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  You could have a big dipper   

The Cowboy Code by Tadgh Murphy

(editor's note: portions of this poem were intended to appear in a strikethrough format. due to the limitations of this website, these display incorrectly. to view the poem as the artist intended, please view the PDF version below)

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1. Be honest.

- But only to the moon

Croon your love notes to bitten fingernails and veins on the backs of hands to a rock too far away to hear you.

2. Keep yourself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.

- Scrub the skin

- Scrub the mouth

- Scrub under the nails

- Rinse the unsavory with soapy water

Pretend to feel clean.

3. Respect women, your parents, and your nation’s laws.

- You told your lady who you think you should be

- Your parents told you who you were going to be

- Your nation told you who you had to be

So why can’t you be it?

4. Do what has to be done.

- Kiss the girl

- Kill the man

- Leave the town

Think about how his palm pressed to his handle and his fingers gripped his trigger.

5. Only touch another man when he is dying.

- You can press palms to chests to plug up bullet holes

- You can wrap fingers around throats

- You can rest heads in your lap and whisper promises of future reunions through last breaths

- You cannot press lips to ribs while he has the life in him to kiss you back

You can fuck him, though. Fucking a man feels so unknown it counts as dying.

6. When you make a promise, keep it.

Unless it’s an oath made in a shared tent, so late you cannot tell what time it is. No one is around for miles except the man on his hands and knees above you. He asks “will you stay?” into your mouth and you promise ‘yes’ into his. Neither needs to know it’s a lie until the sun rises and you see bruises in the shape of your mouth on his neck.


Tadgh Murphy (he/they) is a Chicago based poet so touch starved they wants to hug the rats that scurry through the alleyway behind their neighborhood liquor store. Follow him on twitter to fuel his ego: @crunchypeachboi

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