The Cowboy and the Cancer Styx

by Dom Fonce (Youngstown State Univ.)

Third Place

Can a mouth oust smoke
Like a raging river?

Mild as May,
And tooth decay,
Leavin’ that cowboy by the river,
Lettin’ ‘em bleed out,
Black and grey,
Into the River Styx.

Who done it?
Who needs ‘em?
Hear the cracklin’ cough
Of manly freedom.
But, ya can’t smoke
Swimmin’ in the water, boy.

Ya can’t run from
Charon’s ushering,
Either.
So, you take your boots off in the boat,
Aromatic sweat,
And holey socks.
Kickin’ back, wishin’ for a cancer stick.

A decision in the midst,
You wait and think,
Would mighty Hades let you,
Smoke,
Drink?
Surely, not.
So you bite the bullet,
Shoot the hand­cannon,
The Styx splashes,
With Charon’s lifelessness,
Under the boat,
Out in the distance.

Cutting through the mucky water,
You’re out of breath.
Force yourself to swim away.
Down the rush you hear
A cry,
Mourning flesh.
Cocytus sends greetings.

Unbeknownst,
Your string was cut.
Washed up on
The Underworld floor.
The smell of wet dog
Fills the air,
Following a shake
Of a
Snake tail.

As you walk through the dark gates,
Hades stands above,
Grey like a shadow,
His smile bright,
Gleaming yellow.

Scooping your body,
He brings you to his lips,
And lights you up
Like a cancer stick.