Return of the Killer
She'd had other lovers, yes, but they were all
dead. I remember that day he rode into town again.
Two empty saddles and their puzzled horses came after.
His Winchester was warm and damp; a little smoke
clung still to his thighs. The door
to the barber's shop was open on account
of the heat, the flies buzzed about
the grated flesh, from time to time the blue blade
danced and dashed against a leather strip
for whetting. His boots
made the boards creak as he stepped
across the undertaker's threshold
and then he made his orders. Across the street,
she was drinking alone in a corner of the saloon,
the chairs upside down upon the tables, her hair
was coming loose. He was weary
but everyone knew his odour, so he had to go on.
Children looked up at him reluctantly and dogs
lowered their ears. He put his back to the sun
and started to walk. A boy stood out in the blaze
before him, eating at his lower lip. He stopped
and drew without thinking. He saw the boy
blink at the metal's rasp from holster to hand, one shot
smeared his face. He came up close and pushed the barrel
into his shivering ear, once more for mercy.
She went to the window and watched
the slow dust coil back to normal. She remembered his kiss
that first evening, when he was a stranger.
Published by Envoi. Also as a single sheet by Bernard Stone and Raymond Danowski of Turret in '92; and, in 2015, as an illustrated version by Roncadora Press.
'a poem outstanding for the sustained brutality of the narrative, full of vivid physical detail, and facets of disarray' - Pauline Stainer