You Cannot See
the tunnel that approaches. It hurtles forward,
the clearance so low it might skim the hat
from a cowboy, prone on the top of the train.
He stands now, but has only a split second
before he must dive for the train’s roof.
You imagine the expression
on the wrangler’s face. Is it fear?
What might courage look like, in the shadow
of that wide-brimmed hat?
That Stetson? Clearly not black.
This man must be the hero, “the good guy.”
You want him to succeed;
you root for him.
You watch the train’s wake in the creosote bushes.
Breathless, wind tugs at the cowboy’s chaps.
You see his vest, his string of bullets,
his hands, poised above his six-shooters.
The bad guys must be near!
They jammed their black hats
down tight, pulled their bandannas
up over their faces.
You see the cowboy’s bowed legs
and the way his boots plant themselves
on the bouncing train.
You see telegraph poles, the mountain pass,
the whizzing railroad ties, the distant
rock formations, the “yella” sky.
You cannot see the next moment
and the one after that;
you cannot see if he makes it
through that tunnel, off that train,
beyond the bandits, the hold-up, the gun battle,
the runaway stage, the box canyon, the charging buffalo,
and into the arms of his rescued sweetheart.
You must hold your breath
Not all the good guys make it.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
Mary Stebbins Taitt has an MFA in Creative Writing in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and likes to write illustrated children's books for her grandkids. She was nominated for a Pushcart for her poem "A Jungle of Light," was included in McSweeney's Poets Picking Poets, and has received enough rejections to paper a gymnasium.
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