THE PICTURE, by Allen Reel


by Allen Reel

Ain’t been in this here bunkhouse
Not any time before
‘Twas only half completed
When I ventured off to war.

Now I’m draggin’ my new bedroll
As I shuffles down the hall
Passin’ by a picture
That’s a-hangin’ on the wall.

Right quick I comes back to it
Somethin’ strange appears to me
In the frame between the corners
Was a lad ‘bout two or three

A battered tattered cowboy hat
Sat square upon his head
His chaps looked real fancy
Charmin’ to myself I said

Strapped tight upon his slender hip
A pistol could be seen
Encased in rawhide leather
For a quick draw so it seemed.

He was strummin’ on a gi’tar
But it hadn’t any strings
Only music he be makin’
Was them songs he learned ta’ sing.

As for me the sound of music
Had sorta’ lost its charm
‘Cuz in the stink of Vietnam
I up’s and lost an arm.

But that picture was so special
My attention it held strong
I stared and thought and ponders
With them shadows growin’ long.

Then it suddenly comes to me
I know’d that lad ya’ see
For the cowboy in that picture
Was a younger happy me.

Then I really gots ta’ thinkin’
See at first I had it wrong
What ya’ lost don ‘t really matter
It’s what’s left that makes ya strong.

Oh it’s true that I is different
No longer can I strum
Sure I lost a piece of somethin’
Damn that arm my hand a thumb.

But I still have somethin’ special
What I’d found this very day
I can still make movin’ music
If I hum and sing and pray.

© 2020, Allen Reel
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Allen Reel told us:

The Picture is based on an actual photo of me as a kid and hangs on a wall in our home at Crooked River Ranch in Central Oregon. I came from a ranching family on my mother’s side and loved to look like a cowboy—a musical one at that, like Gene Autry.

While I didn’t serve in Vietnam, my buddy did and came back wounded. I still play guitar; he doesn’t.

I grew up in Montana and graduated from Montana State University. I’ve authored five books of poems, prose and memoir. Last year I performed at the Montana Poetry Gathering and will again this year.

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