(accompanied by guitar)
Caballo sat on the bus near me,
Unmoving and self-contained as a cactus.
His moustache handlebarred over his lips,
His potbelly pigged out over his nickel belt buckle.
Like a Navajo Coyote his heart was hidden deep away
And he breathed in short, phlegmatic gasps—
Still choking on the desert’s bloody sand.
If Caballo and his brothers had known they’d be so good at burying wives
They might never have started
Instead, he watched his fourth set down in the clay,
A tall and frail girl with the bones of a Spanish princess
And a flickering blue flame under her breast
That was so easily snuffed out
In his woodworked hands.
Keep on moving, Caballo. Keep on moving, Caballo.
Caballo did not sleep
As the land swept from prairie to swamp.
His straw hat sat balanced on his lap,
Its yellow tarred in spots from putting on and taking off.
At a rest stop I watched him remove his boots and wiggle his socks
Then pour the brown liquid of a silver flask into the dead shrubbery.
His drinking days were done; and no more wives.
Keep on moving, Caballo.
Chops hopped on the bus, all young and ugly
From some place called Jackson, Tennessee.
He sat in the back and talked to no one in particular
But at great length and impressive volume.
His teeth were bad but his words rapped like steel in velvet,
Like his hero Muhammad Ali—
But Ali should be every boy’s hero, if he’s got fire in his heart.
Chops told me that a woman would be the death of him,
But not if he could help it.
His mother was a bitch, and his grandmother was a bitch–
So what if they birthed him! What the hell had they done for him lately?
I nodded, being afraid not to.
I looked like a man who would understand, he told me.
New York City is the only place to live.
Chops don’t stop for nothing. Chops don’t stop for nothing.
At the next station Chops shoved his way past
A slow-moving Mexican whose real name I didn’t know.
He said someone might be looking for him in this town,
And when it was our time to leave he wasn’t in his seat.
Chops needs space, goddamn it! to float and to sting.
To gloat and to sing.
On a boat named “King.”
Chops don’t stop for nothing.
We the three of us thought them other people were the problem. Hell, how was we to know different?
William Fancher is an MFA candidate in the graduate Playwriting Program at Boston University. This poem was originally performed as a song at the Boston Theatre Marathon in April of 2009.