We’ve shared the trail, kicked up some dust,
An’ stood a storm or two.
We’ve rode the plains, the wide frontier,
The easy trails were few.
You’ve listened like some wise old sage
To ever thing I’ve said,
An’ as a friend, supported me,
No matter where it led.
I wished I coulda carried you,
The times you were in pain;
Or rustled up some kinda shed
To turn the blowin’ rain.
I’ve come up shy with some your needs,
You gave me more’n you got,
But in your silence, seemed to know,
I needed you a lot.
Compadre, friend, amigo, pard;
I called you all them things,
But there’s been times, I swear to God,
You musta had some wings,
An’ He sent you to care for me
Like no one had before.
If you’as a man an’ not a horse,
I couldn’t a-loved you more.
We gave this ranch our sweat an’ blood,
It’s yours as much as mine,
An’ raised our young’uns through the years,
An’ Lord they’re doin’ fine.
They’re blazin’ trails an’ raisin’ dust,
They’re off an’ runnin’ free.
We’ve taught ‘em well an’ made ‘em strong;
Compadre, you an’ me.
I always knew the day would come
When we would fine’ly ride,
To join the Maker’s round-up time,
Up on the Great Divide.
I sorta hoped we’d share the trail
But this was not to be,
So, you go on, we’ll ride again;
Compadre, you an’ me.
You think you’re alone out on the range
Sittin’ silent under starry sky,
Just a marvelin’ at the universe
And wonderin’ ‘bout that ol’ question: why?
You shake your head at worlds of worry,
Knowin’ it ain’t often that you’ll find,
All the answers to your queries
Beneath the clear black sky and pine.
You wonder if we rose up from mud
And walked straight and tall upon this earth—
Or was it all created in a moment—
A conception that gave us true birth.
Are we all no more than those monkeys
Evolvin’ slowly down life’s long line?
Or is there more to earth and heaven
Touched by something truly sublime?
We keep on punchin’ clocks and cattle
And tryin’ to get through each new morn—
But is there more to life than dyin’
And will we somehow be reborn?
All the cattle know my hard proddin’
As I lead them along time’s sad way—
We live for but a flashin’ moment,
As we watch life go by in one short day.
So make the best of trails you ride, cowboy—
Each tomorrow is both yours and mine—
And gaze long at stars in that vast sky
Placed there by intelligent design.
It transferred like bequest's constrain;
the ghostly harbor - my sixth sense,
men's goals had died, on lives' expense,
- this notion bothered me again.
Had sent the mail - my filed advice -
the ghosts of gunmen who have died,
on moors they stood yonside old pride,
- the Rider asked his deathly price.
In air he thumped, his rhythm - gust waves;
demanding cruel new death toll;
in town each woman wore black stole,
the 'killed in duel' dwell in graves;
The Rider hummed - our vessel moored
inside this port on Nueces' edge,
much red was shed on cypress sedge
- my instincts sharpened and inured.
Tall stood he on the wharf - I knew
the wind whipped ropes upon head-mast,
- we drew the guns; he lifted fast;
my two guns bucked debt-law to ensue.
I felt the slug - he moved across,
already-a-ghost, on moors he stood;
I tasted blood - got up - I should,
with red drops staining grass and moss.
I saw her standing on the field
amid red poppies and tall trees,
her thought became my holy shield,
bestowed thenceforth, her grace in breeze.
She spread her arms and called me eft,
above the clouds to Astral Halls
athwart stood gunman - fast and deft
in Tombstone, Mobile and Sioux Falls.)
I rolled and lit a Durham smoke
with children watching me round-eyed;
that March, (I thought), a gunman died,
I heard bells' knell and two crows croak.
