Sad Little Outlaw

Tied to the tree, as I was, while my brother galloped

through the backyard, straddling a broom,

a plastic six-shooter in his hand.

I was always being left behind

in the mud, a bandage around my eyes,

until he reached out

just enough so that our fingers slipped apart

and he could ride away, calling out my name as the posse


But it wasn’t really my name

with its biblical limitations, no, he called out Johnny!!!

Johnny, that all-American from Kansas and Iowa, that Johnny

from New Jersey and Queens, a boy

people will beat their chests for as the flag is being folded

into its triangle of pity.

I was a sad little outlaw for so long!

Knowing my brother would have to live

without me. That he would be alone

in our room at night, a sheriff’s badge

pinned to his chest like a silver flower

blooming above his heart.

— Matthew Dickman

(via Narrative Magazine; thanks, Julia!).