Page 4 of William "Wild Bill" Taylor Poems

I ride with cowboys who will soon be ghosts 

Here the essence of springtime,

cowboys, gather,
one last spring morning,

for the observation of moon flakes

each goes about his business,
in slow locomotion,

they don't say much to each other,

all donate blood on time,

on Friday night,
they will clean themselves up,
ride into town with the boss hands
on Saturday morning,

if this weather holds
can't tell for sure,

those Montana ice storms are hard to predict,

funny, I know this men like the back of my hand,

some wore gray,
others the Union blue,

but most days they work together like
the strongest of kin,

they don't fuzz much about the past,
even when they play

the dead man's hand,
I've never heard them raise a voice

out here,
in the American West,

these soldiers turned cowboys,
will always break your heart,

for as soon as you learn their last name,

they are gone before sunrise,

running from those bloody fields with
the strange Indian names,

Shiloh,
Chickamauga,

and Pickett's Mill.

Cowboys, ghosts
or just haunted men looking to

put their own private hells
out of their minds,

until, next Saturday morning,
when we will drive the mules into town,

be silent friends, here, heroes have gone before you,
we shall never see their likes again,

Shane.


Copyright,
William "Wild Bill" Taylor
August, 2000

Hunting for the last time  

My hunting dog saw him before
the rest of us could focus
 
in on the find of a century,
 
the fresh remains of a civil war soldier
had been found today,
 
causing quit a stir in this dusty textile town,
 
some would later tell me that the heavy spring rains
had probably moved the bones out in the open,
 
but it was still very strange,
that the skeleton looked very
much
as it should,
 
I approached with suspicious reverence,
for being a descendant of the rebel cause
 
I hoped it was a gray coat rather than one
of blue,
 
but it was hard to tell, and as we called the archaeologist in
from Tech,
I felt sad, almost crying in front of my fellow hunting pals,
 
for this blood sport did not appeal to me like it did,
with the advent of super scopes, deer blinds, and bullets
that will pierce through a tank,
 
I just didn't get it,
 
the rest of my party headed back to the lodge for a beer,
my son and I stayed out with the unknown,
 
He sat down beside him, and without any fanfare gathered
up some flowers from the hedgerow next to this trench,
placing them next to the forgotten one,
 
as we came to call him.
 
I put my arms around my boy, the first time I had done
so in years,
 
and whispered
Johnny that was a very nice thing you did,
he did not respond, but I could tell he was moved beyond words,
 
so I didn't press the issue,
then as we walked away towards home,
the sun began was beginning to hide on its way to
the Cumberland Gap,
 
as if dear poets, the mountains were offering the
departed and the living a tribute,
 
and I swore as I looked down once more at the skull
of the departed one,
 
I could hear him tell me,
 
"Love one another."
 
Johnny and I walked home,
and when we went out at first light the next morning,
 
the soldier was gone.

Copyright,
William "Wild Bill" Taylor
September, 2004

NOTE from Jayne: This isn't Civil War, but I've included it anyway 

As fast as a deer crossing the highway  

Hey, man,
 
I ran with a kid down the streets
who ran as fast as a deer crossing the highway
on Saturday night,
 
he was my best pal,
from kindergarten to sundown stretch,
each of us wore on High School letter sweaters
on Saturday night,
 
when we doubled dated on his souped up coup
de ville,
 
his date, Miss Forever High School Cutie Queen,
mine the first runner in those beauty pageants
when the girls look as if they were made by gods
intent on breaking young boys hearts.
 
Danny boy was my best friend,
yet when he told me he wasn't going to college
after graduation,
I felt fear,
 
for the draftsman was hungry for poor white boys
who ran faster than deer across the highway on Saturday night,
 
and I knew he would not say no to Uncle Sam,
where we lived in a state where tradition and honor
were as intoxicating as rum and cola to young boys
wearing high school letter sweaters
with cute girls to the drive-in picture show
with buttered popcorn, rum in our cokes,
and a double feature with John I am I said Wayne,
 
I told this war was not like the others,
our high school history teacher from New York
told us we were walking deeper into each day,
and the local plastics factory couldn't make enough body bags,
 
my buddy-pal blew me off,
he was first string and invincible,
 
we all thought that,
until that day the sniper hit him in the lower part of his spine,
 
we all cried,
we said prayers for him at the Baptist Church,
the cheerleaders made him a get well basket,
 
but we all knew no girl would marry him sitting in that
wheel chair,
 
but I stayed loyal to my buddy-pal,
and every Saturday night we both go to
that football field, and watch those young studs prance up
and down the field,
 
as if they own the world,
and reality is for those of us over thirty,
wearing faded letter sweaters,
 
and one of the best,
sitting in a wheel chair made in China,
 
crying a little each time a young cheerleaders
walks by him,
 
not knowing who in the world we are.