© G.V. 07-18-2013
(Ballad - Iambic tetrameter)
Sponsor: Poet Destroyer A
Contest Name: Ballad (old/new)
A simple man rode into harvest town
Tall, with sharp features, and a gun
No words were spoken when he walked by
Locale folk feared him and his kind
People here were evil
You could see it in their eyes
They despised the stranger
He had a badge, walked with a swagger
Chance and thirst brought him to the saloon
He placed a dollar down for a bottle of booze
No one moved
When he was done he turned and drew his gun
Two punks tried to shoot him in the back
They lacked the proper aptitude
And their attitude was warped
So they bled out quickly on the floor
The law man moseyed out the door and said
I’m Billy Law
And never looked back
Created on 10/17/14
By: Earl Schumacker
for “Sketch A Character” – Poetry Contest
I’ll go a ridin’ no more through blue stem or chaparral,
Just lead my horse to pastures of green.
I’ll watch those rose ruby suns ease on past the ol’ corral—
Think back on the things I’ve done and seen.
Oh, you can’t go on a ridin’ for all your livelong days—
You’ve got to know when to settle down.
You’ll gently pet your ol’ horse as you put her out to graze
And soon life won’t seem so bad in town.
But when blue bonnets and the high plains send their callin’ card,
Your restless feet start to feel that itch.
Then it don’t matter if you’re stove-up or your butt is lard—
That feelin’ calls to the poor and rich.
Just once more I’ll go a ridin’ in the sorrel and sage—
Testin’ my ol’ horse for all it’s worth.
And I know that time cannot stop me, even at my age,
From ridin’ free of the reins of earth.
When the campfire’s out and you try to sleep,
But things don’t seem just right—
You toss and turn on that ol’ hard bedroll
And see faces in the night.
It just may be dreams or a sense of guilt
That now keeps you wide awake—
It may be bad stew or a wrong you did--
A friend you had to forsake.
You shut your eyes tight and let darkness come—
Pray those faces don’t appear—
But they always come and silently speak
To your conscience and your fear.
You see father’s face like it was those days
And wish you’d both had more time—
To ease all the things that then stood between
Before he died in his prime.
And then there’s the face of your bother Tom,
Who worshipped you like a God—
Till he had fever and you laughed if off—
Then buried him in the sod.
But night always brings another dim face
Of the girl that you loved first—
Before she went and married someone else,
And how your heart about burst..
So when the dawn comes to strike you awake,
And with tired relief you rise—
You still see those faces in sun’s red glare
And know part of you yet dies.
Too soon again bright campfires now burn low,
As the sunset still brings fright—
For you know that sleep is not a good friend
And brings faces in the night.
Sun Furnace desiccating.
Man and Beast moving,
In crazed circles of Corral Mirages
Moisture-less Sky and Land.
Buzzards, certain of,
Meat Jerky repasts.
Timing air currents,
Until the Western Buffet
Is finally stocked.
Dark angel of heartbeating pound,
sixth sense of premonition glide,
kin to his ways and scopes to bound,
steel spurs transmit the word around,
the deathwalk starts on dusty ground,
Smith-Wesson guns, tied down his side
Dark angel of heartbeating pound,
sixth sense of premonition glide.
On deathwalk's noon, with light increased,
the shelling slugs will serve the cause,
hands flash and men attend Death's feast,
(gunfighters tho' had ne'er believed,
that once will be 'mid the deceased);
atrocious are, the drawing laws,
On deathwalk's noon with light increased,
the shelling slugs will serve the cause.
Gunfighter walks on dust, midday,
where forty fours will blossom fire,
his eyes traverse the town's details,
a draw of bluff on deathwalk trail,
will have sixes' to beat, twin play,
black coat, gun belt - and dry briar.
Gunfighter walks on dust, midday,
where forty fours will blossom fire.
© G. V. 11/5/2012 All rights reserved
( Ballad - Triolet )
-LAST DAYS OF OLD BEN-
“See that man up there on the mountain, son?”
“Yeah Pop, why’s he a’jes sittin there starin’ out at nuthin?"
Well, son it ain’t nothin’ he’s seein’…Just nuthin we can’t see, know what I ‘m sayin’?” confused the boy just agreed.
