The Moon, In All Your Glory

Did we really once move
through the night,
our shadows holding hands
beneath a moon that could
read my mind the way I wished
I could intuit yours?
In those moonlit hours,
it cast shadows so dense
I tripped and fell over yours.
Its beams would cut ‘round you
like a silhouette artist
leaving me these shadowy memories.
We stand alone in the night,
eclipsing lunar light beneath
its face, once-radiant as yours.
Your face, how it gleamed
like alabaster, projecting
its own glow to my glib sincerity
and welcomed lies I always knew
could be final goodbyes.
Perhaps there will come
another tomorrow night when
these clouds will roll away
and the moon, in all your glory,
will extend its searchlight fingers
to fumble and find the missing
you never missed, the supine echo
of a man painted in light, and
a shadow of what he never heard.

Tripping the Tongue At A Target

And I’m forced back to rhymes
just like all those other times,
especially the most recent,
not like back when I was a decent
poet, one full of emotion,
but, like you, that ship’s sailed on an ocean
so rough, tough and wide
that now that ship’s sunk, like my pride,
and I no longer hide
what I feel inside
‘cause I admit I cried
so many times about the losses,
more than all the knots and crosses
I would write for you,
even though they could never be true.

Anyway, I guess here’s the drop,
I’d love to write something besides this glop,
but I can’t without a target
and that’s something no market
stocks, like bras, panties and socks.
See, there’s that sub rosa sex
you say I hide within my subtext.
I had to look up that definition
since idiot savant is my position
in a world so full of real writers,
the love igniters,
the fascist fighters,
who pull all those all-nighters
with real muses providing invention
while I fail without your kind attention.

I know, it’s sounds so damn dumb
to think one person can strike me mum.
But that’s really not true,
because there’s always been more of you
than meets a reader’s eye,
even one who will so closely spy
for what you find between the lines,
as if I was some teen who sits and pines
then struts his hour upon the stage,
or like an old loser who bangs bourbon for rage
but mostly I’m just the guy on the page
who longs to express simple, not sage,
somethings, my second toughest critic,
the one who’d always be so analytic,
as to gauge each poem’s level of misery
when really there’s no mystery
to what I used to do.
I just wrote them for,
not about, but more
like at,
you.

Yeah, I watched too much “Hamilton” this past weekend. So now I’m spitting rhymes in an effort to write anything at all. But maybe there’s something in here I don’t see. So if you do, and if it’s not too painful (I don’t bite and I’m too old and tired to care), let me know you’re there. Shit, another rhyme.

Wishful Thinking

Wistful thinking,
blissful blinking,
ignorant blissing,
like promiscuous kissing,
brings infectious diseasing
and needless deceasing.
So you do you, Tovarishch,
but right now there’s no bar which,
to the sound of glasses clinking,
you can do any wishful drinking.

So what shall we do
to survive, me and you?
Keeping hope and us alive
is a goal for which I strive.
But is it too much a task
won by merely donning a mask,
or cooping down in my cellar
keeping you distant from this feller?
I pray one day we’ll touch again,
I have no idea where or when,
but just like all the other lonely men
I live to make it to that unknown “then.”

I’m so down and F’d up by these days of sickness and strife, I can’t rub two words together that have any meaning. Not even, and most especially, to me. But if I don’t even try to do what somebody put me on earth to do, why bother leaving the basement for light and air? So here you are. One hundred or so unmasked words infecting one another and me. Now excuse me while I check the furnace filter again for the third time today.

Shelter From These Storms

Rabbit’s a patient boy, who cares not
that it’s Saturday as he hunkers
beneath the porch next door
until the rain lets up.
Cats or coyotes around here
eschew attacking rabbits in the rain
unless they’re starving. Otherwise,
it’d be cruel, and cruelty’s not Nature’s game.
That’s the domain of the allegedly
dominant creature of the planet,
the silly species that will put up with,
hell stand out in the middle of,
the storm as long as they can
stuff their mouths and
fluff their nests with more clover?

But rabbit doesn’t know this,
nor does he care. This rainy Saturday’s
just another “whatever” rabbits
discern as days. I doubt if he understands
it’ll be dark later. Or that the light
will return on that thing we call tomorrow.
Rabbit just cares that he’s
out of the rain and he’s sitting
in a salad bowl full of clover and his buddy
the robin just plopped next to him.
And, as I sit here in the house, I whisper
“Thanks, Rabbit,” for the momentary shelter
he’s given me today. I pray someday
my storms will let up, too.

Ya know? Sometimes Nature will get up on its hind legs, reach out a paw or wing and save me from myself and the storms besetting me. If only for the time I can write about those rabbits, robins and their rainstorms.

