(from Getting Up S'Only Easy for the Sunrise)
for Steven J. Hooker
As we watched the sheriff win a gunfight with a man
whose life probably didn’t pan out the way he had hoped,
collapsing face down under the high noon,
my father shares the film’s sentiment of justice served.
But once the lawman says what little he needed to
and trots his journey back to where he lays his head
I couldn’t help wondering what he was returning to.
If, at every sunset he rode into, every lone cactus
and tumbleweed he passed, he would see the faces
of the men he turned to belt notches
staring at him like cattle before supper; spurs sunk in the soil,
boots worn as if running was all they had known.
Or, after leaving her more times than chambers emptied,
whether his wife considered him a dead man;
not so much to prevent his silhouette
from appearing in every lantern flicker
or the bodies propped up in the mortician’s window
from resembling him,
but more a shooting star wish to spare his soul
from the duty that made his heart as hard as a badge.
Before the final shot faded into credits
I turned to my father and asked, who really won?
And with a stern look and a blank stare,
he replied, the man with a clear conscience.