The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

All Issues
DEC 20-JAN 21 Issue


An Old Cowhand Went Riding Out One Dark and Windy Day

I have managed to empty my head

almost completely, creating vast hollows with

crusty thick walls, except for that one dim room

reserved for old song lyrics

which permits neither additions nor erasures

so today just when I think I have achieved total

mindlessness I find myself humming

Ghost Riders in the Sky, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed

Reindeer. No, not humming. I know the lyrics, every

relentless word, and when I try to segue into, say,

Bartok piano solos or Etruscan poetry (for instance)

a thundering herd of red-eyed cows insists on center stage

“As the cowboys rode on by him

he heard one call his name” (Hey, schmuck, we always said)

and the cruel reindeer won’t let Rudolph play their games

so the room is filled with sweating bodies until

there is no room to breathe, just flesh on flesh

sweat and stench, and an ominous red glow

through the fog and it’s too late to switch to

Some Enchanted Evening

Key Ring

Why do I still carry these heavy keys?.

This one was for the Print Center on Varick Street, which I left eleven years ago. No one in that building
would know me now.

This was for the ’97 Toyota I sold to Omar for $400 three years ago. It ran for twenty years and It was
my friend, but true friends don’t insist on getting parked.

This one opens the door at the top of the stoop. It hasn’t been opened in fifteen years. One day movers
will carry out all I own, maybe including me.

And what is this key for? I don’t remember it but I’d better keep it. It might be the key that unlocks the
universe or the doorway to oblivion. I might be engaged with that door.


Robert Hershon

Robert Hershon’s most recent book is END OF THE BUSINESS DAY, his 15th. He has been co-editor of Hanging Loose Press since its founding in 1966.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

All Issues