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Blood Brothers by Chris Pusateri
published in Volume 6, Issue 3 on September 1st, 1999

I.

The only store in Camp Wood, Texas sells no vegetables.
When I asked, the bolo-tied clerk pointed the way
south to Uvalde. Not surprising that in Texas
cattle outnumber people three to one
and guns outnumber cattle
by the same margin.

II.

The only time I ever broke a friend's nose
was while traveling through Albuquerque.
I eventually settled there and never
broke another nose. No small wonder
I have no friends there.

III.

There are plenty of people in Texas
who would break your nose. Not that
Texas is inhospitable. It's just that
fistfights are a down-home way of saying
"Welcome to Texas, friend."

IV.

I lost my first fistfight. I was small for my age
and nearsighted. My opponent was eighteen
and still in the eighth grade. At the last minute
I tried to talk my way out, which is even more futile
than trying to buy vegetables in Camp Wood.

V.

There are two lies in the last stanza.
First, he was only fifteen, and second,
I didn't lose. Later, we became friends.
He smoked my cigarettes.
I dated his sister.
Nice kid. A Texan, in fact.

VI.

One day, I'll meet a friend
whose nose I won't want to break.
But then, I never owned cattle
and sold off my guns
a long time ago.

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