Rancher’s Death

 

Bend

his back

straight

as a buffalo

lance, curve

his mouth

like a strung

bow, push

the lanky jasper’s brown

Stetson beyond

the hairline,

cross the booted

legs, steal

the flyswatter

from his hand.

 

Have the heavier men,

who tote their weight

well above

their turquoise

trophy buckles,

remove him

from the bunkhouse

and promenade

past the creamery, butcher

shop and blacksmith.

 

Let the wintering

cattle range

with the shorebirds

and sharp tailed

grouse. Empty

the corrals

and loading chutes.

The longhorns

are due

a holiday.

 

Carry him

over choppy

sandhills ignored

by wheezing

winds in dead

river beds. Trace

the reservoir’s north

bank, teeming

with wild swans,

gulls and pelicans.

Cross sudden

little creeks

and half

hidden spring

runs that support

trout, pike

and beaver.

 

Take him on

to Wild Horse Hill

where the Dismal

and Niobrara should

have merged,

plunge him

into a sand

crater where

cottonwood and box

elder roots

droop from the cavity

walls like split hairs.

 

Say

an old Native

prayer:

there is dust from the whirlwind   

there is dust from the whirlwind

the whirlwind on the mountain

 

And then

old riders,

with thick

torsos and slim

hips, walk home

hushed as a November

herd and listen

for his body

creaking like good

saddle leather

beneath the trail.

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