as young as I was.

“etta, I can’t stay here, I just can’t”

amelia shook her bag full of curses
as her sister watched with a glassy stare
the days of hill-hiding couldn’t fulfill her
need to wander, to explore, to discover

“he’ll find you out there, is that what you want?”

she knew the answer as soon as she said it
and she didn’t know if she wanted that knowledge
to remain or be scraped from her ears

“don’t breath a word to the others,
there will be hell to pay -“

“they know you better than you, they guessed.”

and the sentence fell like a rope in the sand;
they guessed, and let her go
was it banishment or relinquishment?
her crystal heart ached to know, but
it belonged in the palms of a cowboy,
sat in the brush a mile away, horses ready –

“I’ll write to you, just let me figure myself out,”
amelia promised, a certain magic in her words,
and even etta felt them this time.
a mournful sigh left the room, escaping into the
arid wind that awaited her sister.

“don’t address it to everyone,” she started
but she was smothered in lilies and spring water
and cinnamon, cascade of hair around her.

“I’ll miss you,”
was the message,
one etta kept forever

and as the witch went to her
gunslinger, she wondered if things
would spin or turn on themselves

still bet on you.

fifteen years, dirt and dust
crystals and summoning circles
a bar fight or nine,

there is always a wager against us
eyes avoiding the truth
roulette bets, the pot grows higher
a revolver or three, always there

but we have the queen up our sleeve,

we still have the aces in our boot,

what is high noon to the occult,
what is a full moon to a cowboy;

they say love has no boundaries,
but I say we wrote our own

is that why they don’t come ’round anymore?
you think this old woman is going to
let wolves prowl my territory?

married for a reason,
no sheep live under our roof –

so it is written,
so it will be

hear no evil.

cacti grew where none wanted to
shading a chicabiddy from her blazing sun;
frozen nights in the desert
warded off by wolves and weredeer

shy by the morn
ravenous by the night,
stalking ewes and dewy-eyed dames
rough and tumble outside city limits

child of tumbleweeds and hawk teeth
he buries his knowledge
in the cavern he calls den
as silent as the world he was born into

the whisper of the wind
doesn’t reach his ears, but touches
his fingers, licks his lips
navigating his path with confidence –

clint dwells in the gloaming of the
hills, his reach across the west
like roots from the mother tree;
morsels sought on his behalf

the chilling tales that circled
the taverns told of beasts and men
that fell to the hum of a man
who could tell the vibrations of the earth
from those of the sky,

fear begat fear, begat a hunt
they wanted to tame their demon,
saddle him with a leash,
but you don’t merely clip the wings –

the trek through the hills rang
with the screeches of sodomy,
and ended with the shrill cries of
the vultures, waiting for their turn.

and if you walked into the clearing
where they had all fallen to their knees,
entranced as they waited for their turn,
you would see the blind stare of clint –

the slow trickle of a lost bandit down his chin,
and he spoke his first words;
“it feels better biting down”

replenished ru(i)nes.

the sounds of cocked barrels
clicked like heels outside the doors,
while a coin rolled over the knuckles
of a rune-etched hand;

“you’re above the bend, now!”
heidi hummed a fiddler’s tune
over the sound of the male ego outside,
black-eyed susan tapping a tune
against the rafters she sat in.

“honey, you’re two throws
from the boot-yard,” she sang,
and her eyes rested over
her cardinal, tucked against the wall;

“look me in the eye and say that again” –
peering down through the dust lay a
man or three, not a tail feather left
of what they used to be in this life –

old world burns in the palm of her hand
made heidi wince as the barn doors rattled,
not unlike the breath of the ghosts
she had paid the mightiest price to –

wood splintered and cracked open
lead battering down her line of defense,
and the line riders filed in
like lemmings to an abyss;

glyphs crackled with lightning,
mauling the chests and faces like bears
a handful milling outside, a shot or two
fizzing by pointed ears, her ghastly lips

heidi dug a heel into the raft and aimed
with the casual glance of a master shot;
six shots and six thuds later
her teeth sunk into the breasts

of the gamblers who bet their lives,
leeching life to her fingers, warmth
flowing from them like a hot bath
in a snow storm;

“need a farm one of these days,”
she muttered, abandoning another

who really lost?

if I had a heart
it would never love you
instead, it would hog-tie you
and run the pony express 
over the face that left
my voice cold and gold;
as expressionless as
the pity you gave me –

you haunted me
savage rumbles underneath
my bed frame, and
even my shotgun
only made you flinch,
left me with little choice
but to befriend the wolves –

so if I had a heart,
it would tell you to die
sell your self to sin
for even the devil
can’t stand your presence;
but my heart was gambled away
and so I will settle
for observing the dust
making its home on your grave