Jonah out front of Woolworth’s not even pretending
he had somewhere to go, chin tucked down almost to his chest
wool overcoat smelling of damp and old and gloom, Jonah small inside
his gloom coat. He worked for a while at McCully’s Tack ‘n’ Feed,
stocking shelves, but it didn’t quite work out. Jonah moved often
from Riverton to Cody and back again, next to nothing picked up
along the way like a buddy or buckle or a girl. Jonah made friends
with some boy in the park once but that was misunderstood.
Sometimes on a whim he’d try to change his name to Biff or Wayne,
names he picked up from old rodeo posters or bathroom stalls
to get a new start, you know, but it was still Jonah the boys taunted,
making up those dirty rhymes they hurled like broken bottles.
Jonah always had two toes over the edge, they said later, as if
he’d had the choice of safer ground. I can almost see him now,
leaning over that bleak canyon, the wind enfolding him,
eyes closed, and it feels, to him, like home. Jonah listens:
his heartbeat echoes off each rib and he thinks it’s music,
someone playing his name over and over, almost like a lullaby.