Maybe it’s the ghost
of one of the men
or that poor child
I put in early graves.
It perches on my shoulder,
caws like I should understand,
and tugs on my ear
maybe to tell me
something important,
maybe so’s I feel a bit
of the hurt I’ve dished out.

Its screechifying
gives me headaches,
so I’m glad it flies off,
though after a few days,
it’s a strutting sentry again
on a pine branch,
or landing on my forearm
digging in its talons: a reminder
of all the bad I’ve done in my life.

Lord knows how much longer
I can abide to stay hidden up here
where I can’t do much harm,
‘cept to the critters whose pelts
I bring down to the town of Quarry
to barter for necessaries.

Temptations beckon, though so far,
after a meal at Miz Williams’,
I’ll ride back up the mountain,
that crow waiting at the edge of town,
on the limb of a dead cottonwood,
a prophecy all too clear.