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Gallows Humor

Across furrowed field, we broke traditions
Playing cowboys and native Americans
Me, Cheyenne nation – eyes like tadpole
Flaunting wool aroc, flaring eagle bonnet, bow and arrow
You, Vacqueros – skinny like beanpole
Parading brogan, bowler hat, baronet and musket

Gallows humor, I’d be darned to forget
The day you went tumbling on the foliage
Before taking to your heels,
Running from a snake in ‘s’ shape
Whilst I went haywire, gun-slinging like a misfit
We were impossible
Hyperventilating as though our lungs had been gas sprayed

Respite amid hysterical sobs,
We sipped fermented mesquite beans
From a jug using bamboo straws
Until we become cross-eyed drunk sketching our future on fissured rocks
Hieroglyphics – this is our treasure map to treasure hunters, we boasted
Our fits of laughter fanned pyrolysed biomass
Whilst orange embers pirouetted
‘til they kissed the night sky with fireflies staring, perhaps in amazement

No doubt, the war stole our childhood
Those wonder years,
Now archived within the ruins of this landscape
My folks traipsed north,
“For safety,” father said
But it seemed he traded our language in return
You hid in the woods
Not wanting to leave the ways of the ancient
We calqued ancient words,
Chewed them into metaphors
And spat out what ought not to be left of it
Good grace, we could speak in tongues too
“Gene autry,” I said to spark old rivalry
You kowtowed, smiling like the half-crescent moon
I could hear dawn breathing asthmatically
I would need a Joseph to interprete this, were it a dream.

Dissipated years, word had it that you’re a child soldier
Truce reached, back in the great plains
But hard to fathom who suffered the most –
The great plain, its people or our language crossway?
Not one tired of launching the smoke signals
Again, I did but this time,
You never turned up only a shooting star
Short-lived, wished I could hold onto its trail of luminescence
Burning out into that expanse of infinite, inky darkness
No hue, no goodbye – it’s all clear now
There will be no sequel to our sweeping epic
Now, in my second childhood
Staring at the stable door where your horse bolted.

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