Preorder the Memphis Music Issue TODAY and lock in an exclusive limited-edition vinyl record!

Become A Member Shop Login

"Number Thirty-Six," by Erik Tuttle

Cowboys vs. Texans

Last century, like angels before the world was born,
Cowboys ruled the West. Now, like angels scorned,
come the Texans to lay the black on blue.
Partner, that’s not face paint. That’s a tattoo. 
Houston’s bigger when you measure earth;
but Dallas just might circumscribe Fort Worth
and then lay claim upon America besides.
Who can seize the year? a star? these bragging rights?
A cowboy often plays the lead, the hero, loner
calling the shots, misread, in trouble with the owner. 
And the symbol of a bull skull doesn’t take college
to understand—they sacrifice the body. The knowledge
of good and evil goes down pretty ugly in this Western. 
Arm-chaired, steady as a pump jack with that beer, Texan,
throwback-jerseyed, deep down you’re old school—
an Oiler, dualies in the backfield, diesel-fueled.
Or classic silver-blue’s the color of the propane hour. 
Frack the whole state, and choose your power.
Know your basics, the chalk of X and O on slate.
If Emmitt Smith was free will, Earl Campbell is your fate.
Pick longevity of a consistent arm and the vain
over the new old running downhill on a level plain.
Or blitz the patriotic red, white, and black
over our Republic’s model quarterback.
Have faith, the ruined knees are good for praying.
It’s Sunday, after all. Who works? Who’s playing? 
How does the hour empowering us turn into three?
All three sides of the ball—the postgame trinity.
Michele Tafoya, tell us if you know the story
when the MVP gives God the glory: 
the camera finds the other, the cloth upon his head
almost hiding the grown man crying, broken in our stead. 

Listen to John Poch read “Cowboys vs. Texans”

Unable to embed Rapid1Pixelout audio player. Please double check that:  1)You have the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.  2)This web page does not have any fatal Javascript errors.  3)The audio-player.js file of Rapid1Pixelout has been included.

Enjoy this poem? Subscribe to the Oxford American.

John Poch

John Poch has published four collections of poems. His most recent, Fix Quiet, won the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize.