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Cowboy Opera - Prologue
No city lights bleed into the night sky.
Starlight alone casts shadows on white sand.
The stillness broken by a coyote cry
seems only starker when it fades again.
The prairie grasses, yellow-white now, dry
rustle/sing with breath of not-quite wind.
They murmur airs of ages long since gone
but no man's there to hear the prairie song.

Against the sea of stars, a silhouette
a lightning-blasted tree, dead limbs stretched high
like frozen supplication, like regret
beside a sink that stinks of alkali.
The minds of men with time at last forget
but sometimes places hold a time gone by.
The place remembers, whispers of old wrongs
and things long buried where they don't belong.

Day comes. Years spin - cents on a gas pump dial.
Decades roll - like the space that shows the dimes.

'That gulch was once a river - been a while.
Had a clump of cottonwoods - been a long time.
Now just one blasted stump - one last exile -
'mongst alkali (or when it rains, red slime.)

Here, every drywash holds a hidden tale.
each clump of yucca, every coyote wail.

'That snag once rose . . . oh what? A hundred feet?
The lightning broke it short - long while ago.
Before it split 'twas twisted, like mesquite.
Been struck a dozen times, 'd always grow.
Too stubborn I suppose t'admit defeat.
It's almost like a cursed tree there. You know?

As though its roots sunk into buried sin
and the tree must witness, 'til it's known again.

'Once this was healthy range. No water now.
The aquifer gets pumped-out way upstream.
Left scarce enough to graze the random cow.
So maybe ghosts range here, or so it seems.
'Overgrazed' with no stock anyhow.'

A barren place that dozes - maybe dreams -
star shadows moving furtive while it sleeps.
The night breeze hints of secrets that it keeps.

'You'd think a place like this, just hills and grass,
remains unchanged though ages. That's not so.
Buffalo grazed here, where we trespass.
Sometimes a blowout deepens some to show
Spear points - flint or black volcanic glass
Pawnee or Souix - or old tribes I don't know.'

Here people come and go and live and die
as hills pass through their green spells, and their dry.

By tony parsons

© 2016 tony parsons (All rights reserved)


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