In the Canyon of Our Echoes

For years and years
and years and years
I’ve chronicled the echoes
of my woes and yours,
I’ve given voice to
the oohs and ahhhs,
the sniffs and sobs,
I hear with an ear
no one can see.
But I’m tired.
Tired, tired, tired,
retired and re-retired.
I know there’s joy out there
because I can hear
the giggles of little ones,
see the smiles of those
who think they know love
in this moment when I sense
I’m going deaf, blind and,
perhaps, speechless.
Yet there’s hope in this
canyon of our echoes…
because at least
I can still feel.

I just realized how long I’ve chronicled expressions of our emotions, over and over and over again. And I’m so, so tired…but still willing.

Hell Hath No Fury

“You don’t have to do this,” Lottie said as I was about to finish Landro in the alley.

“After what he did to you?” I said. If Lottie wasn’t there, I’d have killed him already. But with her it was like having a good angel on both shoulders. She was my worst good influence.

“I don’t want you do it.”

“I don’t want you to either,” Landro said through lips I’d split five ways.

“I don’t want you to get in trouble for something I…”

“You didn’t do anything, Lottie. He’s a coward and needs killin’,” I said.

“I didn’t mean it,” Landro said, a tear in his voice and a torrent streaming from what was visible of his right eye.

I should’ve shot him when he came out of the bar, but I was walking Lottie home, still jumpy as a kitten.

“Her thtockings showing, riding astraddle that plug with the missing shoe, giving me the eye. She was asking for it,” Landro said.

I kicked him again. He was asking for it.

“Ted, take me home. Please.”

“All right. Landro, you’re lucky this girl’s more forgiving than any saint.”

I guess my threat worked. Landro was gone in the morning. Never saw him again.

Week later, some Buffalo Soldiers found a body about twenty miles from town. Said Apaches left him naked, face smashed in by a rifle butt, manhood tossed in a patch of cactus. Two sets of tracks.

Funny, one of them had but three shoes.

A 250-word story drafted for Siobhan Muir’s weekly Thursday Threads contest. Had to use phrase “You don’t have to do this.” I led with it and followed that trail. This one will be expanded into something even more grown-up someday.

Sorry About The Cake

I wish I could find the recipe
for my old delectations you loved.
Couple of cups of flower
for the nature ones,
a teaspoon of that sugar and soda
for the leavening of levity.
Was it four or five drops
from the bottle of tears
for all the pearl-clutchers?

Seems so long since I
broke all those lines of eggs
and shoved a two-verse bit
of two-bit verse into the oven.
Was it a knife or a toothpick
I’d stab into the Westerns
to check their done-ness?
None ever were.

I should have written down
those old recipes, but maybe
it was the total sensory emptiness
of the cold, aroma-less kitchen
that stirred me to pull out
this 52-key mixing bowl again.
The clicks as I mixed this
sound write, but I’m never
sure how how it’ll taste.
Want to lick the spoon?

Better a Pocketful of Respect Than a Fistful of Lightning

Tuesday was a red glowing promise on the eastern horizon as I blinked the tobacco smoke and whiskey from my eyes as I stepped outside the gambling house. That’s when young Jesse Fountain ran up behind me.

“Do you want to see?” he said. He was pretty lucky I was so tired and my hand was a second slow behind my eyes and head.

“See what? Can’t we talk after I get a few hours sleep?” I said.

“This can’t wait. Do you want to see the piece I bought?” he said, leading me down the alley between The Grand and Mrs Pynchon’s house of horizontal delights.

“Piece of what?” I said.

“A gun, Daniel. I bought me a gun.” Jesse said. He reached down and pulled back the long canvas coat he received from the effects of his brother Matthew, an old acquaintance of mine who was a sometime deputy, other times cheating gambler. When Jesse’s hand came out of its folds, it held a nickel-plated pistol. He pointed its business end directly at my chest, where a triphammer suddenly started banging.

“Jesus Christ, Jesse. Be careful with that thing” I said, as I pushed the .38 caliber muzzle down and away from my chest. If you don’t know, let me tell you, any gun pointed at your vitals has a way of waking you up no matter how sleepy you might be.

“Sorry, Daniel. Isn’t she a beauty?”

“I have two questions. First: Why do you want a gun like that? Second: Who in the world would sell you a gun like that?”

“I want it for protection. And Dutch Van Dorn sold it to me. Actually, I traded my horse for it, now that I have Matt’s.”

“If Van Dorn’s involved, I’d be careful squeezing off any rounds lest the damn thing blow your hand off. But again, why? And put that away.”

“You know. I want it for…protection.”

“Jesse, having a gun don’t mean you can use it. For protection or anything else. That thing was made for one purpose.”

“Yeah, to show everyone I’m not a man to be trifled with.”

“No, a double-action Colt Lightning is made to kill other men.”

“See?”

“See what?”

“Ain’t nobody, not from around here or some yahoo up from Texas, gonna mess with a man like me who can pull his iron and get off six shots without once slowin’ down to cock the hammer,” Jesse said, once more pulling out his eight-year-old roan’s worth of backbone.

“I’m not gonna tell you again, Jesse. Put that thing away. If a lawman sees you waving that around at me in an alleyway, he’s likely to get the wrong idea and drop you like a sack of corn.”

“I’d like to see him try.”

What is it they used to say? “God created all men, but Samuel Colt made them equal.”? In my times lawing in some cowtowns in Kansas and Colorado, I met too many young fellas bought into that bullshit. Some, either touched in the head by going too long without liquor or women or getting too much of either too quickly. Or maybe just plain touched. They believed a gun made them more than equal. Jesse was one of those sad cases that qualified on all counts.

“Shot it yet?” I asked.

“Yep, yesterday afternoon behind the stable. Pretty good shot if I do say so.”

“That’s nice. Loud, wasn’t it? What you shoot at, cans or bottles?”

“Cans…and a chicken”

“I’ve yet to meet any cans — or chickens — that can draw a pistol and return fire with mortal intent. But congratulations, I’m sure you showed those horses who’s boss.”

“Stop it, Daniel. Told you, I won’t be disrespected no more.”

“Jesse, I want you to listen close. I’m telling you this for your own good. A gun — even a wonder weapon like your Lightning — won’t earn you any extra respect. In fact, I can attest to the fact it can get you less. Or killed.”

“I told you, I’m a dead-eyed shot, Daniel.” Jesse’s tone changed. I’d heard it maybe a hundred or two times before and I was ready.

“And I’m telling you that will not be enough to change how people regard you. I don’t want to see you turn out like Matthew, s’all. Listen, you’ve always been a good boy…”

“Don’t you call me that. I’m not a boy.”

“No, not really anymore. But you’ll always be a kid to me, Jesse.”

“What do you mean?” I knew I was taking a chance, but I needed to prove something to him.

“I mean I’ll always think of you as Matt’s little brother, tagging along and watching him swagger into a room, gun slung low, eye’s cold, looking for some mark he could hook while he bottom-dealt…”

“Take that back, Daniel, or I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” I had him.

Jesse reached for his Colt, but he had to pull his coat out of the way. As he looked down, I pulled my pistol and cold cocked him a good one with the barrel. I flagged down Deputy Charlie Bassett, who was making his rounds, and we hauled away young Jesse and, minus his Colt of course, stuffed him into the calaboose.

“Charlie, see if you can hold onto that Lightning, will ya? The kid is in no way one to own a piece like that. Same damn gun the likes of Hardin carries, for Christ’s sake. Maybe you can talk some sense into Jesse before…”

“I know. Maybe you taught him a lesson, though, Dan.”

I left Dodge that day and headed over to Trinidad, Colorado for a couple of weeks. When I got back, Charlie met me and told me the story over a couple of beers.

Seems after his two of nights in jail, Jesse and his gun left the safety of Charlie’s hospitality and right off he walked into the Long Branch and tried big-footing some Texas cowboy. They told Charlie Jesse reached first, but he fumbled his draw. The cowboy didn’t.

“Caught his hand in his coat pocket,” Charlie Bassett told me. “Lying there, four fingers of his right hand tucked inside his pocket and thumb hooked outside. With the exception of a .44 caliber hole in his head, I thought he looked rather respectable that way.”

I nodded.

“Good, good. It was only a matter of time, I guess. But that’s all the boy was ever looking for. Respect.”

Built this Western from a 250-word something I wrote for a mini-competition this past week. It’s still in Draft 1.5 form, but you know I love to share my frontier stories. So bear with me as I try remembering how.

My Figment, Your Poet

Here you are again,
sitting, standing,
floating in front of me.
There but not there,
inevitably as real
as I can make you.
And yet I’m your captive,
one of my own imagination,
one who who lives to see you
and loves to please you,
one who chronicles
the never-weres in clicks
of never-wills,
one who almost never can
without you.
Then I realize it’s time
for you to go again,
fading into the light.
At least until tonight,
when you return, floating
on a river of blackest ink
across my ceiling dark.
And I, your poet, without a pen.

Feeling My Way

I wonder and wander each day at this time,
hoping I won’t need to resort to some rhyme
to chronicle the tour from right brain to left.
Sometimes the scenes are forests or plains wind-swept,
others like deserts, barren of even sounds.
But the best trips are those where I, spelunker
of this cavern, drop into my heart’s abyss
or maybe the bottomless black of your eyes.
I guess that’s because I don’t see as much as feel
my way into these chambers of mystery
where I’m sure there are glyphs of our history
on the walls that echo each heartbeat and blink.
So if, while you read, a tear on your cheek falls,
it’s just irritating me trying to feel
with hands and heart, my way out, along those walls,
imprinting memories I hope I don’t drop
before my wander is done, when I’ll wonder
not how I found my way, but how I lost it.