Copyright,
William "Wild Bill" Taylor
May, 2003

 

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Dance the dog dance of the dead  

"To leave is to die a little,
  To die to what we love.
  We leave behind a bit of ourselves
  Wherever we have been."
                   -- Edmond Haraucourt
 
The rains did not wash away my mother's tears,
as the telegraph told her of my passing,
 
I had promised her that I would nor carry a gun
or sword,
yet I needed to go and help all those other boys
who had joined,
 
they were friends of mine,
and I could not stand to see them off,
 
yes, I know my asthma is bad during the winter,
but a corpsman's duty are to help the wounded and dying,
 
I would not be part of the killing fields,
 
so she signed my papers,
and I was off into the jungles
 
of the politicians battles,
 
I got hooked up with a good platoon from
San Diego,
 
and we became close,
 
I took care of those men,
from trench foot to malaria
I help a magic cure,
 
it most have been grandfather's medicine pouch,
he taught me well, to use these powers of the Sioux,
what ever I touched,
my healing hands soothed,
 
until this morning mother,
someone threw a grenade into our hut,
 
Unlike the others I did not scramble out,
throwing myself upon our platoon leader,
 
I shielded him from harm,
but, rest easy, Squaw woman,
my suffering was not long,
 
I am with the Sioux fallen from
the wars against the white man,
 
dance the dog dance for the dead,
and I will visit you when
 
you dream,
my mother, my ancestors are proud of me,
 
for those who shield the white man,
from his own stupidity,
it seems he could not read a map,
 
takes a special breed of the brave,
little did I know that grenade was meant
for our Officer,
 
he calls fire and brimstone on us
from the long guns of the artillerist
sight,
 
dance the dog dance
of the dead,
 
waiting for our ancestors to return
from the center of the white man's
earth.
 
Copyright,
William "Wild Bill" Taylor, September, 2003

The devil is in the details  

My twin took up arms for the North,
I stayed with Virginia,
 
He and I were closer than blood,
finishing one and two at VMI,
 
the class of 58,
 
yet, after First Mananas, he called it Bull Run,
 
we did not speak,
nor visit each other in person,
 
both our parents, Quakers to boot,
where heart broken,
 
and each decided to visit us on Easter Sunday past,
mother went to see Job,
 
Father found me with Pendleton's artillery
across the Rappanhanhock from Grant,
 
Both were aghast that Job and I had become
such expert shoots,
 
but hugged us hard just the same,
 
Here, darling Papa, look how could my mark
is,
see that tree across the river,
the one behind the Union Canon,
in honor of you and Mother,
 
I will knock down that oak tree
so the Yankees can make a fire for
Sunday visitation,
 
Father nodded,
strange, at the same time,
I saw the flake of smoke coming from a 
gun in front of the tree I had picked out,
 
within seconds, I hollered to take cover,
but Father did not listen,
 
the ball took his head off,
look you Yankee bastards you killed my father,
 
then, in a flicker,
I voice I know as well as my own,
 
look, you Rebel devil,
you killed my dear mother
 
right behind her blue eyes!
 
 
Copyright,
William "Wild Bill" Taylor
October, 2004

The devil's more compassionate triage  

They brought me in unconscious,
the Yankees throwing my body at the bottom
of a heap of other dead Rebels,
 
In those days triage was getting the most human
flesh off the battlefield proper
so the teamsters and wagon drivers could be paid
gold bullion for their day's labors,
 
they didn't' have enough soldiers to transport the bodies
off the enemy off this bloodied lane,
 
it was considered very bad luck, indeed,
and some healthy soldier caught the death of cold
from handling the rebel's blood,
 
it was a curse the Gray Ghost had put on the Union
Army for killing us Virginia boys,
 
cut down the prime of life,
 
yet, dear Jesus, I was not dead,
my head wound being significant enough
to knock me unconscious, given my raccoon's eyes,
and a bloated face,
 
who was to argue in my behalf?
 
I awaken in those Germantown barn,
it is morning, ample and fair to others,
but hell on earth for me,
 
because I am the bottom of a huge stack of
bodies stacked and mangled together like some log cabin 
game they are selling up in those big department stores
of New York and Philadelphia.
 
I scream out, Please in Heaven's name, will you please
come here quick and pull me out.
 
Silence, I can only hear the drops of blood dripping one
by one on my face from
the dead laying on top of me,
 
punctuated by horse flies picnicking on the open
wounds so fertile,
 
Help, Help, Help me I cry.
 
There is the sound of a new battle just outside this red and beautiful hay barn,
I am forgotten for sure,
 
for days I scream and cry,
the night is the worse, for the darkness amplifies my fears,
I feel as though I am about to crawl out of my skin,
 
My prayers to the unknown God change,
Please let me die,
 
Finally, my screams are heard,
they is a rescue to save me,
 
I am pulled free, babbling incorrect,
the surgeon says put me in the fresh air,
for that will bring him back to his senses,
 
One of those missionaries sit down beside me,
would you like to make a donation to
the Lord's work for the wounded and orphaned
lambs?
 
I reach for my hunting knife,
stabbing him quick in the chest,
 
I am to be shot tomorrow at sunrise
for killing a civilian with connections
to the powerful in Washington.
 
My god, why have you forsaken me?
 
Perhaps it is crime to ask for divine help
in times of war and hurried triage,
 
maybe I should have asked the devil
for a helping hand!
 
for he collects souls,
and not money,
 
and the change he gives
is measured in death,
and his hell cannot be any worse
 
than that created by god fearing me
on Virginia's battlefield,
 
with impersonal triage
and piles of angels dead
or slowly going crazy.
 
 
Copyright,
William "Wild Bill" Taylor
February, 2004