'"He’s a legend, that there Ol’ Ben. From times long past before e’en when I was borned,” Now he just sit’s on his old nag waitin’ for sumthin, just not sure, and can only guess what. They sez Ol’ Ben was a rascal way back when, boozing up moon shine, not carin’ a world fer nuthin’ or no one. Well, Old Ben got caught one day he did, they throwed his sloppy drunk hide in the tank fer a long time.'
'Bet he didn’t care none, he din’ have nuthin to do.
As time went on, Ben got ought’n jail ‘n’ went right back to his thievin’ ways. As we all expected, the law was jus’ bout ready to throw him in the canner and toss the key down inta a well furev'r, when Ol’ Ben he saw something that took the fight right outn’ him ‘n’ made his chest swell.'
'Comin’ round the Sheriff’s desk were the prettiest Southern Bell you ev’r did see, an’ Old Ben dropped his jaw- from that day on…. Ol’ Ben turnt into a man…. He fell in love with sweet Lindsay Lane, banker’s daughter- And they ran off to the range- and lived on what they can'. That little Southern Bell did’t care Ben was a wrangler, she loved him for’ver. But Oh her Daddy’ did care, he put up a fight’ ‘n’ gave reward money if’n someone’d kill Old Ben, you see, but Old Ben was too wiley. He knew… he always knew her Papa wuld git 'em somehow. That Pappy o’ her’s was a pain in the ass, and so they couldn’t never really get away. Rumors ran ‘round town lika a nuthin’, there was gonna be a showdown! Firse light 'n ba’ween Ben ‘n; her Daddy., Soon as that li’ Southern Bell heard, she begged her daddy to leave Ben alone, her daddy wasn’t havin’ it, and Ben knowed that’d be the only way they would be rid of her father.'
'So The mor’n came of the quick draw- I ‘membe, it were misty, foggy that day, culdn' see nuthin'. Both men drew guns walked 100 paces and shot! BAM! N dat was the day Old Ben really did change. Turned a rascal fount love inta a sad sad shell o’ a man..His Southern Bell tied him up in the night, so she would be the one to draw- hopin’ as soon as her daddy saw’ it were her, mebbe he’d let them go. But the anger and fog hid her daddy’s senses, he was a red burstin’, he took’n his pistol he shot. Shot her right in the head, blew the hat off (she wor’d Ben’s clothes) and there in all her glory- blond hair dusted with red.'"
" Welp, her daddy done took his own life, but Ben, Old Ben and that old nag just stayed up in them hills forever- and to this day they visit the place his beloved lost her life.”
Don’t know, can’t fathom eve’, a love that strong, one day you’ll look up there on that mountain and Old Ben will be gone.”
I'll cut you into little pieces,
push you down underground.
I'll let maggots feast on you,
just to see broken flesh.
I'm glad you understand my twisted self,
and you take part of my daily bread.
I'm going to hang you from
the highest star in the heavens,
burning your laughter from your lungs.
I'd be joyful, emotionless,
wreckage not even God Himself can undo.
Underground the maggots chew and chew,
hey girl there I see you.
They say he had three Mothers
The Earth, the Wind, and Water
And His father was the Sun
And the Moon was his daughter
He wore a gun in his belt
With clothing made from hide
As He walked, He made no sound
And never broke his stride
Folks say he was part Cherokee
Others say, part Crow
There wasn't any clarity
There was no way to know
He wore a shiny locket
On the inside of his shirt
That he took out of the pocket
Of a dead Comanche’s' skirt
The feather in his hat
Made the white folk all take notice
And on his belt a sack
With an ancient Aztec Poultice
The myth, was he knew magic
Taught by spirits raised by Shamans
And because His birth was tragic
He was thought to be a Demon
As he passed through our town
The People, looked away
Afraid of being cursed
They where glad he didn't stay
The sun sank in the East
As the wind blew from the West
And he walked in a straight line
Like a man bent on a quest
He climbed up to the foothills
Where the Injuns made their graves
There he raised them from the dead
As he made them all his slaves
No one knew his purpose
For the dead upon that mound
Not at least, until that day
He came back to this town
A lonely rider traversed the sand upon his sturdy mount,
Beneath a sky so filled with stars that no man might ever count.
A dangerous dash across open land on a night without a moon,
A last ditch chance for absolution before his brother hangs at noon.
He pushed on harder than he should until his pony found a rut,
A broken leg and a bullet played it seemed fate had punched him in the gut.
He went on by foot and prayed to God “Please let a stagecoach happen by,
Or a cowboy with a horse to lend, Dear Lord don’t let my brother die.”
“It weren’t he at the house that night that poor Lizzy got herself kilt,
I knowed all too well because it were me, I alone bear up the guilt.”
“I loved her all to sweetly Lord but my affections were each one spurned,
So on that night I took her life and waited for her true love to return.”
I laid in wait to bushwhack the varmit whoever the cur might be,
Along the trail that led to her house behind a big oak tree.
“It were my intention to shoot him down and lay him at her side,
I then seen him on the dapple gray that only my brother’d ever ride.”
“It struck me like a thunder bolt to think that I broke my brother’s heart,
So I lit clean on outa Texas with my hope of making a brand new start.”
“Her pa swore to the judge that my brother deprived dear Lizzy of her life,
Because she told him the night before that she’d never be his wife.”
“It t’were me that he’d heard talkin’ the night that Lizzy passed away,
Now I got to get back to that town, Dear Lord, to have my final say.”
“It seemed that my brother was luckier at love than ever he were at dice,
But I had dashed his hopes each to the rocks and left him to pay the price.”
But as he prayed and walked along a rattler took him by surprise,
And as the poison run it’s course the murderer closed his eyes.
And in his mind he could see his kin dangling from a rope,
So as the snakebite did it’s work he took one last stab at hope.
He drew his buck knife from his boot and opened up his shirt,
To carve out his confession was his aim so with a cry he went to work.
And when they found his body in the morning just a half-mile out of town,
They found the note that he’d carved on his chest, “I shot Lizzy down.”
~A Wooden Cross~
South of Lafayette on interstate 65
I saw a wooden cross.
The roadside monument,
weathered and grey,
was a tribute to a loved one
who lost his life in a car crash.
At 70 mph I only saw it for an instant,
yet it was time enough to see
the cowboy hat that proudly perched
on the weathered wooden cross.
I didn’t know the cowboy nor his wife.
I didn’t attend the funeral.
But for just an instant I felt
both the sorrow and the love that poured
from the weathered wooden cross
with cowboy hat on interstate 65.
A single soldier stayed
To guard against the animal
From digging up the grave
He felt awful for the Injuns
Disgusted by their plight
So from his bag he took a chalk
And upon a stone, did write
These Injuns lie beneath this land
Through no fault of their own
Their only crime, was to take stand
And defend their rightful home
It’s been 12 years since that day
Now the wind blew from the east
A strange scent in the air
Which frighten, all the beast
And with the wind came sickness
A plague upon the town
It left the people, weak and feeble
As the virus spread around
But I alone stayed well
And never once felt ill
But at the edge of town
What I saw gave me a chill
He wore feathers in his hat
And a cloak made of rawhide
But he didn't have his gun
Just a pouch tied to his side
He made his way, straight to me
As I stood there on the walk
Then using broken English
He began to talk
He said that in his sack
There contained an ancient cure
That could make the town's folk free
From all that they've endured
To be continued
Oh, the sun and moon are tickin’
In the nighttime western skies—
A man’s got a lot of ridin’
Till that final day he dies.
He rides his ranch a wonderin’
Just what all this days will bring—
Ponderin’ all his finances
Till he hears the lone wolf sing.
He reckons it’s been a good life
And he would have changed no part—
And remembers those before him
That brings sadness to his heart.
Oh, the sun and moon are tickin’
And he hears that earthly chime—
He only wishes he’d done more
With that thing that’s known as time.
or tired love?
and weak games
Look at you!
Your such a lame!
Me cry?! Ha! Not no more!
Five point five years
What a joke?!
All you do is lie
Keep smoking your life away!
Wake up before its too late!
