Backdropp Addresses Cowboy

A poem by Margaret Atwood

Starspangled cowboy
sauntering out of the almost-
silly West, on your face
a porcelain grin,
tugging a papier-mache cactus
on wheels behind you with a string,


you are innocent as a bathtub
full of bullets.


Your righteous eyes, your laconic
trigger-fingers
people the streets with villains:
as you move, the air in front of you
blossoms with targets


and you leave behind you a heroic
trail of desolation:
beer bottles
slaughtered by the side
of the road, bird-
skulls bleaching in the sunset.


I ought to be watching
from behind a cliff or a cardboard storefront
when the shooting starts, hands clasped
in admiration,


but I am elsewhere.
Then what about me


what about the I
confronting you on that border
you are always trying to cross?


I am the horizon
you ride towards, the thing you can never lasso


I am also what surrounds you:
my brain
scattered with your
tincans, bones, empty shells,
the litter of your invasions.


I am the space you desecrate
as you pass through.

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