To its practitioners, this is part of the beauty of modern poetry. They haughtily deride commoners that would dare to tread where only professionals should be permitted, eagerly poking fun at clumsy poetic attempts by the semi-literate rabble. Since poetry has become largely not understandable to the masses, the masses rarely engage in reading, listening to, or (especially) writing poetry nowadays.
A notable exception to this is cowboy poetry. Like the mythical ideal of the cowboy, this type of poetry celebrates individuality. Standard forms and rules can be applied with sparing rigidity. Like many facets of the Old West, cowboy poetry is rough hewn by design. Anyone is welcome to try their hand at it, and many do.
The success of a piece of cowboy poetry is not how well it adheres to forms or how well it impresses others that ply the art; but how it affects the average person. It is meant to speak to the heart and to the common experience of ordinary people.
I have tried my hand at various pieces of cowboy poetry for a while now. I claim no greatness or special capacity in the art. I do it because it brings a level of enjoyment to me and occasionally to others.
Several years ago I wrote the following poem as a Christmas gift for my Mom. The poem has been greatly appreciated by my extended family, because it is a story that is absolutely true without embellishment. It is titled The Christmas I Remember Best.
There’s nothing quite like tiptoeing boysMay you and yours have a joyous Christmas celebration and may the new year bring you peace and prosperity.
That don’t understand the effect of their noise.
Though they whisper, they make all kinds of other sounds
That to parents are like scents to bloodhounds.
Now, the Christmas I remember best
Was when I was about eight or nine, I guess:
Too sophisticated for the Santa game,
But filled with excitement, all the same.
On Christmas Eve, as we’d always done,
Us kids exchanged gifts and had some fun,
Dad read the story of the Savior’s birth,
Mom led us in songs of peace on earth,
And then we were shipped off to our beds
To rest our little sleepy heads.
But my brother and me, who shared a room,
Lay wide awake in the gathering gloom
Just tingling with anticipation
Of the following morn’s gifts and elation.
Then adventurous Tim, who was two years my senior,
Concocted a plan that couldn’t be keener:
We’d slyly slip on down the hall
Just to take a peek at the gifts and all.
We’d have to be careful, that’s for sure,
‘Cause Mom and Dad were right next-door.
Well, I made it as far as the bedroom door,
Then didn’t dare take another step more.
So I left Tim by himself out there in the hall
And retreated to my bed next to the wall.
But Mom, who knew her boys only too well,
Before lying down to sleep a spell
Had strung a trap of string and cans
Across the hallway along with some pans.
Well, when that alarm clattered loud and clear
I cowered under my covers in dread and fear.
Then in one swift motion, Tim flew in there,
Somehow closing the door in mid-air.
He landed on his bed in perfect position
And his covers settled gently upon him.
By the time Mom and Dad rushed into the hall
Somehow Tim had left no evidence at all
Of who it was that had sprung the trap.
We appeared to be having our long winter’s nap.
Well, our stealthy sneaking was done for the night
And we waited to get up until morning’s light.
We acted like it was a mystery to us
Regarding the trap and all the fuss.
‘Course Mom and Dad knew who it was all along,
For a parent’s intuition is seldom wrong.
And I’m sure that they didn’t have to wonder
About which bed produced that child-landing thunder.