The Pleasure and the Power Together in the Strain.
He awoke cold and damp in the dark, well past the midnight hour.
He’d spent most of the last year drinking away his late Mother’s dower.
More often than not he crashed in a chair on the porch rather than a bed.
The house reminded and contained the broken dreams that lived inside his head.
His inked and hardened hand stretched to reach his bottle friend.
Money gone, his indolence must now come to an end.
Swillin’ back the Jim Beam put him back to snooze.
Tomorrow’d be his first day without the booze.
He woke as the sun invaded tree tops then staggered through the door.
Last nights’ dinner plates, next to late Mothers’ dog, scattered ‘cross the floor.
The bathrooms’ mirror reminded him he was lookin’ ill and mighty frail.
Liquor manifested mean streak, he tromped upon the sleeping mutts’ tail.
He microwaved yesterdays’ coffee and sweetened with Jim Beam.
“Hair of the dog”, mixing with a rusty nail instead of cream.
Once, he was a hand who’d earned his good repute
For skill an’ work. Now, the drink his resolute.
News of his Fathers’ passing, then finding Mother cold left him floored.
Their deaths led him to liquid courage, sadly his double-edged sword.
The bottle became the white-wash to paint his blues away.
It was time to put the hooch down, he knew he couldn’t stay.
He’d found the gumption to make a call to get his old job back.
He knew he’d have to reclaim discipline of which he was slack.
The boss man knew the call would come.
He knew their deaths had left him numb.
The words ‘show up sober and we’ll do some talkin’
Grounded him to the trail he’d presently been walkin’.
He mustered about until the jitters wore him out, he would see the foreman in the morn.
Shaving, quaking hands and wits, thus and thus, caught between the nervous and fevered. He was torn.
He hadn’t slept. The toast he swallowed, irksome, trying to find one or the other direction forth.
He sat behind the wheel, said a prayer for the first time in months, backed down the driveway and headed north.
The sweat of apprehension filled his shirt, the bottle in the glove box beckoning.
Trepidation filled his head, reuniting ranch hands, this his earthly reckoning.
Through the ranch gate, happy to be the first one there, the foreman’s truck right behind.
“You showed up. You can assume your old duties. Do your job. Too the rest I’m blind.”
Hands, old and new, offered a firm and fair shake. Humility nudged him further than before.
He counted days then weeks without a drink, he cringed of his transgressions and recounted his inner war.
He cursed himself. How could he have gone so far wrong as to wallow in the shadows of the dead.
Grieving or relieving o’er their passing with the drug that was their demise poisoning his head.
They’d had their doubts but he showed up, sober, and he busted his butt everyday.
He embraced the work, did more than most. By his third month back, he was there to stay.
He figured ‘twas better to have got up than to have never fell.
It was his time for reclamation. Pride. In self, and job done well.
Childhood and family that wasn’t. Of heritage and habit pouring life down the drain.
But as cowhand, he had learned and earned well the pleasure and the power together in the strain.
copyright 2019 Mark Munzert
The click n’ clack of hooves on sun kiln hard pack echo and usher to corral.
A vigorous chorus, stout n’ melodic pilot narrow dust strewn canal.
The troupe of magical music makers snare and tom-tom with rhythm bold.
Their song of fluid motion trumpets supple stalwart action to behold.
Drive and flex of potent muscles taut bare stark ease.
Eyes and ears yield report as manes and tails waft breeze.
This pack of grace in systemic tempo, gait and stride
Tenders perfect composition for a perfect ride.
Copyright 2019 - Mark Munzert
The graying temple of respite lists repelling pervasive gale.
The gable porch slings from the ridge, with gangling buttress posts now frail.
Hitching posts are only that, their rail, likely fire’s fuel.
Elements, versus dwelling, won the war in grueling duel.
Shadows reveal the bunkhouse door hung askew for rotting hinges.
Gusts billow once canvass curtains forthwith finely shredded fringes.
Glass shards speckle drifted sand atop ravaged dry floor board.
Blow-through walls scaffold fallen shelves whence their provisions stored.
Casings of bunks that slept the men cloaked of tainted cotton.
A shattered ammo box of empty shells long forgotten.
Chimney and the stove that warmed the innards dormant of condition.
Pane-less lantern lynched center long bygone viable ignition.
Faded color chewing tobacco poster decorates the pitch.
A ladle dangles from bowed water barrel, tied with a half-hitch.
