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Medical Humanities

Cowboy

Benjamin Perin

It was hard to know how to be – 
How to hold my head.
Whether I could nod or mmm-hmmm 
Without losing some of myself.  

Mr. J wasn’t being overtly racist, 
Just objectionably offensive.  
I wasn’t quite ready to cut him off, but
There was a black cloud over his head 
And it was moving my way.

Now he was looping back on his brother again.  
The winter light from the window behind him
Was like a Vermeer painting and 
I’m not sure if it was Vermeer or his brother but, 
Just like that, something happened.  

Did time stop? 
We went somewhere else–

“They called him cowboy,” said Mr. J.
“He was fearless – that’s what made him such a good pilot, you know?”
We both looked towards the winter light, falling into his memory.  

“He could just set down in the middle of the jungle 
On the smallest patch of ground.”

we saw it there, the foliage bending under rotor wash
bloody soldiers held tight down below
we couldn’t make out his eyes behind those aviator glasses
his glinting lenses were a hot jungle sun 

I thought then of my older brother, doing a backflip on the trampoline, 
And together we looked up to all the older brothers, everywhere.  

When we came back, the cloud over his head was gone. 
It was time, I thought, 
To steer the conversation back towards things of this world:

diabetes medication, 
hip surgery, 
alcoholics anonymous.  


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