Jesse James


I grew up liking, admiring Jesse James.

After all, he had suffered and transformed suffering

Into a violent quest for good.

Not violent mean, but violent good—

Setting things right,

Trimming the excesses of the banks and railroads.

He and Frank and their gang

Made my dreaming bold and noble.


Besides, I liked his way with a six-shooter.

The way his arm and hand were lightning fast,

Shooting straight, never wavering—

The bad guys didn’t have a chance,

But then they didn’t deserve a chance. 


But then, much as I parted company with Kit Carson

Upon finding out his casual practice of genocide,

I now have parted company with Jesse James.

I have seceded from the gang.

I am prepared to turn them in.


Reason: they (and I) enjoyed the killing much too much.

We savored to excess the slitting and cutting,

The unnecessary insult to the human person.


Now I am reformed, and

When, in healthy reverie,

I join my new, bold, and noble gang

To practice my draw,

I try not to think of Jesse James.


--May 6, 2013