—like his saddle, hat, and spurs

No silver on this cowboy’s working saddle;
borne bedrolls, stray calves, and dry canteens,
carried beside lame mounts home to the stable,
baptized in thunderstorms and mountain streams
—horn scarred by years of lariat, grooved deep.
The smell of leather, home, a cowboy’s keep.

The cowboy’s dust gray, wrinkled hat, a map,
sun, snow, and rain, Montana, the Baja,
Old Mexico, a cowboy’s endless tract,
an open range; his hat his brand, his law:
a “saddle tramp,” a “drifter,” a “cowpoke,”
plain as mountain streams, mystic as smoke.

Spurs: to guide not goad, a pair of timbrels,
—a pair of silver, melancholy minstrels.



Leland James is the author of five poetry collections, four children’s books in verse, and a book on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over three hundred poems in poetry venues worldwide including The Lyric, Rattle, London Magazine, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, The American Poetry Review, The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy, and The Ekphrastic Review. He was the winner of The UK’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. Leland has been featured in American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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5 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    My two favourite lines ‘—horn scarred by years of lariat, grooved deep’ and ‘plain as mountain streams, mystic as smoke’ exemplify the timelessness of a gone era. A very atmospheric piece.

    Thanks for the read.

  2. Margaret Coats

    I love the three-part structure; it makes a rare-form cowboy sonnet. And the style: it sounds like the cowboy himself slowly coming out with words not always directly connected. And the color, starting with “no silver” on the saddle, moving to the dust gray hat, then to the man himself mystic as smoke, until we finally hear the sound of silver minstrels in the spurs. A plein air painting with music to it!


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