A Poem For Any Cowboy And His Horse

by Donald J. Mitchell

I’ve lost my way. It happens a lot. This old, worn path is muddy and dark again. I’ve been gambling what I don’t have on the kind of odds that just stand there, shivering and glistening in the rain, and won’t come in from the cold. No one is asking me to work and I haven’t been asking for work. There are no stars to read. My inner conversations and correspondences have a steady gait but there’s something in each step that suggests a slight fall. November has seeped in. It thickens the hard drink I’ve hardly stopped drinking.

Midnight. Rain again—it’s always been raining. There are always eyes of rain on window glass, looking in. It’s cold out; must be snow falling higher in the mountains. That’s both a calculation and an imagining. I’m still capable of both, it seems, which is why I’m both terrified and grateful.

Those mountains—there’s likely a wildcat among them prowling around. It must be warm in its luxurious coat. It might be distant kin to the one I killed when I was eighteen, checking my father’s trapline. Or that creature’s family tree may have fallen with its death, or maybe it’s sprung up as a different form of life, one that travels ocean currents or currents of air instead of snowy trails.

Maybe that new life has lost its way too, has found itself at the edge of another world—maybe your world—and doesn’t yet know if it’s welcome. I won’t assume this but maybe you’re lost too. And now there’s something between us that knows a lot about being alone in the neither here nor there. Something that had to change its skin because of what we’d done and who we were. Now it leaves a message, a track in the trackless night, one we can’t read or follow but nonetheless marks a claim.

Donald J. Mitchell has lived all his life on his family homestead in Deming, WA, a tiny town in the foothills of the North Cascades.


For me this piece brings a somber and honest reflective assessment of life. Not life in general perhaps, but life in a moment or a season when it stands at an unfamiliar intersection of reminiscence and anticipation, unsure of whether to fear or delight.
Victor Sandiego, Apr 07, 2018 victordavid.com