a new poem, a highwayman ballad inspired by the Bruce Springsteen song...

WESTERN STARS – a modern ballad

If you’re in words

Then your word

Is what’s good

Or not, it’s currency;

For lighting and spending;

Money is a kind of fast light;

But your word is better,

Son, your word is wood,

It’s land, it’s soil;

Your word can never spoil,

So, keep your promises,

Bend to the grindstone,

And come good.

If you say the hayrick

Will arrive at one,

Don’t let it be four;

Promises are what truth is for.

Nothing’s certain in this year,

This world of years that pile on

Like drinks that never end;

It’s tiresome, friend,

But hard work is evolutionary –

If you quit, you don’t know

What you might have been

If you’d done the thing

You said you’d do.

Words have other meanings,

Though, too – they can be fire;

I met a waitress down at the K Bar;

We danced to the Boss, 'Western Stars';

Later, we ended up in a Bronco,

And rode all the way to Del Mar;

Or El Paso. Nouns are only pins

On some FBI map, charting

Each bank, each get-away car;

What we did, we did, going too far

As an antidote for no more

Of something to care for,

And a lot of nothing up ahead;

A bank was hit, then another

Up a dusty road; no one kills

Without a push comes to shove;

The deputy bled like my mother

The day she died birthing me;

A breach in nature, my Dad

Was not some glad, you could say;

I grew up thinking I was a red skin,

For all the caked blood on my face.

So, I left that place,

The rest is history.

I’m here, now, with you;

And I call everyone son, buddy, smile;

You’re on digital overload;

The choppers are loud as the Furies;

That’s myth for Twitter; see this gun?

It’s criminal to do what we did;

And damn stupid to trust that kid;

He said he’d do something, did something else;

A false heart is a flaw at the core of life;

We all know betrayal is the downfall

Of all but the least favoured ones;

If you’re big, you get cut off

From a trough that’s gold with ambrosia;

Good to know you, man;

We’re in the hot picture, now;

Until the bullets flow, then all hell

Will dance like virgins naked from a cake;

We dumped the Ford in the dead lake,

More dust than H2O; time’s backwards,

We should climb back into the ooze;

Our name’s mud; we’re the bad,

That the good define by not being them;

You do the work of wearing the star,

Pin that one on, you’ll soon find,

Wild horses buck the mild rider off,

A bleak storm has come, and the rough

Have no need to apologise for

The stuff they complete in a villain sun;

It’s desert, and after scrubland, then

It’s a stone pond, a buffalo skull, some tin,

And an arrow that took a warrior too soon;

In the high moon you can see blood,

But it’s a new colour; there’s a coughing coyote

And a twisting snake; don’t speak

Unless you want creative ventilation.

The day is coming when the strong

Will be eaten by the young; American

As anything, how progress changes kings

To bums; what we’ve got now is a hanging

Mob keen to reach the topmost holy hill

Where they’ll string you easy up

For drinking from the wrong kind of cup;

Plastic’s bad; and so is swearing; God,

Also bad; in too heavy a concentration;

Extraction of coal, shale, minerals, sand;

The very land is bad if shifted;

Let alone what you dance, when, and how;

Don’t love wrong or too often or not;

It was good I was born a white male man;

It gave me a leg up when I got out

Of the garbage can; daddy-killing’s never

Not frowned upon; I can hear the engines;

They’ll break through like a tank;

You better pray Jesus loves victims

More here than he did in Nam, Columbine,

Or the Alamo; we’re brave, in our homes;

But the homes have broken walls that let in

All the forces of Hades, and the Feds;

And the combined hate of every kid

Who never got their shake;

It’s unfair, but I’m tarnished, always will be;

What you get is what you claim to see;

So, stake a claim, son, on this meme

Here – take a selfie with the bad guy

Who blew off the heads of half this hole;

Beer was lousy; they water it to rain.

Bullets? Never a problem for pain.

The method they contact is total

In a hail. It’ll be quick. Series cancellation.

Some will live, some run, some move;

Love keeps the sun swinging around

Like a broadsword over a hero’s head,

To come down on one side or the other;

But brother, I’m a name, forevermore,

Of what you don’t want to step in

When you cross a dirty bar;

Slime’s more appreciated;

I’ll be a star you can’t

Burnish, except

In legend;

Legends are where the dead are;

Where they slowly rise, like revenge,

Or a mudslide onto the Sunday school picnic.

My lady died at the side of the old Interstate,

Near the Texaco, in my umber arms, saying words

I bent closer to hear; murmurs like crickets burning hard.

Tell them I regret only that I lived

Long enough to see what a highwayman gives

Is no longer fit for song or tale, dime store novel

Or grindhouse feature; the wild evil

On these plains is all that remains

Of the heartland’s killing reign

When she and I were the nation’s natural apex.

Forgive? Why, I’m already urned dead, a husk,

Flown out the shattered pane;

See, where the flies congregate?

That’s my congregation, in one.

No president’s pardon for a ghost.

Bury me where I mortally wounded

The gas station family; profoundly

Set the graveyard alight; complain online

I was not caught, tried, injected, to die right.

July 2, 2019