personal rewrite of the song I posted directly below it--putting myself out there on the range, so to speak, so I can't take a lot of credit for the format. But I'm very glad you enjoyed it, and it got your cowgirl on. ;_)

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  15. The construction of the poem is excellent ... nice double pair of rhymes in each stanza. The images are really good – very grabbing and visceral. I love the way the we go from seeing faces in stars, under go a transition, and then there's that face again in the clouds. Excellent poem!

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    1. Thanks, Matt. Always good to see you drop by, and appreciate the kind words.

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  16. Joy Ann, some wonderful word play in this. It has a terrific flow. I miss camping days, this brought back some great memories for me.

    Pamela

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  17. I love this absolutely to pieces, Hedge. And, God bless Chris LeDoux!

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg