The Best Place in the World

by Paul Hooker

You mounted up late this morning
and even then choked down the last bite
of hardtack and swallowed the dregs
tasting less of coffee than of tin cup.

Still it’s sure to be a good day,
high pressure azure sky and warming fast
and the rumor that the scouts have seen
a big enemy camp downriver.

Swallowtail guidons snap in the breeze,
thirteen stripes and thirty-five stars,
a nation too eager to be on its way
toward its destiny and your place in history,

a better place no doubt
than starving like a dog in a Dublin slum,
and better fellows found in the saddle
than in the brawling alleys of the Bowery.

Why, there just might not be
any better place in the whole wide world
than riding column-o’-twos through the Montana grass
on the twenty-fifth of June in ‘seventy-six,

with the midday sun warming your back
and someone up ahead whistling Garryowen
and your horse stirring to match the column’s trot
and your whole future waiting for you

just over that next rise.