At the Rodeo by John Grey

Unlike in the cartoons,
the bull does not stamp its feet,
nor snort loud as a tractor engine.
Instead, the sound builds
within its muscled brown bulk,
a storm of such intensity,
it threatens to snap bones.

The rider scrambles up the chute,
leaps on the beast’s back,
the moment the gate is open.
The bull stumbles out
into the dusty ring,
and the jockey holds on
as best he can,
as the bovine bucks,
unloosens its winds, its lightning,
drives the thunder
through hard hooves.

The ride is a conflict of breaths,
short, sharp human puffs,
deep, resounding animal bellows.
And its length is written in roars
not yards.

Then a hush
as the rider is tossed
and the bull corralled.
The guy rises slowly to his feet,
accepts the applause
with the tip of a hat
that miraculously stayed on.
The bull’s whisked out of sight,
blown over like a weather pattern.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East, and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review, and Roanoke Review.