We sat in the car,
in the alley behind where we lived,
shivering as the heater did its best
against the Chicago winter
and the torn convertible top.
I tried to convince you
that I really liked the book
you’d bought me in your drunkenness and need
to reach the stranger, growing out from
under you. A book about cowboys.
“If it’s too young for you, I’ll take it back,”
you said. I shrugged an answer, afraid
at your sudden vulnerability,
afraid of the hurt my silence
called up in a face that had gone
the distance with the world.
I read that book a thousand times, and couldn’t
tell you. Where was it lost?
I’d go there now,
down the maps of all those cattle trails;
learn by heart the language
of symbols seared in living flesh
that tell what belongs
to whom, and where.
"Brands" was first published in Calapooya Collage.