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Issue 40 • April 2021
Weird West
edited by Gary Every

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionGary Every

Mammoth Wings • Jane Yolen
Lights Over the Midnight Desert • David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Dead Tree • T. S. Burkhard-Horn
Two Cowboys • Denny E. Marshall
Green-Haired Woman • Vitus The Mad
Deadwood Dick Meets His Dad • Lela E. Buis
Go South, Young Man • David Barber
Sound Of A Cowboy • Tim Young
After 140 Years, The Birdcage Theatre Ghosts Have Become Weary of the Tourists • Juleigh Howard-Hobson
A Suitcase Full of Clothes and Money • John C. Mannone
The Breed • Marge Simon
Small-Town Lawman • Destine Carrington
Bogeyman • Bill Ratner
You Have Died of Dysentery • Russell Nichols
[Loch Ness monster] • Matthew Wilson
Badlands Billboard • LeRoy Gorman
[prospecting for gold] • Juan Perez
[there’s a gunman named death] • William Clunie
Lobo Hunter • Gail Sosinsky
The Airship Rustlers • David Lee Summers & Kurt MacPhearson
Wendigo • Trevor Livingston
The Survivor • Barbara Candiotti
A, Chahta sia • Paige Elizabeth Wajda
Songs of the Forest • Rose Moon

Mammoth Wings

He lifts above the hunters,
their bowshots gone wild,
crushes them with his great dung
falling like bullets among them.
Never happened, you say?
Never found yet, I answer.
We writers never give up
on a great idea,
especially a mammoth one.

—Jane Yolen

Lights Over The Midnight Desert

The West is dotted with cairns,
pyramidal heaps of stones;
inside each, a Prince Albert can,
dented and rusty, stakes the claim.
Most of these cairns
are long since abandoned,
forgotten by the tobacco-chewing prospectors
who piled up the stones;
most are likely victims
of mouth cancer or heatstroke by now.
These prospectors never returned
to work their claims,
but maybe that's just as well;
this one here lays
claim to the whole planet.
Its dates of claim, scrawled in pencil,
can scarcely be believed,
or even read, but safe to say,
when the claim is called in,
with any luck we’ll be long dead.

—David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Dead Tree

They tell me you’re a dying tree,
and looking at you, I admit,
it’s harsh on harsh,
cakes of your bark on the clods.
It’s even harsher than a painting.
Vast apartment for ravens, your extremities
bare against the Montana sky,
yours will be a shining death.
Or maybe you are just a larva,
about to split its skin.

—T. S. Burkhard-Horn

Two Cowboys

Walk into town with your saddle
Tell the sheriff that your horse died
It is easier than telling the truth
That a strange object in the sky
Lifted your mare into its belly
At the saloon even the cheap whiskey
Cannot loosen the real story
A stranger with similar experience
Sees you walk into town buys you a drink
Said he shot his lame steed on the trail
Covered in dust you toast to lying
Walk together to the livery stable
Spaceship travels home with breeding pair

—Denny E. Marshall

Green-Haired Woman

Kit Carson Soldiers coming
Kit Carson Soldiers coming
all the houses burning
smoke rising in the valley
Gather together all the children
leave behind everything
into the mountains we must be fleeing
in the mountains we must be hiding
lest all the soldiers kill us
we cannot let them find us

Grandmother gather all the children
go high up in the canyon
past where horses are ever ridden
there you must stay hidden

Fleeing with their daughters
with mothers and their Grandmother
fleeing from the slaughter
leaving behind the fathers and the brothers
Up high into the canyon
sometimes wading through the waters
across the boulders scrambling
the mothers fleeing with their daughters

They came to the Pool of Clouds of Rainbows
the pool round with water deep and clear
the mists of the waterfall making clouds of colors
and in the waters roaring there is chanting one can hear

Remembering the songs
that said the green moss on the pool's bottom that grows
was the very hair of Green-Haired Woman
who was hypnotized by the the ever present rainbows

In the canyon gunshots echoing
the voices of soldier men yelling
the cliff faces sheer and huge
they must find a place of refuge

Grandmother knew that behind the falling water
the Earth hid the house of Brother Bat out of sight
from which clouds of his brothers and sisters
flew out into the sky to guard the night

On the slick rocks climbing
behind the mists of waters pouring
they all entered into the place of darkness
hearing only the water's roaring

