Spaghetti Western

Jonathan Travelstead

After Midnight Cowboy

Misplaced wrangler, your leather scuff and drawl in New York City
is en vogue as silk sheets on hostel beds. Your turquoise,
silver-tipped bolo, tobacco-stained fingers rolling cigarettes

lip-sealed with spit. Exclaiming Wouldja lookit that! Wouldja
lookit that!, Stetson falling for every rubbernecked prostitute,
or tall building. How can I kindly say we’ve moved on from pistols

brought to bear by lazy writing, and applause of virtue’s spittoon?
Caramel-tinted water fills brown and white jugs of bourbon
labelled XXX. Have one on me while you change your name

to something gas-guzzling and American, ape another smoke ring
for the camera. But please. Allow me to be human a moment
about caricature, the appeal to force who throws the bad man

in the pokey, and pleasures in angling the Star of David

studded on his chest, center frame. You serve best in lassoing hoopsnakes

from the caboose of last century’s train. Skedaddle. Begone.

Horace Greeley’s wild pastures have been engineered or levied,
and the plains Indians have gone beyond your reach.

Coaxial gai-jin. Time tourist, gaudy gaucho.

Wannabe ego among two-dimensional heroes. Black-faced
anachronism. I blame myself. Our love of watching cranked genocide
to eleven on the Nielsen ratings. Meet me in the middle.

Let me entreat you to holster your peashooter, turn in the bauble
pinned to your chest. Perhaps Russian roulette. You’ve embarrassed
us all. Consider the film with the ronin samurai, who,

shamed by losing his feudal lord, seeks redemption
by appeasing the audience. He kneels on clean, folded linen.
Dimples the tanto’s damascus steel against a point on his belly.

He pulls the trigger and ovation follows.


Jonathan_TravelsteadJonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro, IL. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review and on among others, and his first collection, How We Bury Our Dead was released by Cobalt/Thumbnail Press in March 2015.