Black Cowboys

Black Cowboys

Rainey Williams' playground was the Mott Haven streets
Where he ran past melted candles and flower wreaths
Names and photos of young black faces
Whose death and blood consecrated these places

Raney's mother said, "Raney stay at my side
For you are my blessing, you are my pride
It's your love here that keeps my soul alive
I want you to come home from school and stay inside"

Raney'd do his work and put his books away
There was a channel showed a Western movie everyday
Lynette brought him home books on the black cowboys of the Oklahoma range
The Seminole scouts that fought the tribes of the Great Plains

Summer come and the days grew long
Raney always had his mother's smile to depend on
Along the street of stray bullets he made his way
To the warmth of her arms at the end of each day

Come the fall the rain flooded these homes
Here in Ezekiel's valley of dry bones
It fell hard and dark to the ground
It fell without a sound

Lynette took up with a man whose business was the boulevard
Whose smile was fixed in a face that was never off guard
In the pipes 'neath the kitchen sink his secrets are kept
In the day behind drawn curtains in Lynette's bedroom he slept

Then she got lost in the days
The smile Raney depended on dusted away
The arms that held him were no more his home
He lay at night his head pressed to her chest listening to the ghost in her bones

In the kitchen Raney slipped his hand between the pipes
From a brown bag pulled five hundred dollar bills and stuck it in his coat side
Stood in the dark at his mother's bed
Brushed her hair and kissed her eyes

In the twilight Raney walked to the station along streets of stone
Through Pennsylvania and Ohio his train drifted on
Through the small towns of Indiana the big train crept
As he lay his head back on the seat and slept

He awoke and the towns gave way to muddy fields of green
Corn and cotton and an endless nothing in between
Over the rutted hills of Oklahoma the red sun slipped and was gone
The moon rose and stripped the earth to its bone

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