While In The Wild West
By BEE LB
Art by Moon_Patrol
Published Issue 110, February 2023
do as the Romans do. Isn’t that how it goes?
So let’s fast. We’ve got plenty of food at home. There’ll
be plenty more when I’m through. I shaped myself
myself; took my face in my hands and pulled. Pried open
my mouth, wiggled my tongue, saw how far my lips could stretch.
I would’ve made a great rodeo clown. An even better buckin’ bronc.
I can’t stand the rope they use to make those ponies dance,
but the thrill of the reign in your hand and air beneath your ass
is one you just can’t beat. Almost did barrel racing. Could’ve been
a buckle bunny. Still dream of inheriting my aunt’s farm, the one she sold
along with the horses to eat. Take that whatever way you want.
We’re in the Wild West, it’s rough out here. There’s a great big campfire and a tin of beans.
Careful not to strike your teeth. Don’t let the fire getcha. If you do get singed
just brush it off, but if you let a spark catch grass
you’ll go along with it. There’s twelve steps to the loft and a shotgun hanging
beneath it. There’s two pigs who will never see the sky without being held up, and
there’s the poem us cowboys will never read about the pig being gifted the stars.
Here, we trace their wet snouts, wonder what they think about,
get our hands smacked away for messin’ with the stock. Here we double over laughing
at the rooster chasing big brother through the yard, the little slits
on his heels, refused a bandaid and infection both. Dirt’s good for ya.
Little dirt in the mouth or the blood or covering the cut ain’t gonna hurt you none, boy.
What’ll hurt is getting caught in the loft, staying out past the sun,
treatin’ them animals like they’ll live
a long time. Cousin Mitch taught our donkey to ride like a horse.
Can’t remember his name now, but he had one. Ears like a bunny, whispery soft,
never once tried to buck anyone off. After the boy trained him, I mean.
Had a colt that wouldn’t break and an old nag named Ham. White as snow, except his feet,
which looked like he’d kicked up mud whether he had or not. Scooped their shit
into the barrel and carted it off. Brushed their hide smoother than mine.
Never fed them sugar or carrots but let their funny lips snuff up oats
when I kept them back from breakfast. I could be a cowboy, sure.
Straighten up that spine. Wrap the rope round my wrist. Feel a body beg not to break,
and break it anyway. So a cowboy isn’t a cowboy to me without the rodeo.
I took home ribbons. Could’ve collected buckles. Would’ve worn a belt
just to show off. What a life that would’ve been.
Lived so far east I’d never know the Wild West. Just like now.
But I’d own those horses, them cows, two new pigs by now. Little piglets
with curly tails. Big beasts I couldn’t lift. How long do you think a donkey lives
when it’s made to ride beneath grown bodies? Well then, I’d train up a new one.
Tip my hat down low. Pick a bit of wheat to chew on for effect.
Paint the barn new. Tear the doors off the loft. Empty the stalls. Keep up the fences. Clip the wire.
It’s the Wild West of my dreams, I can do what I want to do. Settle down. Box up my buckles.
Find a bunny to make mine. Start something new. Look life in the eyes
and take it. If the farm never sold. If the trucks never came. If the barn never burned.
If the field never went fallow. I tell ya, I’d make my kid pick their own name.
Wait til they could talk, ask til they could answer. Leave the card blank,
let the state chase itself. And when they got too old for cowboy hats, popguns,
pony rides, and piglets, I’d watch them grow. Call them
mine. Dig up the remnants of my own wild past.
BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. they have called any number of places home; currently, a single yellow wall in Michigan. Their portfolio can be found at twinbrights.carrd.co and they can be found, on occasion, posting excerpts of poems on Instagram.
Moon Patrol is a Northern California-based artist. Taking themes including ’80s cartoons and video games, classic pulp illustrations, and comic book narratives, Moon Patrol remixes these many and varied cues using a collage technique he compares to “Kid Koala’s turntable albums, and in part by William Burroughs’ cut-up technique.” See more of his work on Instagram and snag prints at Outré Gallery.
This is BEE LB’s debut Birdy piece. Keep your eyes peeled for more work by this talented poet and writer. Check out Moon Patrol’s January Back Cover, Artifact 1, or head to our Explore section to see more of his work.