I have a really difficult time expressing myself–my emotions, my thoughts, my knee-jerk inner reactions. If I do they don’t exactly come out right. I tend to follow the proverb that says “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” [Proverbs 17:28 ESV]
Sometimes poetry allows me to compact those feelings and thoughts into verse; to say them in a way that if you really want to hear, you will. I guess that way if you don’t understand, but you at least thought it sounded nice, my heart won’t be hurt too bad.
I dedicate the following to my dear brother and old friend, Greg Tomlinson. As we used to say…here, there, or in the air. Ever hopeful.
No One Dies Today
Sittin’ in the town saloon
sippin’ rot gut whiskey and
gnawin’ on stale bisquits
(I’m here more for the show
girls than the fine dining),
contemplatin’ how to keep
my homestead from goin’ under
and my bride of twenty-plus dyin’.
See, the Creek’s dried up.
Most scattered to the four winds
after the incident with the sheriff.
Some folk went to meet their Maker early on,
two widowed school marms
left living on both ends of town,
and I get a telegram
from the deputy ever’ now and then.
So in busts an old friend so hard
them swingin’ doors knocked
the dust off the rafters.
We used to ride the trail together
followin’ the Trail Boss
through desolate places,
searchin’ for them green pastures;
fought side by side in the Great War
behind the General
sendin’ the enemy back to where he’d come.
And he called me out
out of the blue,
ready with a pack mule loaded
with shotguns and scatter guns,
Gatlings and pistols and sabers–
an arsenal set for battle.
(He always was a straight shooter.)
Now I only had my old six shooter
with but only one bullet
and I hadn’t shot in years.
I used to could push heads
through tails of a fake gold
piece at three and sixteen paces,
but my hands are a bit unsteady now
and my eyes ain’t what they used to be.
And when I looked him in the eye
I recognized them;
I knew them
as the same angry ones I stared at
in the mirror every morning
with a straight razor to my throat
contemplatin’ the stubble.
I wanted to raise a toast
with a glass of house red,
praise the Trail Boss, the General,
sing the songs of the cattlemen,
and share a bit of hard tack,
a reminder of our days on the trail;
but I think he’d lost his taste for it
and I couldn’t find my saddlebag.
I felt a lump in my gut and
a tear push through my dry eyes
as he road off to the west,
but all that spilled out was dust
and a fond “See you on the other side,”
a whispered echo
from my dry and thirsty throat.
Copyright © 2016 Scott Daniel Massey