With a heightened awareness nagging, I find poetry everywhere. For the last couple of weeks, verse has been assaulting me in everything I do, everything I hear and everything I see. It’s gotten to where I can’t go to the grocery store without a poem distracting me as I drive back home. While this isn’t all bad, I’m ending up with four and five pages of Word open at the same time containing poems in various stages of confusion. Last night, I sat down and worked on just one.

by Mike Patrick

Flickr image by Earl - What I Saw 2.0

In a gaudy vest of reflective stripes
he surveys his wide domain.
It does no good to bitch or gripe
on his task he must remain.

In blazing heat, or snow or rain
the urban wrangler toils.
He is king within his range,
with his rope so neatly coiled.

First he scouts for wayward strays
and herds them to corrals.
His rope, which always seems so frayed,
he gently then unfurls.

No cowboy’s loop will e’er be found
upon his lasso’s weighted end.
Instead a metal snap is bound,
his reach to thus extend.

Without a single shouted word
he binds them nose to tail,
From each corral, he drives his herd,
the shopping carts of his travail.

With push and shove throughout the day
until at last, the grocery door;
into the ranks where they shall wait
until they fill their need once more.

As a sidelight, I went to Flickr hoping to find a photograph of a grocery cart—I mean, who takes pictures of a grocery carts? Everybody! It is possible that the simple grocery cart is the most photographed object in the word. With so much to pick from, I decided to use a photo of one of my urban wranglers . . . . Not. I went through 65 pages of photos, 25 photos to the page, and quit, there were many more. I found only three wranglers and none with permission to use the photo; so I just used the photo of the happiest corral I could find.


This entry was posted in Mixed Meter, Narrative Poem, Poetry, Rhyming, Unprompted, Work and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to WRANGLER

  1. vivinfrance says:

    Fascinating. It was news to me that collectors of stray trolleys in supermarkets are called Wranglers – I thought that was a) someone who breaks in horses or b) the mosted gifted mathematician at Cambridge University, UK.

    • Mike Patrick says:

      During roundups, the wranglers were the men who kept the horses corralled and ready for use. That was the association I made when I watched a guy collecting carts from the grocery store lot. Trolleys you say? I thought trolleys were a form of mass transportation. I think the name wranglers for the Cambridge mathematicians is wonderful. Never heard that before.

  2. Janet says:

    Oh, I love it. They are such unsung heroes, those who pack groceries and rope shopping carts. Love the way you found a theme that portrayed it so well.
    I also know what you mean about the mixed blessing of heightened awareness…sometimes I want all the words to just stop…and then when they do I miss them. The air is suddenly empty and bland. Bittersweet curse it is, to be a poet:)

  3. margo roby says:

    I absolutely love the metaphor. And the sound of the word, wrangler, suits. It’s jangly like the metal carts. Now, whenever I see one, I’ll see them in western outfits. slinging lassos.
    I hadn’t thought about the fact you write on your computer. That would make having several ideas a little frantic. That is one of the reasons I like pen and paper: I can have each of my ideas on a separate page. I also write possibilities down in a separate notebook, along with imagery, stray lines…you may have to work some kind of compromise.


    • Mike Patrick says:

      I’m almost through Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and I understand and appreciate the notebook/hand/brain connection, but I’m not sure I could begin writing like that at this stage of my life. I have arthritis in my right thumb, something that has appeared in the last two years. Holding a pen in a writing position is difficult now and becoming more difficult daily. Contrarily, it’s not bothered by tapping the space bar, so I may be stuck. Still, I’m still so enthralled with the techniques in Writing Down the Bones, I may try to push through the pain and give it a try. Access to a new level of writing would be worth some discomfort. Maybe a pen with a really large barrel would work.

      • margo roby says:

        Mike, I have carpal tunnel, and arthritis in my thumbs although the arthritis is still liveable with. All my pens are fat barreled which helps, as does always having support under my elbow when I write. I switched to left hand mousing [takes a few days and then it’s weird if you try right hand mousing] and that helped tremendously. If you right mouse, look what it does to your thumb!
        A compromise that might work, is to jot initial ideas as they come, so you have a bank of ideas, and a place to jot notes if more ideas come for one idea, while you are working on another, but the bulk of your writing is still the computer.

        • Mike Patrick says:

          I’ll give the pen a try, but Henry, my mouse, will have to stay where he is. I’ve given some thought to the type of notebook I might like. Most of my adult handwriting was either done in reporter’s notebook (ideal for police work) or on a yellow legal pad. I actually like the legal pad, but flipping the completed pages to the underside tends get them torn up over time.

          I have a folder in Word titled “Poems in progress.” I dig through it when nothing has pushed my hot button. Lately, my hot button has been melting with one idea after another. Is there a way to turn this off? My last posting, Riverwalk, is one of those hot button writes. Once in my head, I have to write it or go crazy.

          • margo roby says:

            You have named your mouse. Of course.

            I use a steno pad. Not so small has to hamper ideas from spreading, not so big as to freeze my brain with thoughts of having to fill the page. And I like the line that runs vertically down the centre. I often lay out ideas in weird [but this is how my brain likes things] clumps and I like having a dividing line, which I can also ignore.

            There is no way to turn off the hot button and the day it turns itself off you will feel a huge loss. Things look oddly bleak when not seen as poems, when before they were. But, I do find getting the mere idea on paper helps.

            I just thought of something that might work for you. Do you have a phone you can talk to? And, if not, sounds like a Christmas present to me. I have a friend and when she is not home and gets ideas, she has an app on her phone that allows her to talk to the phone which records it [I have a feeling she might have said as text, but that’s easy to check]. When she gets home, she can transpose the ideas to her preferred medium. Doing that would save you carrying a mobile notebook [I have a pocket-size one for short trips]. The brain relaxes as soon as it knows the idea is safe.

  4. Altonian says:

    I like this – it celebrates a necessary job. There is a little fellow in my home town in England who is, shall we say, ‘one sandwich short of a picnic’, but he has a social conscience and for years has volunteered to wander round the town collecting up Sainsbury’s shopping carts. He can be seen often struggling with about 30 – 50 carts. The shop is always glad to get them back; and, bless their mercenary hearts, equally glad to leave his valuable efforts on a voluntary basis. They don’t give him so much as a Mars bar for his efforts.

  5. oldegg says:

    The wranglers are both the unseen heroes and yet villains too in the car parks of the shopping centres. It is funny that parking is always available adjacent to a race of trolleys where only shoppers with a death wish for their cars would dare park as returned trolleys are returned nilly-willy around the cornered vehicle. And who has not had fear in their heart when confronted with a herd of tethered trolleys heading for you as you negotiate an exit from the rodeo.
    Great poem.

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