Free-verse cowpoke ruminations on the trail to Abilene, with paintings of long-horned dogies and grizzled riders beneath big skies.
Saddle up, pardner, leave the bunkhouse (where “[b]ugs gnaw plugs right outta your hide”) behind and look fer dusty days, freezing nights, rattlers, storms and meal after meal of beef and beans from Cookie. Harking back to cattle drives of yesteryear, Burr portrays leather-skinned figures with near-photographic realism. “You need sand in your gizzard / to wrangle wild cows, / chaps for fendin’ off thorns / or horses with a taste / for cowpoke leg.” They pose in full regalia, branding a calf, mending barbed wire, gazing up at the stars, trying desperately to stay on horseback amid a stampede, lazing around the chuck wagon, riding at last into town and ruefully bidding hard-earned wages goodbye at a poker table. Two saloon floozies at the end, a dark-skinned trailhand (“I’m on a journey of my own / figuring how it feels / to be free”) and a spirited filly in blue jeans left back at the ranch to fulminate are the only ones here who aren’t typecast Marlboro Men.
So git along, there, anyone with a mind to share cowboy dreams in romanticized, Old West style. (afterword) (Poetry. 10-12)