I lean against the wall, one hand
fondling a cigarette, the other tucked
inside the pocket of my jeans. I stand
on one leg, the other bent, as though
ready to knee any guy who will pass by
too close. I blow smoke rings up in the air
as you throw a glance at me from head
to toe, from the present to my past.
I’ve seen such a stare so many times that
I know what’s in your mind even before
you’re aware of it. You think I want
girls to see me as the man in chaps,
neckerchief, and wide-brimmed hat
riding a red bronco, down a gently sloping
hill, after a herd of stampeding cattle,
leaving in his wake a swirling cloud
of dust. I’ll let you walk away, with
your belief, for that indeed is my intent
most of the time. This moment, however,
if you care to know, I’m only trying
to hold off the fire about to raze
the dry grassland beneath my navel.
Jude Ortega is a native of Sultan Kudarat Province.