Before this love turns into hate!
Your too old to act this way!
Your too comfortable
You cant stay!
In my life!
In my way!
Goodbye to you!!!
Oh, the leaves are liquid yellow
As we ride on through Custer Park,
In search of that old Badger Hole:
Home of the poet Badger Clark.
Yes, we come to step back in time—
It’s a historic rule of thumb—
Where the city does not crowd you,
And man can be scattered some.
The old cabin now sits empty—
A last poetic monument—
Proving that words can still live on
Where men have lived and come and went.
WHEN THE DOGWOOD IS IN BLOOM AND THE RANGE HAS TURNED TO GREEN
I WILL RIDE YOUR WAY AGAIN LIKE THE HAPPY VISION IN YOUR DREAM.
WITH THE SUN SHINING ON MY BACK ON THE TRAIL LEADING TO YOUR DOOR
I WILL COME BACK TO YOU ALWAYS IN YOUR HAPPY MEMORIES AS BEFORE.
YOU REMEMBER HOW I WORE MY HAT? SLIGHTLY TILTED TO THE SIDE?
AND HOW I ALWAYS SAT TALL IN THE SADDLE WHENEVER I WOULD RIDE?
I COULD SEE YOU WAITING THERE AND I WOULD SIT TALLER THAN A KING
MY PRIDE WOULD SWELL AND I HAD TO SMILE KNOWING YOU WORE MY RING.
WE SWAM IN THAT LITTLE BLUE HOLE BENEATH THE COTTONWOOD TREES
THEN LAY ON A BLANKET STARING AT THE STARS IN LOVE YOU AND ME.
THE HOURS WOULD PASS LIKE MINUTES AS YOU LAY THERE IN MY ARMS
I THANK GOD EACH AND EVERY DAY YOU GRACED ME WITH YOUR CHARMS.
WE TOOK LONG WALKS HAND IN HAND THROUGH THE FIELDS OF WILD FLOWERS
CHASING COTTONTAIL RABBITS AND RED SQUIRRELS TO THEIR HIGH TOWERS.
WE PUT UP THE CORN IN THE SUMMER AND GATHERED PECANS IN THE FALL
LIFE WITH YOU MY DARLING WAS WONDERFUL AS I ALWAYS WILL RECALL
DON’T WEEP FOR ME BUT REMEMBER THE GOOD TIMES THAT WE HAD TOGETHER
AND RECALL WHEN WE WALKED HAND IN HAND IT WAS ALWAYS FINE WEATHER
SO PUT ON MY COAT AND SIT ON THE PORCH AND CLOSE YOUR PRETTY EYES
I’LL COME RIDING TO YOU WHENEVER YOU WISH JUST WATCH OVER THE RISE.
Though you slipped
from this earth
so long ago
nigh on twenty years
I still feel you
here beside me
Hear your voice
within my soul
As I walk
behind the back chutes
at the Sonoita Rodeo
your ghost elusive
I guess it's true
what the old ones say
about gone but
For You're still here
in heart & spirit
every melody & tune
I dance in memory
(c) September 2002
camera three is having
an existential crisis;
his long languid lens
has suffered in silence,
an impotent shard of
for his vision won’t
focus on faecal injustice,
camera three is having
an existential crisis;
or other devices,
just won’t solve the problem,
or even negate,
this delicate time
in his delicate state,
camera three is having
an existential crisis;
Osiris, Anubis, Oasis and Isis,
have all shed the skin of
guitar band dementia,
wheeling out wisdom
for the fear of inertia,
camera three is having
an existential crisis…
Death rides a pale horse, it is often quoted
to resurrecting bitter memories it is devoted
But the killer of dreams is Brahma dark
and with a twist of its head, hits its mark
I’ve ridden the memories until I’ve about lost count
Sometimes I wonder which of us is actually keeping score
and I’d gladly welcome that pale mount
just to dare to dream once more
© July 2004
Two of Eight
My back’s against the wall
Cold granite above me
Mountain stream to the right
On the left a big ol’ spruce tree
Almost three hours back
I was holed by a shot
Given to me from a Ute rifle
And they want me a lot
My hoss caught one too
He got me to this place
High among the peaks
His final breath to win the race
Once I cussed him
As not worth his feed
But when the chips where down
He proved a most noble steed
I am alone here now
My own personal Alamo
I know here I will die
Only a short time to go
It could be worse though
I have no wife to cry
No young-uns to carry on
No family to notify
All I can do now is
Make them Ute’s earn it
If I have no family to mourn
Let the Ute’s sing of it
I hold no hate for them
For this is their way of life
So I must not show cowardess
When they end my life
For if I must die
As I know I will
I will meet my maker
With my scalp belt full
I have not gone down to death
With out counting my own score
Three of eight dead now
And I plan to take more
My Winchester is empty
That is now matter now
This wont be fought at range
They come for my scalp now
I draw my colts from their holsters
Let them come then!
