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See the Art Spur introductory page here

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...we know many that are worthy of a poem.  In Art Spur, we invite poets to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry.

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through April 4, 2008. Selected poems are posted below.

Our fourteenth piece offered to "spur" the imagination as part of Cowboy Poetry Week, is master painter, designer, and musician William Matthews' painting, "Waxed Jacket." We are honored to have "Waxed Jacket" as the official poster for Cowboy Poetry Week, 2008. 


Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"Waxed Jacket"

© 2006, William Matthews, www.williammatthewsgallery.com


Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"Waxed Jacket"

© 2006, William Matthews, www.williammatthewsgallery.com

William Matthews' painting is the 2008 Cowboy Poetry Week poster art. Posters are not sold. They are offered to libraries in our Rural Library Project and to supporters of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, which sponsors CowboyPoetry.com, Cowboy Poetry Week, the Rural Library project, and all of our programs. 

William Matthews has been called "today's Frederic Remington." He earns praise from Western Folklife Center Founding Director Hal Cannon, "William Matthews fashions water and color to evoke the billow of a cowboy's shirt at full gallop, the patina of a well-used saddle, the blistering mirage of Nevada. Simply put, he sees the West with new eyes."  Cowboy poet and buckaroo Waddie Mitchell comments, "Willy's work is so dead right and real, a buckaroo can see what is beyond either side of the painting."

William Matthews' work has been featured in gathering posters for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, the Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium, and others. He has painted Don Edwards, Randy Rieman, Waddie Mitchell, R. W. Hampton, Wallace McRae, and many other cowboys and ranchers. Some of those images are included in his landmark 1993 book, Cowboys and Images.

William Matthews' sumptuous new book, Working the West, includes 180 color plates of his Western subjects. The publisher describes the book, "Watercolorist William Matthews has long been hailed as the preeminent painter of the American West. In this new collection of 180 staggering paintings, he captures the full range of western experience: endless skies, high plains, the last working cowboys, the Navajo, the mystique of the Living Desert. Steeped in introspection and connected to land, tradition, and identity, Matthews' work evokes a place that is authentic, anachronistic, and dynamic."

Learn more about William Matthews in our feature here and at his web site: www.williammatthewsgallery.com.


Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through April 4, 2008. Submissions are now closed.




Come With Me, by Ken Cook

Love's Devotion, by Diane Tribitt

High Water Mark, by Al Mehl

White-on-white, by Jerry Schleicher

The Waxed Coat Man, by Glen Enloe

Things I Lean On, by Michael Henley

 No Regrets, by Merv Webster

Five Senses, by Clark Crouch

Thanks to all who submitted poems.



Come With Me

Come with me, I invite you
On a ride with no brochure.
A fair piece from the asphalt
Where good men still live the lure

Of rangeland devoid of fences,      
Grass rollin' toward the sky.          
At day's dusk you might call out,
"Do we have to say goodbye?"

Come with me, and I'll saddle
My son's horse for you to ride.           
The hours you work with his colt
Just might touch you deep inside        

The hollow saved for secrets
In the heart of every man,
'cause one long day spent horseback
Feels like sittin' in God's hand.

Come with me, we'll go ridin'
And to you I'll swear a vow;
You'll join the men who cowboy,    
That choose not to ram a plow

Through prairie sod to change it               
From open range to furrowed crop. 
Past the marrow of their bones                                 
Hear 'em whisper "wish they'd stop." 

Come with me, daylight's burnin',
This is not my final ride.
I'll show you country ageless            
As the ocean's endless tide.                  

Then while we're sharin' sunset
With our horses heads down low,
'Bout then you're gonna ask me,        
"Do I really have to go?"

© 2008, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Love's Devotion

Way out in the barn a single lamp was burnin’.
She watched the soft light lappin’ at the door.
On the wall beyond a shadow she was watchin
looked like the old waxed jacket that he wore.

Everywhere he went he wore his barbour jacket,
to church, out to the pasture and the store.
Children, calves and foals found refuge from the snowstorms
inside the old waxed jacket that he wore.

