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Day of The Cowboy Poem: The Price of Hay's Gone Up Terribly


July 22, 2009 — By Samuel Stenger Renken

Van Pelt offers me a refill of coffee,
which I accept, which he pours for me

while he says that two semis of hay will be in later this week
and the truckloads are getting steeper from Nebraska
hayfield to baler to loader to interstate hauler to here.
He asks how many spoons of sugar I take.

The second spoonful spills as he dumps it in,
and the white sugar salts the black rim of my mug.

The banker in him knows it,
hates it, but the worst of the herd must go
to pay for the best. He asks what I'm doing Wednesday
and if I wouldn't want to haul a stock trailer of brood mares
to meet up with a slaughter rig headed south in the afternoon.

A few drops drip on his boot
and onto the burnt sienna of the Spanish tile.
The spill washes the sugar off the rim of my mug
and leaves a ring on the table when he sets it down. I tell him I can't do it
Wednesday and ask how many he's taking. He says, a full load of brood mares,
which I know is nine. He folds in his bottom lip to chew on it
after a sip from his cup, thinking what could've been eighteen is going to be none.

A 45 is behind glass in a red velvet shadow box
above the center window of the breakfast nook.
From this spot the horses below the hill can't see us
but they are neighing now and pawing their feeders
like they do every morning about this time.

These are the degrees of market and mammal, and
we watch the moon drop, on its full days, like a projection.
So crystalline, each crater is our lost face. The pistol
behind its glass case like a rose, oily and honed,
hangs because there's another, one that's been fired,
a smoky brother, the loaded gun under the truck seat.

Samuel Stenger Renken graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a BA in English in 2001, from Clemson University with an MA in Literature in 2006, and from the University of Wyoming with an MFA in Poetry in 2009. Sam works and lives in Laramie for Cathedral Home for Children as the Horse Program coordinator and English teacher. He and his wife, Maggie, are parents of a 2 year-old daughter Zuri and are expecting another daughter in October. Sam's poems have been published in Mainstreet Rag, The Pinch, Plainsongs, and Xavier Review.

UW observes National Day of the Cowboy

Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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