A Poem Inspired by Brokeback Mountain: Everybody Needs A Buddy

When I first read Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, it was for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle. How did I avoid reading it for so long? Her prose sings like poetry. My own offering below is nothing compared to her craft. On one level, her style is eminently readable. On another, the story itself is unlike anything I’ve read.

brokeback mountain book cover

This isn’t so much a “gay” story, and it’s certainly not a coming out story. Are Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist “gay?” I don’t think that particular term applies; it’s something more primordial than that. They have a special, secret friendship that is rooted in sexual chemistry. No one gets them off like one another. But they’re like boys, even twenty years on. They fight like brothers and screw like teenagers. The insight came up in our book club meeting (and I apologize that I’ve forgotten who brought it up) that due to the long periods of time in between trysts, Ennis and Jack are always stuck at the very beginning of their relationship: passion, jealousy, novelty, taboo.

I almost wrote a spoken-word piece exploring what could’ve happened if Ennis and Jack did make a life together somewhere, living in a ranch or a trailer, Ennis still urinating into the sink at age 50 and Jack still itchy for young trade. Would their relationship become sexless and little more than mutually tolerant?

I didn’t write that piece. Instead, I wrote the following, an ode to the homo-romantic best-friendships we find throughout literature and pop culture, from the Biblical David & Jonathan to the near-Biblical Frodo & Sam. I also threw in Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins, who were an actual couple, because I adore that little Hollywood tidbit. Ultimately, the poem is about love: quiet, coded, secretive, explosive, delightful love.

Everybody Needs A Buddy
by Evan J. Peterson

Every Tom needs a Huckleberry;
every Huck needs a Jim;
every Ennis needs his Jack,
and every Frodo needs his Sam.

Someone to pack your pipe
when you don’t want to smoke alone.
Someone to trim your beard
when your mirror’s up and broke.

Everybody needs a real good friend.

Every Batman needs a Robin;
every Blues needs a Brother;
every Oscar needs his Felix,
and every Bowie needs his Pop.

Someone to help you raise your tent.
Someone to babysit your sheep.
Someone to drive your mule to town
and help you get some sleep.

Everybody needs a real good friend.

Every Edward needs his Gaveston;
every Jonathan, his David.
Every Gatsby needs his Nick,
and every Tab his Tony.

Someone to shine your boots.
Someone to clean your knife—
to show you through the Shady Grove
and give you back your life.

A friend to while away the hours,
give harmonica to your songs,
a friend to cook your eggs and beans,
make you right when you’re feeling wrong.

Everybody needs a buddy.

What’s a wrangler without a hoss
or a rattlesnake without the rattle?
What’s a mountain without the cuy-yotes
or the boots without the saddle?

Someone to strum the strings along
and pat your dogs when they bark,
someone to shoulder half your sky
and find you in the dark.