To bring an end to me!
To bring me home again!
They come for me now
I can hear them now
Just over the ridge
And I know just how
My colts are ready in my hands
I will go as a wolf should
Fighting with my last breath
As only a warrior could
Two of eight now stand looking
At the man who fought bravely
Three of bullet one of arrow have fallen
As two look on gravely
They will not take
This white man’s scalp
Or the brave man’s weapons
It would be no help
Tonight in the Ute lodges
There lifts a warriors song
A man wounded and dying
But still fought on.
(for “Cody” Brunner 1986-2007)
Some said he was just a kid,
Then coming into his prime—
But he had those cowboy dreams
And he knew it was his time.
They said he’d made his mind up
And that some day he’d go far—
He roped, rode and dallied up
His dreams of the PBR.
He woke up on those mornings—
Rode off to the URA—
He was sixth in the money—
Had to ride that bull that day.
There were no words to stop him
That his ma or pa could say—
It was an 8-second fact
He’d ride that big bull that day.
And when the gate was opened,
No bull there could get his goat—
He blew off high and wicked—
The bull came down on his throat.
Oh, there’s little here to add
And not too much left to say—
But Cody went 8 seconds
And he rode that bull that day.
In all our life there’s sorrow—
Things don’t turn out so it seems—
But we hold that rope tighter
As we ride out all our dreams.
A June Night in Rotgut Saloon
In walked Lefty Red behind him lay many dead
into this old dusty town his tired horse had tread
Well known his draw was quick as lightning
his stare deadly cold and so very frightening
Stranger where is the nearest watering hole
getting drunk and riled up is my goal
Ahead 120 paces is our old Rotgut saloon
enter there and you'll get your wish soon
Lefty Red , cold, bitter and as hard as granite
entered and saw a scene like he had planned it
Crowd was loud, rowdy as hell and so very drunk
beer and whiskey flowing , an odor foully stunk
Give me a beer and two shots of your best redeye
send over that sweet blonde philly that I spy
Barkeep did exactly as he was very sternly told
That philly's man was none other than Billy Cold
Billy Cold that had 7 carved notches on his gun
even once cut a man slowly to death just for fun
The stare sent a hard and well understood reply
want this har' woman , get her , jest you try
Lefty Red knocked down whiskey shots and his beer
spun around to show a fastdraw rig , he had no fear
Billy wasted not a second to make his best play
drawed his 45 to make that insulting Lefty Red pay
As his hammer was so very quickly cocked back
his ears heard a loud booming pistol crack
A huge hole suddenly tore open in his chest
a mistake, for Lefty Red was always the very best
Body was calmly , swiftly and carefully taken away
nothing new, this was like just about any other day
Lefty told the piano man to shut up and play a tune
time for the pretty saloon girl and getting drunk soon
Townfolks remember so very well that hot June day
Lefty Red had tested Billy Cold and made him pay
Forty-five slug and justice had caught up with that man
as Lefty Red had for seven, long searching years planned
I wake-up missing you
Last 10-10-07 feels like a dream
But it is so true
I cry until i cant cry anymore
Daddy God has finally open His door
We had you
But we had to let you go
No more pain
No more sorrow
Oneday we will learn to understand
You completed your journey
A boy to a man
A wife and a family
finally you can sleep
im still crying out but i know your soul is at peace.
