The End of the Road

I’ll say my farewells now, my old cayuse
   lying there on your side,
   no longer any use,

who was my lone companion and my ride.

From dawn to dusk I perched astride your saddle
   to rope a steer or drive
   those restless, lowing cattle

across the country. How can I revive

a horse that can’t rise up? You were as spryful
   as any foal for years.
   Now I must use my rifle,

the Winchester that rang inside your ears

when it frightened off a coyote, mountain lion,
   or silenced rattlesnakes.
   We slept beneath Orion

on autumn nights and plowed through whiteout flakes.

You heard the songs I sang to soothe the drove.
   Now I will hum a song
   to one who’ll never rove

again across the Plains. You’ll not last long.

I heard your labored breaths all through the night.
   You know I’ve always done
   what needed doing. Fight

no more! It’s dawn. I’ve put away my gun.


(Co-winner of Lighten Up Online's Competition 50: Horse Lines.)