He stood there in the streetlight looking somber,
I didn't know whether to trust him or to run;
his eerie shadow stretched long on the pavement
I saw beneath his duster the glint of a gun.
The night air held a chill upon the breeze,
the blood within my veins came close to jell;
but warmth began to flow as his lips parted
and as he spoke I fell under his spell.
He told me he was a wanted man out west,
close to Pima County he was framed.
He said, "I shot a man in self defense,
but gunned him down in cold blood, the sheriff claimed."
"Can you find it in your heart to help me out, Mam?
I need a place to stay to hide away,
I promise you I'll hit the road tomorrow
before the sunrise greets another day."
I looked into his whiskered face and stuttered,
"Just so happens there's a place out back,
at the edge of the field behind my house.
It's nothing but a tidy little shack."
He said, "That be fine, Mam, thank you kindly."
He jumped in back of my old Ford pickup truck.
I dropped him off at the shack and headed home
but I hollered back at him and wished him luck.
Because I figured that's the last time I'd see him
and I was right because no sign of him by dawn;
not a ruffled sheet left of his presence,
like a dream he was there and now was gone.
Fifteen years had passed before I knew it
since the whiskered stranger in the night,
I wondered if he might've been a phantom
and if that sheriff shot him in his last gunfight.
August 7, 2013
Copyright © 2013 H. L. Smith