top of page

Sheriff Joe

A Poem by Dr. Barry Lubetkin

THEN Always the same. Sheriff covered with dust from the trail. Horse parched from thirst. Rides into Tombstone. The town, Ramshackle, gritty, with fear dripping from every drop of sweat and particle of dirt. Outlaws own it. His jaw set. His stride firm and determined. Enters the saloon. The townsfolk scatter. The bad man stares in defiance. Lawman is determined. He will restore order to this wretched place. So many others before him have failed. So many others have placated this cruel man. He reminds the bad man of truth, of law, of consequences, And how the sweet smell of justice will overcome the stink of fear and enslavement. He reminds the outlaw of how eyes bulge and split, At the end of a hangman’s noose. The bad man passes the graveyard on his way out of town.


Sheriff Joe knows Putin

Knows his craftiness, his cruelty, his lies.

Sheriff Joe, jaw fixed, shoulders proud, eyes wary,

Shakes the sociopath’s hand, cringing inside.

His tone strong, his demands unambiguous.

Back off your cowardly spying.

Back off your stealing land.

Back off kidnapping my people.

Back off your stamping out human rights.

And this 21st century outlaw,

Wavers and counters and feigns confidence,

As he struggles to remember the KGB lesson on dislodging the enemy,

Who carries truth, decency and the spirit of democracy.

Sheriff Joe has no need to boast.

A grateful nation breathes,

As the Helsinki humiliation

Disappears from the memory

Of a great people.

And the outlaw, in a moment of pure terror

Hears reports of a new holiday in America,

And wonders how long until Ukraine

Celebrates Juneteenth.


Barry Lubetkin, Ph.D. is the co-director and co-founder of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. The Institute for Behavior Therapy is the oldest private cognitive behavior center in the United States.



bottom of page