The cowboy probably doesn’t think much
about asking me if I’ve ever worked
with my hands to make a rope. I blink away the feet
of a million dangling corpses brushing my eyelids,
and I sit down next to him. I sit because The South
is 2,000 miles away. I tell myself these are different stars
and bars bumper stickers; the firm faces in the restaurant
don’t carry ghosts behind them. Dakota
and Alabama: The difference between a graveyard
and a Halloween party. We work,
and he tells me there’s a difference
between a right and a left-hand rope,
something about bleeding
thumbs we don’t want to think about
this Saturday morning while 1st graders dodge
between our shadows with clay in their hands.
We joke about working
on the weekend, and he tells me it’s okay
if I want to turn the crank slower.
But the gear keeps slipping. Nature
knows something’s wrong, something muddying
the air of this cloudless day. But we keep digging
our own graves. We build the predator
drone. We pay the butcher’s salary. Some
rope made by a black hand had to hug a black neck,
and the black hand working to turn hemp
into horror had to open its palm and accept payment
for a day’s labor done.
The cowboy tells me to stop turning
the crank after another minute or two.
We’re finished here.
He hands me our creation with a smile,
says something about using the rope to string up
my baggy pants.