The Lament Of Whitehorse Billy

Poem By Leland James

The Lament of Whitehorse Billy

I never took no water with my whiskey. I laughed
at winter’s busted pipes and trails hip-deep
with snow. I never bent. No willow tree was I.
Like a hardwood stake, whittled sharp,
I drove myself into this froze-up earth and stood my ground.

Just as hard and strong I loved my brown-eyed Anna.
She loved me back and we was like twin
cormorants that never left the lake in winter.
Birds not fine or flyin’ high but rugged
like the tundra. Proud, I guess, a little,
of the way we stood outside in this hard place that we was born.

Then a woeful wind came whinin’ down the mountain,
cut me like a Humbolt ax, dropped me to the ground. My Anna
upped and died. I shattered like a sheet of ice, lost its grip,
slid from the roof into a bed of gravel. The doc,
he told me why she died, some words I didn’t understand.
Hardly even listened. Why don’t matter. Dead is dead and gone.

I’m hopin’ folks remember me the way I was—not like now
gone all to Hell and drinkin’ from the bottle, lettin’ the stove run dry.
I'll be rememb’rin’ Anna when I take my.45 way up in the hills
where I won't be to no one any trouble. Someday someone will find
my gun. Let it be my marker. I hope whoever finds it knew us when
and says a little prayer, for me and for my Anna.

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