If I Call It a Lasso, That Might Make It Okay

 
 
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.
 
 

Jason McCall has an MFA from the University of Miami. His collections include Two-Face God; Dear Hero,; Silver; I Can Explain; and Mother, Less Child. He is co-editor of It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop. He is an Alabama native, and he teaches at the University of North Alabama.