Black Cowboys, Oak Springs Neighborhood, East Austin

Jesse Bertron


Driving down Ledesma tonight
one of those black cowboys rode towards me.

I think they pasture up the hill on Lott
or Santa Anna maybe, although I’ve seen
horse trailers even on Omega.

The black neighborhoods are going,
even Hungry Hill, as if by over-hunt.

But still you see trail riders
galloping past the tennis courts on Springdale
or beneath the gold and green of Prock’s trash trees.

I have been accused of making these guys up
and to see them is an argument for that.
They ride as hard as going from extinction to extinct.

The only time I saw one stop
I was subbing for a friend
who taught on the East side.

I was in a field with thirty kids.
Every single one has moved by now

to Manor, fifteen miles out of town.

One of those cowboys rode up
on a tuckered horse,
and starting asking a young boy
if his mother had moved yet, or not.
And here’s where my memory gets weird—
because either the cowboy rode off
and me and the kids stood in the silence that comes

after some great animal has come near.
Or else, he picked the young boy up
and rode him around the field
at a hard gallop

and me and the other kids stood in the silence that comes

after some great animal has come near
and has taken one.


Jesse Bertron’s poetry has recently been published in Pocket Guide and he is currently working on a manuscript of poems, titled Big John Abroad. He is co-director of Poetry at Round Top, an annual festival in the Texas Hill Country featuring the nation’s best poets. A native Austinite, he teaches English and basic carpentry to middle schoolers, and works both on and offstage with several Austin theatre companies, including Underbelly and Breaking String.



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