In those cold rooms with the blue plastic chairs,
sometimes the human condition
is an old Texas redneck with a brushy mustache
reading a Louis L’Amour novel
while waiting for his chemotherapy;
this tough old man who ran an auto-parts store for years,
then bought a whole chain of auto-parts stores,
who sits now furiously reading
about fistfights and saloons,
as the cattle drive heads up into Wyoming
to the summer pasture in the big sky country.

The schoolmarm buys two yards of calico in the general store
and the drunken sheriff gathers his nerve
for the public gunfight in the dusty street,
while the cancer keeps plowing, plowing, plowing
on a small piece of land just west of town;
while the owner of the valley, and of the whole darn territory,

is this leathery old Texan in the blue plastic chair
who shifts from his left buttock to his right,
tugs at his mustache, and turns the page.
He has a long way to go — he’s got to get to Abilene
before they hang the wrong man.
Now, hearing his name called from the clinic door,
he stands and walks into the hot dry wind,
his spurs ringing on the polished floor.