Paint ponies by the lodge
Turned silver in the moon’s glow
Taste of Mother Earth
Burden baskets hang at the door
They hold many seasons
Of worries & fears
The night owl comes
He sings the death song
Your time here has ended
The West door beckons you
Night Owl grows silent
© March 1984
In Memory of Jacob Michael MacCallister
March 18, 1957 ~ January 26, 1983
A cowboy’s work is never done,
Like Sheppard’s among the sheep
No matter what, up with the sun,
Not really much time for sleep
You stay up all night to help out the weak
Even ones that won’t make it through
Let’s face it, that’s what makes you unique
Without it, you wouldn’t be you
You may not cry when you lose a calf
But it’s not because you don’t care
You hold strong for other’s behalf
And inside you feel only despair
You know deep down you can’t save ‘em all
And it’s not really up to you
It’s never stopped you from hitting a wall
‘Cause that’s what helps pull you through
But instead of giving in you move to another cow
It’s how you know calving season is here
You just step by her side, furrow your brow
‘Cause that’s life out on the frontier
You will always be there for her
That’s what being a cowboy is all about
Stay by her side till her calf is astir
No matter your fears or doubts
And seeing the calves running around
Was worth your all sleepless nights
You watch the play without making a sound
It’s what helps you keep fighting the good fight
There’s an empty place by the campfire
That no one had noticed before—
Once filled with poems and old stories
About the Old West and its lore.
I can still hear the tin cups clanking,
The soft sipping of the hot joe—
All the tunes of the old Chisholm Trail—
Things only a cowboy would know.
The fire’s warm but somehow we’re still cold,
By what’s gone from our fire and heart—
We know the loneliness soon leaves us—
All the things of this earth will part.
But now all our voices are hollow
And there’s a void left by the flame—
New riders will soon fill that old place,
But somehow it won’t be the same.
There’s an empty place by the campfire
And all of us know that it’s there—
We know that ours will be empty, too,
When there’s no more stories to share.
I did not drive the roan that day,
Just saddled up my old dark bay,
To check out fences far afield
And breathe in life with all its yield.
Near border’s end I came upon
A fresh, dead cow down by the pond.
I wondered why it had died here
With water and spring grass so near.
I spurred my horse and reined away
But something said that I should stay—
I creaked down from my saddle’s reach
And saw the cow had died in breech.
I knew they should be buried soon,
By light of day or dark of moon.
I left them there, that calf and cow
And rode back home in thought somehow.
I had forgot that scene of death
Till summer quickly took my breath
And once again I passed that shell
Of twisted skin and faded smell.
The worms had done their work it seems
On frenzied flesh and faltered dreams.
Yet, still I stared like at a grave—
Thought how we took but seldom gave.
Then autumn came and tinted trees
With colors each low creature sees.
So on my horse I sought them out,
To answer what this life’s about.
A mute Madonna—sticks of bone,
Still nestled there so all alone.
We live and die, the season’s dawn,
We’re all breech born before we’re gone.
In winter’s wind the world turns cold
As cow and calf and man grow old.
Yet, now there’s no sinew or hide
To hint of life or what’s inside.
Death’s passion passed and so did I
To pay respects and say goodbye.
For man and beast all die as kin—
I will not ride this trail again.
Oh, he rides though forest, he rides now through the hills—
The Pox Man is coming and he kills and he kills…
He lays waste to the red man and the white man, too—
He brings that soft darkness to both me and to you.
It may come with blankets; it may come with his horse—
It marks and gives you fever to run out its course.
He’s a tall, solemn scarred man that fills you with dread—
He may spare you your life or he’ll leave you for dead.
Oh, turn from the Pox Man – to him you do not pray,
His mercy is random, he has little to say.
He will ride off now soon - touch the weak with his breath—
He’s giver and taker – yes, we know him as death.