this one's for Sam.
the new oak door swings open wide
and The Cowboy walks on in
his spurs jangle like sleigh bells
and each line on his face burns
with marks of shame and sin.
"whiskey, straight," The Cowboy growls,
and slowly pulls a stool up
he takes the glass in one hand
holds it up to the light
and gestures to an empty cup.
smiling, The Barkeep pours
until the glass is again full
The Cowboy takes a breath and shoots back
"let me tell you about a girl," he says
"whose name was Lilli Schull."
"i killed her so many years ago,
but i've never loved again."
he pauses now to close his eyes
and dig so deep behind his heart
"the nights were so much warmer then."
he told the three of us a story
me, The Barkeep, and his glass
of the unfaithful woman who he found
in the bed of a man not a cowboy at all
so he filled them both with brass.
"and now the law's coming for me,"
he exhales with a sigh,
"and I pray to God to spare my soul,
for in spite of all these long, hard years,
I'm unprepared to die."
The Cowboy stands back upon his boots
drops a ten upon the bar
he tips his hat with a "thank you, sir,"
and begins his walk back to the winter
but doesn't make it far.
"it's just a metaphor," he says
"for i ain't never taken life.
but if a man were to come to me
and try to take what wasn't his,
my horse, my home, or my wife,
i'd defend it with my heart and soul
until my final dying breath."
The Barkeep looks up to The Cowboy
and says "sir, you don't understand:
that's a different sorta death."
The Cowboy laughed and walked along
"i believe you may be right."
the door again swings open wide
letting winter back against my skin
and The Cowboy disappears into the night.
The Barkeep opens a brand new bottle
and pours himself a drowning drink
he looks at me and says "listen, boy,
ignore what that old cowboy says.
his is not the way to think.
he's not a man of this time or place,
his path not narrow nor is it straight."
The Barkeep blinks, looks to the door,
and continues underneath his breath, saying
"he was born a century too late.
only three things in this life count:
your drinks, your peace, your love.
and just like hard rain," The Barkeep says,
lifting his eyes toward the heavens,
"they'll all come from above."