Go Heeled

Again, something a bit different, again something the same. I have written yet another new piece that is at one and the same time a departure from my usual voice but at the same time is revisiting a theme that I often find myself contemplating. I tried writing this one in a simpler, cleaner style than I usually do, no “cascade” of words as one person has said to me on several occasions. I have this little stumbling block in my head sometimes where I don’t think it’s poetry unless the images and metaphors are stumbling around each other, giving a lot of my work a breathless, rushing delivery. That’s fine, but I need to start branching out I think, put a few more tricks in the old bag, or perhaps dust some old ones off. I used to write in a more sparse style, but at the time I felt I was alway using someone else’s voice. Now I am not so sure I can’t use both voices from time to time.
The revisiting bit is going to be familiar to many who have kept up with the blog and perused my body of work. Once again I found myself thinking about warriors, killers, and what might make them. In this particular case it is kind of a rumination from the point of view of an old gunslinger. This is partly because I have been taking in some old westerns, namely “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales” but also because I have done the Norse/Vikings to death a bit. So this is just another mediation in a sort of continuous stream of thought I keep having and one motif in particular I can’t let go of which is what happens when the warriors get old. What do you do with an old killer? I don’t know if this even comes close to answering any of that, or even how well it does as a thought along those lines. I leave you, the readers, as always to be the judge of how well a piece works. So, woot further preamble, as this has gone on far too long already, I will leave you with the poem itself. I hope you enjoy it, cheers all.

“So, you think you’re the one
to do it?”
Another young firebrand
Pistols dancing low
On hips
A fine rig,
Silver chased leather
New spurs
A tall hat
With turquoise in the hat band
All dressed up for posterity
One way or the other.

Was that ever me
I wonder
So full of bravado
Eager to hand out death
Cards to be dealt
Let ’em fall where they may.
I never meant to be
Never thought myself
A gunfighter
Despite all the tales
That ran about my head
I left the farm
With Ma’s kisses fresh
Still wet on my brow,
Pa’s parting twenty dollars
In pocket
Palmed in that first time
Only time handshake
That meant I was a man
All wide eyed hungry
Ready to take the big new world
In fistfuls.

I went heeled
Of course
You just did
When the only
Law you could trust
Was the iron
Riding your belt
It was all rough ‘n tumble
A raggedy line
Making the shores
Of a new dreamed nation
With the tide
Rolling to the west.

That first one
Pure luck
He was drunk
Me, not quite as
I would have paid
For the damn drink
But the whiskey already
Thick in his veins weren’t
Havin’ none of it,
His blood hot
Filled his head with fire
He filled his fists
Just too short of mine
Smoke poured
Out of his skull
Along with his blood and brains.
They said t’were a fair deal
He drew, I got the drop
Said it was justice
I never was really sure on that.

I never went lookin’
But trouble
Just followed my boot heels
A stray dog
Panting down dusty roads
It’s bark
Sounded like
The retort of a muzzle
Sharp, short, final
Just like a dog
I left piles of bones
Buried all over.

For a bit
I had me a tin badge
Said “Marshall”
Keeping some kinda law
In towns
That don’t exist no more
Still, law or not
I know I was
Just as bloody
As the desperate men
Deemed outlaw
A glass of whiskey
More or less
Is what separated
The good, the bad,
The dead.

I drifted
On one side of the law
Or the other
Whichever way the wind
Turned my head.
I shot a preacher
Down in Texas
If he woulda’ only
Let go of the damn cross
Had to break his damn hand
While his eyes
Looked their nothing at me.

Worked the railroad
For a spell
Drove or rustled cattle
Whether I was flush or skint.
No matter where I went
My name rode into town ahead
A bloody song
Leaving hills of boots
In my wake
Each time some new Johnny
Felt he wanted
To be a man.
They all just ended
Dead boys with nothing eyes.

Never did think
I’d get here
Face is a beaten duster
Cracked leather
Eyes squint closed
Still damn sharp though
I woulda’ figured
A noose or a bullet
Had my name
I was always just
A little faster
A little harder
Meaner, luckier
Which in the end
Is all you need
A bit more
Than the other fella.

Maybe this kid
Has that bullet
My name on it
Hiding in the wheel
Of that Schofield
Maybe it should be
God Himself
Living with all these
Lookin’ glass
Nothin’ eyes
Just staring
Forever and ever and ever
I just can’t stare back
Any more.

Things run their course
Rivers, love,
A good run at cards
Men like me
Won’t have no place
What was wild has been tamed
The back of the west broken
The frontier crashed into the pacific
No one goes heeled much
They either got civilized
Or got dead
I could be
The last hard man
This kid could
Be the one
To put me to bed
With my boots on
Under a six foot dirt blanket.

I don’t think so
Not yet
He’s not standing right
Hands at his side
Cocky lil’ shit
About an inch
To far
And it all comes down
To inches
Mine are at rest
Caressing curves
I know better
And trust more
Than any woman
Not this time
Not this kid.

But I see them
All behind him
Little boy men
Looking for a reputation
In a smoking hole
In my chest
My blood their X
In the history books
Stretching out the saloon door
All the way to kingdom come
Or till my name
Barks at me
Like that God damn dog.
Best to get it done,
Either way this plays
I think I’m losing.

“Alright kid
we can do this
just let me finish my hand”.


8 Responses to “Go Heeled”

  1. yoda ole lady who Says:

    put a few more tricks in the bag
    now that’s the write answer!

  2. Like the change back. I like your new stuff too. Write what you feel, that is what always sounds best.

  3. emisformaker Says:

    I like it. Strong imagery and characterization. Maybe revisit where you’re making line breaks, since it reads a bit choppy in my head. Save the single, short lines for real impact – like gunshots – but think about making the rest a mite prose-ier?
    Just MHO.

  4. Y. I. Ottah Says:

    vikings and gunslingers

  5. frozen nome Says:

    stepping outside the box provides more exciting territory to investigate
    surrender fears of judgement
    look around then respond from the heart
    everyone gets to be surprised

  6. t w's rinkled fan Says:

    time for you to expand musical horizons
    nashville 2.0
    americana music
    be inspired
    compose lyrics again
    remember the compromise
    good lyrics share their story with an inspired sound track

    yours in frozen aspect

  7. legs crossed waiting calmly Says:

    affix a video cam to your head
    sneak up on family and friends
    while recording, blurt out a surprise phrase like “beeble de bobble!”
    watch the resulting footage
    listen to determine how many times the surprisee
    mis-identifies you
    as a religious icon

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