Tried and True
Sire, sibling, uncle plus a friend,
One at a time, avalanche with no end,
Blood feud genesis, each insisting,
Pressing, unavoidably persisting,
He, never attacking, was victorious,
Always. Shallow triumphs, injurious
To his future, the sum of their cost
The dear one he'd protect, he lost,
The wages of his gun in the streets.
A dusty heat, smiled its remorse,
The capricious breeze, (both horse
And his taciturn friend washed in
Its dehydrating aridity), Austin
Stockyard born and bred, a smell
Its own, gave no relief to a well
Traveled rider or his pal, Jake,
Save for the thought of a steak,
A bath, whisky and clean sheets.
Old Tucson, with a menacing past,
Was far away and he on his last
Legs, (unwilling that his repute
Should ruin a t-bone cut to suit
A king, thick, au jus), decided
To go in at dusk. Want, (presided
Over an irregular kingdom used
To forced abstinence), unloosed
Mirages of a buffet's sweetmeats.
The expected storm, hit with fury,
Stale animal sweat, a bad brewery
To the nose, streaked them both
Long before the livery. A troth,
Real and unspoken, Jake first
Attended to, unsaddled, nursed,
Rubbed and fed, before he, wet
Chaps unbuckled, poncho to let
Dry, then his own hunger's treats.
Six bits for the room, and another
For supper, a robust gal, Mother
Hulda, proprietor and chief cook,
(Morning maid and whatever it took
To make the place go, except for
Entertainment, there, the scepter
Of the queen drew the line) knew
Him, for years knew him to be true
To his word in a world of cheats.
The few who called him Owen Lister,
Were good friends; to most, mister,
And they said it with a broad smile
For it was wisdom, best not to rile
A latent ferocity! Whether daytime
Or dark, kicking the dog's a crime,
If terrified of a bark! When alone,
He was left alone, visage of stone
The norm, not a companion one greets.
Belly content, full and now, aglow,
Nursing a half-tumbler of Old Crow,
The aches, from weeks in the saddle
(Worse than those a longhorn cattle
Puncher endured in spring), bespoke
Age, a body whose bones he broke
More than once and poorly treated
Too often, in winter to be heated
Cold nights, when neuralgia mistreats.
His movements belied pain present
At all, fluid, feline-like, absent
Hints of the loss of coordination
Between hand and gun...degradation,
If even miniscule, a death knell.
Yet, he knew, only time would tell
Before one of the neophytes, fame
On his mind, imbibed bravado, came
For a finale to his life's defeats.
Death was not something he feared,
Shunned or thought of. It appeared
As an inevitable, life's opposite
And equal gift, to him, requisite
Revanche, a preordained conclusion.
It was not an unwelcome intrusion,
Nothingness was better than pain.
Loneliness was such an old refrain
From it every man at last retreats.
Compromise was not a mastered art
In him, he operated as if the part
To blend the blacks and whites fate
Capriciously left out, or was late
Developing. Life, right or wrong,
Up or down, simpler for the strong-
Willed, he took as it came, trouble
Head on. He'd burst many a bubble
Blown his way, to forestall repeats.
Glass at the dregs, luxury of a bed
Calling, the morrow's recital ahead,
The fresh smell, usual night sounds,
Digestive apathy, beneficent bounds
Blessing the moment, checking Jake,
His drying gear for safety's sake,
Before first light, he'd ride out
East, where he could stop, in about
A weeks ride, after energy depletes.
Two days, a hundred miles, eastward,
Camped for the night, last westward
Rays of a crimson sky, bidding adieu
To the day, tossing last of the few
Dregs in the pot, on a hissing fire,
He reflected on what others admire
In hearth and home, family, friends,
The same place to lie when day ends,
Loved ones...the pulse a heart beats.
How did he, to an insociable place
And time, come effortlessly, a pace
Not directly his choosing? Emotion
Was not foreign to him! The devotion
Of a young heart he had given to one
Who had returned it, she was the sun
Of his universe, he, her joy of life.
But for her father, she'd be a wife,
Mother of children...his love treats.
To the victor the spoils? The more
The victor, the more he lost. Score
His love, her family, lost, the sin
Not actions, guilt feelings within.
Others came, died. A saving defense,
Non-existent, although the offence,
Not his. Was he not defending? Right
Of might, right of life, which plight
Championed? What rogue Fate unseats?
A week from Austin, into The Glade
He rode, alert. The thud, (sound made
Known a split second before the shot
Rang out, Jake, yawing right to spot
The source), he never heard. The lurch
Dumped him, he knew it not. A church
Of green, his last and first. Crime,
To Jake, a new rider, to the man, time
Unmeasured by watch or handgun feats.
So died Owen Lister, a serious man
On the errand, some won't understand.
How should his being true to the Right,
End in death?. Metaphysical insight
Infers that ends which turn out wrong,
From improper means all along,
Thus, "Tried and True", may be untrue.
Destiny, gunman or saint faces up to,
Else a fool his own future defeats.