When God called him home to tend to chores in heaven,
she cried like she had never cried before.
Longing to be held from now until forever
she hugged the old waxed jacket that he wore.

Leather, sweat and tears and musky scents of cowboy
would linger in her mind forever more.
Laying him to rest, in love she wrapped his body
inside the old waxed jacket that he wore.

Ten years passed, today, he rode his trail to heaven,
and lonely footsteps echoed on her floor.
Life had served her well but, Lord, she missed her cowboy
and missed the old waxed jacket that he wore.

Way out in the barn a single lamp was burnin’.
A strange force drew her to the open door.
On the wall, beyond, the shadow she was watchin’,
looked like the old waxed jacket that he wore.

She raised a doubtful hand, tremblin’ as she touched it
and traced familiar stains that it still bore.
Walkin’ to the house, sustained by love’s devotion,
she wears the old waxed jacket that he wore.

© 2008, Diane Tribitt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(This poem was turned into a song by Curly Musgrave and is on Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail's CD, Forever West.)



High Water Mark

After a long day mendin’ fence, with achin' muscles feelin’ tense,

I love the power of a picture or a rhyme;

The words and images, it’s clear, transport me back to yesteryear,

Like a machine that’s built to take me back in time.


I was a toddler (maybe three).  I sat a-straddle grandpa’s knee,

There in his eyes I saw the twinkle and the fire.

And in the lines that coursed his hand, I sensed a stronger, younger man,

As he recalled for me the days before barbed wire:


“We make our gather early spring, put all the cattle in a string,

We drive ‘em north, the old cows grunt, the younguns bawl.

Of late, we’re pushin’ toward the Red, with ‘bout a couple thousand head,

And we’ve been plannin’ on Montana by the fall.


“Now, it’s been drizzlin’ ‘bout a week, and ev’ry slicker’s sprung a leak,

And in the hill country, we guess it prob’bly poured,

‘Cause ev’ry crik is runnin’ high, and Charlie Goodnight, with a sigh,

Says I should ride ahead, and find a place to ford.


“I ride alone, a little frantic, feelin’ just a trace of panic,

Wonderin’ why he didn’t send ol’ Gil or Lee.

The rain’s been turnin’ back to snow.  Heck, I’m a greenhorn, don’t he know

I’m undertrained for this responsibility.


“In time, I come upon a ledge, look out upon the river’s edge,

That glassy surface seems to hide the river’s motion.

But underneath, the current’s power, it gets stronger by the hour,

And the river’s span reminds me of the ocean.


“It’s kinda hard to b’lieve last autumn ‘twas a dusty river bottom,

There weren’t water ‘nuff to fill a coffee cup.

But now the width and depth keep growin’, with the banks near overflowin’,

And the level, seems to me, still creepin’ up.


“Still, I have spied a shoal up river; seems to narrow to a sliver

Where the path will only be ‘bout one cow wide.

We’ll have to put ‘em single file, and it’ll take us quite a while,

But now I’m sure that we can make the other side.


“‘Bout time I turn back to the herd, and bring the captain back the word,

I’ll ride in hard, and stumble in ‘bout half past dark.

And when we make that other shore, to me ‘twill mean a little more,

‘Cause it will represent…  my own high water mark.”


Then grandpa laughed and smiled at me, that little boy there on his knee,

And in his eyes, a shinin' sparkle I could see there

He saw I couldn’t understand these faded mem’ries of a man,

But then he chuckled, “Well, I guess you had to be there!”

© 2008, Al Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




The blizzard's bitter fingers coil round me like an Arctic snake.
Searin' my lungs like a brandin' iron with every breath I take.
My toes are numb, my fingers burn. The air is brutal cold.
If some fool offered to buy my job, I'd gladly mark it "sold."

But one Charolais is missin' from the herd down by the trees.
She's due to drop a calf, and if she does, they both will freeze.
So I'm checkin' every snowdrift, my eyes iced up with tears.
Just a cowboy on the tundra, with frostbit nose and ears.

