Dad used to love stories of the old west.
He and I and my brother would gather,
in a huddle, around the walnut veneer console radio
for a rousing tale on Saturday night
We loved westerns, the code of the west,
that’s what we liked.

He got us Hopalong Cassidy t-shirts.
Hopalong is still my favorite cowboy,
Topper my favorite horse, because,
that’s how my dad was to us, he had a code

We were a few years away from having a TV.

The sound technician made a clip-clopping
sound of hooves, on a dusty western street.
We learned, to our tow-headed delight,
to imitate the sound by
clicking our tongues on the roofs
of our mouths.

The imaginary sounds of the old west,
the thunder of the hooves from the calvary
charging to the rescue.
When all of those shows transitioned from
that old console radio into our living room,
in flickering black and white images,
It was a wonder to behold, amazing!

When I could finally see them clip-clop up to
The hitching post and loosely drape the reins
over the rail in front of the saloon,
I had the most stunning revelation about the
power of a flimsy tether holding these powerful,
magnificent animals, muscles rippling in waves
across those haunches shining with sweat.
Was that all that was holding them,
a thin strap of leather that they could snap
like a piece of string?

When Jungle Jim could bind the lumbering
grey hulking elephant to a thin stake in the ground,
or by just tying the tether round the leg of the beast
I wanted to shout at the gentle giants,
It isn’t real! Run away! Run away!

As I grew into the world and the experiences of life,
the suffering and futility that comes with learning
hard lessons I could see that everything is bound
by imaginary tethers, no less real, than for the
elephants and the horse.

Loyalty to masters who may or may not deserve it,
tender tethers of unrequited love for a girl
you couldn’t even bring yourself to speak to,

Binding customs and morays unquestioned,
the fear of things and people who are different,
in any way at all.

Thin strings of paranoia and vengeance
blossoming into death and war,

Even the idea of who I could be
in the first place
and what anything was made of
in the cathode ray lines and flickering images.
Completely unquestioned!

You want to shout, just like to the elephant
and the horse. Nothing is Real!
Nothing to get hung about.
You are not bound!
It’s all imaginary! The tethers are thin and weak!

Run away! Run away!