Strident echoes bayonet this refuge for rest, and feed, an’ sleep.
Cowboy’s laughs, and cries, and tellin’ lies, these walls shall forever keep.
Copyright 2018 - Mark Munzert
That somewhat ancient cowhand stood there o’er a pile of rocks, his wispy white hair stirred by the breeze.
Hat in hand, slumped and stooped, he didn’t know I was near as he arduously dropped to his knees.
Memories reeled in his head, his heart rabidly thumped in his chest.
The miles they logged, the times that they shared, counted among the best.
He laughed as he sat back, his hand repeatedly slapping his knee.
Layin’ back, hands behind head, he exclaimed ‘what will be will be’.
He replaced his hat as he stood, noddin’ at the assemblage of stone.
His shirt sleeve wiped tears from his face. All this, more feelings than ever shown.
That somewhat ancient cowhand stood there staring out into space.
Knowing the bond with his horse was one he could never replace.
Copyright 2018 - Mark Munzert
The old rancher fin’ly gave up the horse and succumbed to an ATV four-wheel.
He had to have both hips replaced after the drunk wrecked him and his automobile.
His wife and he were headed to town to celebrate their fiftieth when the truck slid into their lane.
A head-on collision, hydroplaning was the official report, and they’d been praying for some rain.
No doubt at the scene, the truck-driver was staggering, but he lied through his minor abrasions.
Trapped in their car, Ma fared better than he, no broken bones but many glass shard lacerations.
The ‘jaws of life’ were applied, he was freed and then they wrapped up that what was bleeding.
Emergency surgery for internal injuries is what he’d be needing.
It was touch n’ go through the night and he didn’t awake until late the next day.
His wife had bandages on her head sleeping in a chair in his post-op bay.
Her touch to his cheek and kiss to his lips spoke eons of the love between the two.
Their hands clenched with occasional squeeze,”don’t worry, we’ll get through”.
Two-weeks it took until he returned to the ranch, and then by wheelchair.
It’d be a month before he could walk, and he credited the prayer.
A window gave him view. Pleased the ‘hands’ upped ante an’ handled things right well.
‘Course the banker and town folk figured the old-man’s ranch would go straight to...well.
There was his son to guide the ranch and more than a few able, loyal hands.
Those he could rely on, some better than ten years, that knew cow, horse and lands.
Insurance pays just so much and the medical bills began to pile.
Ma fretted and he reassured by chuckl’in and fakin’ his best smile.
The crash marked the first and last rain of the season and conditions were now clearly drought.
Facing nature’s torment, sellin’ off yearlings was the only way to get through this bout.
Their faith was tested, prayers unanswered, and the meteorologist hadn’t a clue.
Water hauled, he reminded the ‘hands’, “don’t worry, we’ll get through”.
He’d long left post holes an’ pitching hay to the younger and the stout.
But it near broke his spirit an’ heart not to dress his pony out.
He tried riding again but the pain was too much and something the doctor had forbade.
The four-wheeler his option, an’ escape from the ranch house, and his rancher working aide.
He could stay close to the crew, move the cows and give his orders too.
He sure missed his saddle an’ ol’ cayuse but this would have to do.
They were popping cattle from a thicket and he let out a curse.
The wheeler to wide for the grove, ridin’ ‘round spouting language terse.
It wasn’t uncommon, the dogrel, but now they questioned his old sense.
Hard enough with a horse, and the thicket, prickered, razor-sharp, and dense.
The stubborn son of a... rancher dove in to chase them cows out.
But he got tied up in branches, his decision was in doubt.
He surveyed his predicament not sure of what to do.
He answered the hands’ calls, “don’t worry, we’ll get through.”
Copyright 2019 - Mark Munzert
My position, far enough to remain safe, too far to warn, gave view of the stealthy being.
Rousing circumspect was this figure, intact, yet aged and worn, striding toward its’ mark unseeing.
Its’ victim to be, unknowing of stalking presence advancing with a hunger deep.
Each maneuver closer, rhythmically and gracefully dancing forward towards its’ leap.
Its’ prey now aware and seemingly unconcerned of its’ stalking as it ambled distracted.
The hunted, intrepid and aloof of youth and rawness balking the toll to be extracted.
The huntress gait quickens, she leaps, cornering her feast, pawing as if a toy.
Two hearts thumping, one to be devoured by this beast. ‘Cougar’ caught the Cowboy.
Copyright 2019 Mark Munzert