Findin' a white cow in a snowstorm ain't the easiest job to do.
It would simplify my mission if she was red, or orange, or blue.
But, no, it had to be a Charolais that's gone missin' in the storm.
Givin' me the opportunity to be out here, instead of stayin' warm.

At last I spy the missin' cow, all hunched up against the wind.
And, no, she ain't dropped her calf yet, as I check her other end.
I get that white cow movin' forward, toward the calvin' shed.
Where another calf will be born tonight, and I gain one more head.

© 2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Waxed Coat Man

In crackled tintypes bent with long ago,
Amid flaxen sunset and skies of cherry—
In worn leather-carved ancient scenario,
He dare not lie in milkweed prairie.

He rides resolute toward that sweat-tinged fame,
Always the heart’s hero of our once young eye,
As pale ivory range sighs softly his name
And we all know the real reason why.

It is high sage country that he will ride,
As that tin sun burns alabaster away—
And new birthed rains roll off his cow rancher hide,
So his soft summer’s mirage will stay.

Some see him crude – of but limited worth—
Lacking pure knowledge or certain savoir-faire—
But born of bone plain, he is of no fool’s birth—
A force of nature that’s always there.

From coat’s patina past years slide, of course,
As lines are spurred so deep into his Sphinx face—
But he’d rather be poised high atop his horse
In no other country, time or place.

His heritage is long—it’s here he’ll die—
He rides his own land in cruel spring rains and snows—
And like that wax jacket, he’ll keep his hopes dry,
Because ranching is all that he knows. 

© 2008, Glen Enloe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Things I Lean On

I'll not trifle with the foolish things your windowsill might grace
Nor pay my well-earned wages for their kind.
I'll not waste my time to purchase things that haven't earned their place
Or stood to face the fearful force of time.

For I make my livin' horseback in a country that's still coarse
And these things which I disdain are of no use.
They're untested in a world that's ruled by man and horse
And have no place on me or my cayuse.

I will treasure my Garcia bit and long reata string
And the woollies that turn the wind and snow.
My Capriola hot roll and flat brimmed beaver lid
And a Wade tree that wasn't built for show.

Each piece I have was chosen for the courage it displays
In a land where respect is only earned.
This old waxed coat, this horsehair rein, my quirt with rawhide braid.
Are examples of the lessons I have learned.

These are the things I lean on, so I can be my best
In the unforgiving life a puncher lives.
And their worth lies not in the shine your eye can see
But the value on the range that each can give.

© 2008, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


No Regrets

When I take on a task there are times when I ask

what seduced my old Pa to this land?

Just a struggling young lad, with no mum or a dad,

who begun his life as a cowhand.


He had learnt from the start if one was faint of heart

it’s a trait that one had to discard.

If you planned to survive at this staying alive,

then you sure had to be on your guard.


But he saved on the side and then found him a bride

and together they worked for a dream.

That was owning one day, as my mother would say,

our own nest by a small running stream.


Though it took many years, and their blood sweat and tears,

they would find that their dream came to life.

Still the seasons they’d face, as they built up their place,

were real tough on this man and his wife.


There were months of white snow when the cold winds would blow

and they’d battle to save all the stock.

And old Ma she would say, true, there was the odd day

when Pa cursed and he did the old block.


But they had no regrets and they died clear of debts

when it came to the end of the line.

So I sit here today and I’m real proud to say

that the dream my folks had is now mine. 

© 2008, Merv Webster
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Five Senses

He could hear the crunch of snow
as his bronc moved along,
rhythmic sounds of the ev'nin'...
a wintry night time song.
He could see the light ahead,
glowin' on the hill's crest,
markin' his destination,
a small town in the west.
He could almost taste the food
his ma's preparin' there
as she fixes a supper
with her usual care.
The scent rises from mem'ry...
other times, other food...
and floods his thoughts as he rides,
elevatin' his mood.
But more than all of those things
would be his home so snug
and a mother's touch again...
his mother's welcome hug.

© 2008, Clark Crouch
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



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