I am the place where
hooves join dirt
where fur and flesh
meet and cut apart
I was with Sacagawea
when she died
young and fevered
on the old Missouri bend,
of Louis & Clark’s
of undone secrets
and untread roaming.
In 1810 I rode west along the rails
pounding stakes and carving tunnels
like John Henry,
laying the future down as I went
ley lines etched upon the earth
a treasure map to success, excess, and ruin.
Between Fort Laramie and Soda Springs
I spent six years inside a young man’s skull
refuged in the tatter-shade of wagon canvas,
his body picked clean by carrion crew
bleached white death in the glamor of the sun.
Black Hill bounties and typhoid fever
and all along The Trail of Tears we left
teeth and feet and bones a-plenty
fire to fuel the extinction hunger;
yet I survived the genocide
and settled east and easy
playing joker guns
in old west shows,
folding cards with bullets
strewn drunk and loose.
In those years,
half a hundred
claimed to be me
or Buffalo Bill
or Wild Bill Hickok
or Calamity Jane
And again we lived
upon the silver screen
in faded jeans and
Head them off at the pass!
Indians coming ’round the bend!
We got wagons to burn
and Dance, boy! Dance!
and in Larry and James and Cormac and Louis
in Leone and Ford and Peckinpah
and in the roaming endless desert sunsets
that you can find here still
in the far and lonesome West.
And if you listen close,
you can still hear my very voice
when the sun crashes down upon the plain
in a red-orange riot that sends the day away singing
and draws the night over the earth
in a shroud of star studded death,
hear my whisper and heed my words:
I am the West
and I am the East
I am blood slicked gold
and the haze of the sun
I am death and misadventure
and I have secrets still