You arrived with leather skin and six bags,
grey eyes hitting targets and a bounty
fit for a rebel.
Deadwood floods with gold rush wagons, slicked and sun-bleached.
A one sparrow panic stalks me like coyotes in the grass.
I imagined a horse in the stable for you,
broke saddle straps and the rugged gateway—
That you’d come back smelling of bur oak and hazel.
Aces and eights, Wild Bill your legend was a single hand
I didn’t see.
Do they remember to mention, when they tell the tale,
that you were shot in the back?
The valley woke with murder in the wheatgrass, gunwake
rising through the Black Hills like whale song.
The bullet met the pith,
a plume of gunpowder rose from the bone
I thought of the baker’s hands dusted with flour—
……….I wore your blood out the door,
my hand seized a meat cleaver.
A thousand times I hit true in my mind, more than a thousand,
and I chased your killer without my gun.
In the badlands once, we ate birds you picked off from horseback,
the grouse heart tasted bitter like Shadbush berries.
Years from now I’ll be buried beside you,
between borders and fault lines, that taste reminds me.