Confession Is Good for the Soul

“Church, Taos Pueblo National Historic Landmark, New Mexico, 1942″ by Ansel Adams, via Wikipedia

As the last train for two weeks clanked and smoked into the white distance, Dutch Snyder murmured, “Maybe he ain’t showin’,” and squirted a brown stream of tobacco juice from the shade of the depot onto the rails, where it sizzled in the late-day Arizona sun.

Dutch had been sweating away the past two years in this burro fart of a whistlestop just knowing his old partner, Cade Roberts would come looking for him after his release from Yuma prison, where he was to serve a hard five for a robbery the old Dutch committed before he found Marisol and Jesus.

“Hmmph, maybe he died in there and I got nothin’ nothin’ to explain to him anymore; or maybe he got religion and was saved like me and come to forgive them’s what trespassed against him,” Dutch said to no one but himself and God, as he entered the old mission church and pushed aside the curtain to Padre Dominico’s confessional.

As he had every Saturday night for two years, Dutch knelt before the woven screen, crossed himself there in the soothing but not-quite anonymous darkness, sighed in faith and recited, “Bendíceme padre, porque he pecado … que ha sido una semana desde mi última confesión.”

When he heard the click of the hammer and a voice from the other side of the screen say, “Go ahead, I’ve been waiting five years to hear this confession, mi hijo,” Dutch fired absolution from the Colt he always pulled in the dark and his guilty waiting was over.

A five-sentence Western based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word: WAITING.



As the man in the midnight blue silk suit nibbled his date’s neck again, instead of the now-cold Chateaubriand for Two on the plates sitting before them, Eddie Pietro pulled at his collar and twisted his narrow black tie once more.

“Jesus F’ing Christ, why don’t these two just climb on the table and get it over with? At least someone would be done with their business before midnight,” Eddie said in the kitchen doorway to the busboy, Martin Leo.

“Chill, man, not like you got no woman waiting for you out there tonight,” Martin said to the back Eddie’s sweat-stained white shirt as the waiter steamed to the men’s room again.

Eddie parked himself on the toilet, locked the stall door and shook out the barest remains in the cocaine vial onto the back of his hand while, at a club across town, Loosh glared at his knock-off Piaget, decided he couldn’t wait any longer and whispered into the ear of the college boy on his lap, “Hey, Cariño, would you like a bump?”

Based on the Five Sentence Fiction prompt WAITING.

Still Standing, Old Man

You balance here like a tree
with only a pair of roots,
one with its tip dipped
into the ground
to see how cold it will be.
The fickle winds toss
what’s left of your hair
like willow leaves in November.
But still standing, old man.
You finally have time to
enjoy sunshine again,
but what’s left is twilight,
the sinking face of day
that crinkles eyes carved
by all the dark yesterdays
you’ve already stared down.
But it’s not sundown yet,
you still have some leaves and
your roots won’t give up
any ground today.
Still standing, old man.

A Walking Shadow


Photographer: Zaire Kacz
Model: Morgan Daye Payne

The raven wore her clouds of white
like a daisy wears an Alpine meadow,
a scorpion wears the Kalahari,
and you once wore me.

We are the settings upon which
your you-ness gleams,
the sundae upon which
floats your cherry.

We stand as the scenery
upon which you players
strut and fret your hour
upon the stage.

I see your glare and stare,
your pretty face and petty pace.
You hear not the sound and fury
in this idiot who tells your tale.

Without me you’re naught
but a drawing, two dimensions,
with no one to notice you
but yourself.

Somehow, the photo above, posted by my friend Kellie Elmore, coaxed this 100-word drabble out of me. The upside? It helped me “brush up” my Shakespeare.

The Sons of Shem


The Arapaho boys came across the dead body of the Rev. Linus Quimby wrapped in a wool blanket at the bottom of a buffalo wallow, a thick book clutched in his frozen hands and an expression of joy upon his face.

“It is already the Moon When the Buffalo Calves’ Noses Turn Brown and the first snow came last night, so to find a man, even a foolish white man, traveling without a horse or even a dog to carry his provisions shows he was as crazy as he looks,” said the younger boy, taking the blanket from the would-be missionary.

“Look at the useless fire he made of these white skins with markings, not the leavings of the buffalo or even a stick from the trees on the banks of the Niinéniiniicíihéhe’, only two days ride from here,” said the older boy, as he relieved his brother of the blanket and Rev. Quimby of a knife and a piece of flint.

After riding east until the sun had almost reached its highest point, the boys found the remains of Rev. Quimby’s horse being picked clean by coyotes and birds, stripped of its saddle by a roaming band of Cheyenne hunters and with more of those marked skins scattered on the yellow grass in the melting snow.

