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They were never handsome and often came
with a hormone imbalance manifested by corpulence,
a yodel of a voice or ears big as kidneys.

But each was brave. More than once a sidekick
has thrown himself in front of our hero in order
to receive the bullet or blow meant for that
perfect face and body.

Thankfully, heroes never die in movies and leave
the sidekick alone. He would not stand for it.
Gabby or Pat, Pancho or Andy remind us of a part
of ourselves,

the dependent part that can never grow up,
the part that is painfully eager to please,
always wants a hug and never gets enough.

Who could sit in a darkened theatre, listen
to the organ music and watch the best
of ourselves lowered into the ground while
the rest stood up there, tears pouring off
that enormous nose.

—Ronald Koertge *

* pronounced KUR-chee

from Life on the Edge of the Continent: Selected Poems, 1982
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.

Copyright 1982 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas. All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of the University of Arkansas Press.
For further permissions information, contact the University of Arkansas Press, 201 Ozark Avenue, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Ronald Koertge (1940- ) is the author of six poetry collections, including And Through the Woods (World Parade Books, 2008). Koertge grew up in rural Olney, Illinois, and received a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from the University of Arizona.

Learn more about Ron Koertge at The Poetry Foundation.