Poet Vess Quinlan. Photo by Jeff Day.


The worst will come tomorrow
When we load the saddle horses.
We are past turning back;
The horses must be sold.

The old man turns away, hurting,
As the last cow is loaded.
I hunt words to ease his pain
But there is nothing to say.

He walks away to lean
On a top rail of the corral
And look across the calving pasture
Toward the willow-grown creek.

I follow,
Absently mimicking his walk,
And stand a post away.
We don’t speak of causes or reasons,

Don’t speak at all;
We just stand there
Leaning on the weathered poles,
While shadows consume the pasture.


From “Sold Out,” New Cowboy Poetry: A Contemporary Gathering (Gibbs Smith Books); The Rosamund Papers (Northeastern Oklahoma University).

American culture
Spring 1996
The cover of BOMB 55