Following Bloody Bill Anderson
across the Missouri in my mind
for ten days—flight out of KCI,
trains from New London, road trips
to Springfield in October tornadoes.
It’s 1864 in my home & my head.
The only scalp I carry is my own.
The road & all these shallow rivers
Are my own now. Alone & upright,
I feel why so many were shot.
In the saddle, I thought wax-plugged
six-shooters impervious to Union forts &
know why “Jackson” is a county in Missouri
when Johnny Cash sang off Grandpa’s stereo;
his own father “dead ignobly” & his own too,
stretching back—like I like to say—
“wreckage” along these rolling flats.
Now I’m driving back towards Rulo, NE.,
with a stop to be made at the lawyers &
conciliation Court in Douglas County,
some percent of my “take home” awaiting me….
But the world and you too might wait for me
the way the late sun glistens off
that silver Elantra I’m passing,
or the sweat off of Bill’s horse
as we rode hard into Albany gap.
We rode into Kansas’ bastard land,
looked over the streets of Lawrence &
once & for all decided
to bring God & Quantrill before them.
The streets were dry & men scattered like chickens.
The three saloons didn’t even empty.
We meandered back & forth, old union
jackets on & smiling as they fell.
I thought of the farm, the saddle I stole,
all those looks they’d give us passing on through &
with every shot those thoughts disappeared,
the dust on the road settled with their blood;
The couple of scalps I took seemed just right,
seemed to make the fire in my head go out,
seemed to make the sun set more quiet behind me.
David Gardiner lives in Chicago. From 2006 – 2010, he edited the journal, An Sionnach, while professor at Creighton University and Trinity College Dublin and visiting scholar at Boston College, New York University and the University of Ulster. Since 1989, when he attended University College Galway, he has commuted between Ireland and the U.S. He has lived in Dublin, Coleraine, and New York City. He has written five books, edited ten and authored over sixty journal publications. His most recent poetry publication is Downstate (Salmon Poetry). His forthcoming work is The Chivalry of Crime.