I check my traps once a week,
every six months before the winter lockdown,
I ride down to Quarry and trade pelts
for necessaries, then amble to Miz Williams’
hotel and restaurant to hear the news
and get fed a meal that rolls my eyes,
that a murdering devil like me
just got my one glimpse of Heaven.

Winters, I’m in my log and daub shack
to fight partaking of Quarry’s thirst parlors
and brothels: whiskey turning me into
the meanest devil in the Territory;
and ladies of the pallet trembling
at my bear-raked face, slamming shut
their eyes when I paid for their services,
so I’d recite poetry to calm them,
then quit visiting altogether.

It’s a better life than I deserve,
for all the killing I’ve done,
‘specially the massacre at Lawrence;
no telling how much longer the Lord
will abide me aboveground:
every day a gift; every night, the men
I put in early graves crowd my dreams:
haints licking their pale, hungry lips.