The Habits of Centaurs

by JOHN V. KELLEHER
FEW sounds are sacred. Their fathers fired, “bang, bang,”
But these “ksee-ow, ksee-ow with a spitty tongue,
Denoting at once the shot and ricochet.
Men shot fall dead as when Tom Mix was young.
On the back with heels in the air, if under five;
If more than five, the legs give way with a twist,
Head sags and arms are loose. Done fast this means:
You see me dodge that shot? Boy, how he missed!
Men still cry, “gutcha!” The frontier models cough.
He sobs, five clustered slugs in his heart,
“They got me, pard!” and writhes for twenty seconds.
Stiffens. The glazed eyes roll . . . up. With a start!
Right from the hip! Ksee-ow!
Death’s always short
Where everyone dies — ksee-ow! — every other minute.
No pardner can stop to watch a pal peg out.
No one applauds the act but the actor in it.
Steeds are proud as ever; thundering hooves
Trail billows of yellow dust; the stallion’s mind
Is one with his master’s. Women only see
Small boys gallop, each slapping his own behind.