If the boys could read, they might notice one that was dated two days before, November 20, 1830, and it said: Last night I burned all my maps, Psalm 23 and First Thessalonians from my Bible, my Lord God, because where I am going in Your name, I have faith You shall guide me, help me lead the sons of Shem back to you, and we shall never be lost again.

A story of unrelenting faith, based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word, Maps


They come to you when you lie there
in your bed, or sit by another’s
as they lay dying, these questions
that most often appear upon the horizontal,
like water seeking it’s own level, or maybe
a grand sunset the ending of a day,
a year, a life.

The question just hangs there,
a flashing neon sign in a gin mill window.
Why? Why me? Why you?
Why a tree, why that beer, this breath,
this other, another, another, a last,
a litany of them with no answers,
no purpose we can see,
no meaning?
Just, why?

Maybe all we get is just a moment,
a here-and-gone flick of light,
of love, of life. You’re born and
they hand you your exam, full of
questions unanswerable, until one day
the world whispers in your ear,
like you wished Ellen did in French II,
the proper conjugation of vivre.
To live.

A quick and dirty, lunchtime free-write based on my friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt and recent events.

Peace and Hugs

A bit of news and explanation: My relative absence for the past several weeks, and particularly days, from the virtual social whirl has been because of, among a handful of things, my involvement with my Mom’s health. After a relatively short hospitalization, Mom died last Thursday.

It might sound incongruous, considering the drops and splashes of me I share on these pages, but I’m not one to share a lot of my life with too many. But just this once, I thought I would.

If you have read the most recent poems I’ve written, each at her bedside, you might have had a clue that something was up.

Thanks to those who knew and comforted me, and for the support all of you have given me even though you may not have known. Now go give someone or something you love a hug. It would make me feel better.

In the Room

Here in the room the breaths come
maybe every ten seconds apart,
snoring sounds from a mouth agape,
now voiceless, beneath eyes mostly closed,
but probably unseeing.
She doesn’t hear the talk in the room.
We think. We hope.

Above the bed, a little plastic bag
of morphine perches like blessed fruit
from a swirly silver branch atop
the six-wheeled tree they’ll roll
out of the room whenever her spirit does.

Here in the room we watch, we wait,
hearing only the sounds of the family,
of the bubbling O2 humidifier,
the beeps of monitors and machines,
the murmurs and shoe-squeaks from staff
in the hallway on the fifth floor
as the hospital awakens this morning.

And punctuating it all come
the snorting gasps of a life dwindling away
every ten–no, fifteen–seconds.
We think. God help her, we hope.

Rules of the Game


The rules of the game
are set in stone.
You can read them
written on each slab
out there on the field.
The great game is summed up
in four numbers on one side,
and four on the other,
of a grooved hyphen.
Funny how those hyphens,
from end to end,
are the width of an N or M,
but a life may be wider
than a thousand thousand alphabets
or as narrow as an I.

You think of these things,
the unwritten,
the randomly ordered
string of letters,
of words, of stories,
of a life lived in
what seems like a hyphen,
a momentary there to here,
then to now,
once to once,
when you sit by a deathbed,
in front of a casket, or
at a graveside.
That’s where they post
the rules for all to see
and no one’s ever broken.

Security Blanket

Kiowa Blanket

Young cowboy Seth Shadow removed his hat in the dark room reeking of sweat, piss, whisky and despair and said, “I’d like to thank you for the ride, ‘cause, ya know, not many whores would like to lay with an Indian, even one been to school like me, Miss…Miss…”

“They call me Desert Flower, handsome, and ever’body’s pretty much the same color to me – gold, silver and green,” said the young Fort Sill prostitute, who shook off her chemise, unleashed an avalanche of obsidian hair down her back and lay back on her filthy pallet.

“You look kinda familiar, sweet boy, like I seen you ’fore maybe up in Anadarko or here in Sill?” she said.

“I’m told that on the way to put my family up in Anadarko, some Reverend took me off to teach me to be white at the Wichita School, but I wouldn’t give up my name, Khaup-kone-gyah, Shadow, and they whipped me so I run off and became a cowboy up in Colorado,” he said.

At that, the young whore started crying, “Jáu, jáu, I’m Gutqo-akigaut, big brother,” and covered herself, including the scars on her back, with a ripped and mended old red blanket she kept folded beneath her head.

My super-quick draft of five sentence fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word SECURE and Sarah Salecky’s prompt of writing about someone named Desert Flower. It’s hard to get as much depth and feeling of the dissolution of culture and family that was part of the story of the American West. Here’s a first-draft place-holder attempt.


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