Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Crumbling Cliff

The Crumbling Cliff
--a magnificent poem by Latigo Flint
(periodically interrupted)

We stood as men, without fear,
seven abreast on a crumbling cliff.
We shared a smoke, but the wind took most,
and not one of us thought of home.

(We knew this to be true because we queried each other on that very topic.
"Hey Dan Tallows!" It was big Fackles Smith who broke the silence.
"Yeah Fackles?" Came Dan's reply.
"You ain't thinkin' 'bout home are you?"
"Heck no Fackles, I ain't thinkin' 'bout home."
"Good, good." Fackles grunted. "Neither am I." He looked around. "Is anyone thinkin' of home?"
Silence for a moment until Tipperson Gentry piped up.
"Hell Fackles, I don't even know what that word means anymore."
The rest of us grumbled our admiration and heartily clapped Tipperson's frail back.)

We checked our guns with steady hands
and sneered so the sky could see.
Then tugged our hats, shading dangerous eyes
and polished buckles resplendently.

(Cavanaugh Weathers blinked in astonishment and pointed at Chappy Swede’s belt.
"Good god gentlemen." Cavanaugh blurted. "I know we've got urgent, deadly business to attend to, but take a moment and see at how shiny Chappy Swede has managed to get his belt buckle!"
We crowded around Chappy Swede’s belt buckle and softly whistled when we saw how shiny it was.)

We mounted up, crossed ourselves
and aimed steeds at the setting sun.
Across the chaparral a coyote wailed
as if it knew war had begun.

(Blaine Norton grunted and jerked his chin out at the desert.
"That wolf's even lonelier than we is, huh Latigo?"
I frowned and tugged my horse to a halt.
"That weren't no wolf Blaine, that there was a coyote."
"Um, I don't think so Latigo, I'm pretty sure I know a wolf when I hear one."
The others noticed we had stopped and they doubled back to see what the trouble was.
"What's going on?!" Fackles Smith demanded. Blaine gestured to the desert.
"Did 'yall hear that wolf howl a moment ago?"
Fackles scratched his temple and looked at Tipperson. "I don't believe there's any wolves 'round these parts, is there?"
Tipperson Gentry shook his head. "Nope, don't think so." He pointed at Blaine. "I'll bet it was a coyote you heard."
I tried not to look too smug as we nudged our horses and rode on. Blaine scowled and spent the next hour mumbling to himself.)

We charged a storm of lead, limbs torn,
then sank trembling to the ground.
We bade farewell to sweethearts known,
and those as yet unfound.

(But each of us was careful not to let the other fellers know we were trembling as we died.
“Hey Chappy Swede!” Cavanaugh Weathers called out after some time had passed.
“What do you want Cavanaugh?” Came Chappy Swede’s low reply.
“You aren’t trembling are you?”
“No… I’m, uh… I’m laughin’ actually.”
“Right. So am I. Hey, we’re pretty tough, ain’t we Chappy Swede?”
But there was no reply--Chappy Swede had died. He was not the last.)


At 10:27 PM, Blogger Cindy-Lou said...

I think I'm crying. Actually crying. I can't know for sure, as this is the first time I've ever cried.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I hate those people who pronounce "poem" as "poim."

Like they're so smart they know what a dipthong is.

It's POE-ehm. Poem.

At 5:56 AM, Blogger Peter said...

Now that was a great POME Latigo.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Monkeypotpie said...

You rhymed 'resplendently'...

Impressive. Fine work, sir!

I would also like to say that you should be in charge of supplying names to every character in every western made from this point on.

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Ghost Dog said...

Magnificent. Like Jerome Bettis plowing over defenders in the driving snow.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Old Horsetail Snake said...

Did you know it is still possible to visit Zane Grey's cabin on the Rogue River of Oregon? That's where he wrote this story. (Except for the part about wolves and coyotes. Zane didn't believe in coyotes.)

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Captain Kyle said...

Yes, that was indeed a super poem, my friend.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger MJ said...

That scene reminds me of something I witnessed happen here in San Francisco last week. Of course, I was in my bed and dreaming, but... I definitely was in San Francisco.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

That's the brand of poetry I can endorse without any loss of machismo. Thanks for that.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Iconoclast Zach said...

Nicely done, Latigo. I would say that it's a bit heavy-handed in lambasting male posturing, but clearly that isn't what it's about at all. It's clearly about manliness and glory, and anyone who says otherwise is asking to be called a sissy.

At 12:45 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Cindy-Lou, I'm very honored to have been your first. (You aren't going to get all emotionally attached and clingy now, are you?)

My pronunciation is a bit different LBB--I actually pronounce "poem" as "lurching demon song". But that's just me.

Thank you Peter--some nights the lurching demon songs just seem to come to you, know what I'm sayin’?

The funny thing Monkeypotpie, I'm actually quite proud of that one. (And I agree with you on the second too. To whom do you think I should send my demand?)

I had old J.B. in my mind's eye the entire time Ghost Dog. Jerome and I are both gray ghosts you know.

Zane believed in buckskin and purity though Old Hoss. That's why I'm willing to forgive him the whole coyote thing.

Captain Kyle of the infamous McStravicks!!! You yet live. My heart is warmed, warmed do you hear?!!!

MJ, I'm staying away from any and all Brokeback Mountain references. Clichés piss me off.

You're welcome Steve. And by the way, reading my brand of poetry has been proved to double and sometimes triple machismo levels in several clinical trials.

My favorite Iconoclast! Hello Zach. It's my heart that is heavy--my hands are always light and blazingly fast. Nonetheless that is a very complicated and layered comment you have left. I read it many times and alternated between giving you a cyber-wink across space and time and imagining your savage death beneath my boot heels.


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