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THE DESERT, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas the lean coyote told me, baring his slavish soul
Last Line: Just a rain-washed track and an empty gun — and the old home trail ahead.
Subject(s): Cowboys; Coyotes; Death; Deserts; Food & Eating; Ranch Life; West (u.s.); Dead, The; Southwest; Pacific States

'TWAS the lean coyote told me, baring his slavish soul,
As I counted the ribs of my dead cayuse and cursed at the desert sky,
The tale of the Upland Rider's fate while I dug in the water hole
For a drop, a taste of the bitter seep; but the water hole was dry!

"He came," said the lean coyote, "and he cursed as his pony fell;
And he counted his pony's ribs aloud; yea, even as you have done.
He raved as he ripped at the clay-red sand like an imp from the pit of hell,
Shriveled with thirst for a thousand years and craving a drop — just

"His name?" I asked, and he told me, yawning to hide a grin:
"His name is writ on the prison roll and many a place beside;
Last, he scribbled it on the sand with a finger seared and thin,
And I watched his face as he spelled it out — laughed as I laughed, and

"And thus," said the lean coyote, "his need is the hungry's feast,
And mine." I fumbled and pulled my gun — emptied it wild and fast,
But one of the crazy shots went home and silenced the waiting beast;
There lay the shape of the Liar, dead! 'Twas I that should laugh the last.

Laugh? Nay, now I would write my name as the Upland Rider wrote;
Write? What need, for before my eyes in a wide and wavering line
I saw the trace of a written word and letter by letter float
Into a mist as the world grew dark; and I knew that the name was mine.

Dreams and visions within the dream; turmoil and fire and pain;
Hands that proffered a brimming cup — empty, ere I could take;
Then the burst of a thunder-head — rain! It was rude, fierce rain!
Blindly down to the hole I crept, shivering, drenched, awake!

Dawn — and the edge of the red-rimmed sun scattering golden flame,
As stumbling down to the water hole came the horse that I thought was dead;
But never a sign of the other beast nor a trace of a rider's name;
Just a rain-washed track and an empty gun — and the old home trail ahead.

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