The ground knee deep with beetles crawling
the cave walls and ceiling covered with the clan of Bat Brother
outside they heard soldiers calling
standing in the bat dung they comforted one another
Covering their heads with their hands
when Bat and his brothers flew out into the night
upon morning the black cloud of living creatures returned
causing the women to cry out in fright
Then Grandmother went towards the sunlight
watching through the cloud of rainbows
to see if any soldiers lingered
or any men with their war bows

Into the hot sun of the day
emerged the girls and women
their hands and legs blackened with the guano
they kept watch down the canyon
Around they went past the Pool of Rainbows
dreading the presence of the soldier men
in a place where downward the water flows
they washed away the black filth to be clean again

Before the night came they all had a fever burning
thirsting fiercely they lay on the sand in the hot sun
drinking from the Pool of Rainbows
crying for deliverance but receiving none

All night huddled in the cold, all the day they sweated in the sun
panting and thirsting, their bodies swelling and skin burning
too weak to speak a word of comfort
they knew their lives were done

From the bottom of the waters
they pulled up the hair of Green-Haired Woman
to cover mothers and daughters
to hide their skin from the sun

Away the Kit Carson soldiers went riding
leaving ruin and desolation
a man sent to search the canyon where the women were to be hiding
and then came bearing awful news that was beyond any consolation

The corpses of the girls and women he had seen
swollen and discolored, all of them black and green
he called out but no others answered
sick with sadness he fled the scene

Days with sorrows swirling like flocks of starlings
of wounds washed and wailing
four men hurried up the canyon
to promptly bury the dead they must not be failing
Standing where the waters empty from the pool
looking across the sands to the tall waters falling
no bodies were to be seen
no voices answered their puzzled calling

But on the sand there were paths made
the tracks perhaps of people crawling
they followed them into the mists
of the tall waters falling.

They looked into the darkness 
into the house of Brother Bat where going is forbidden 
spirits of foreboding were upon them
wondering if that is where the women would be hidden

Three of the men said we must be fleeing
saying “our mothers and sisters bodies we are not seeing,
where they are we are not knowing,
into that darkness we must not be going”

So only one man stayed behind
sitting by the pool of rainbows
to chant and pray for the women
each of them his clan and a face that he knows

As he chanted he was hearing voices
but heard none when he was quiet
he watched Green-Haired Woman's hair waving
in the bottom of the pool as he sat by it

He watched the rainbows dancing
as he sat upon the sand and was chanting
he heard voices call his name
so clear and loud he could not deny it

He looked towards the falling waters
towards the cave behind the waterfall hidden
he heard the voices of the mothers and the daughters
towards them he was being bidden

He heard them in his heart
louder than than the water roaring
their pleading shook his body 
their call he could not be ignoring

Again he climbed the slippery stone
wet with the misting waters 
towards Bat Brother's home
looking for the mothers and the daughters

He slipped upon the rocks 
before the cave was near
and sitting there heard voices in his thoughts
saying “ Look, Brother! We are here!”

Indeed, he looked at the green moss covered rocks above him on the ledge
in the sunshine where mist was gently falling
the green stones opened their eyes and they lifted up their heads
they were there, the women who had been calling

“We went into the darkness where people should not dwell
We became full of fever fiery hot
A sickness fierce that made our bodies swell
We wanted to return but we could not

As we suffered and were crying
We drank waters from the pool 
and covered ourselves with the hair of Green-Haired Woman
who heard our pleas as we were dying

She said ' My green hair shall enter into your blood
and you will be transformed when I am done
No more will you walk in the human world
but you shall live upon the light of the sun

With me you will dwell in the mists of the falling waters
and behold the shining rainbow lights
You are now Green-Haired Woman's daughters
and Brother Bat will guard you while you sleep in the night

To your people you now are dead and lost
but for this do not be grieving 
You must now live on these wet stones with the moss
the gift of living you are receiving'

Behold that we are still living 
by the Green-Haired Woman's grace
We shall forever to these stones be clinging
We can never leave this place”

Their open eyes all beheld the man and pleaded with him
their secret forever his to keep
he wept knowing his wife and daughters were gone
the wound his in heart was deep

Never did he speak to any person
for all the years he did live
about how the Green Haired-Woman spared the mothers and the daughters
and to them a new and sacred life she did give

Yes, the stones sing praises to the Creator
all things rejoice in beauty and celebrate in song
the Green Haired Woman watches the clouds of rainbows
and her daughters chant to her all the day long

—Vitus The Mad

Deadwood Dick Meets the Ghost of His Dad

Nat Love wakes in the night
to wolf’s howl and moonlight bars
locked onto the cabin’s floor.
His wife sleeps beside him,
the children in the loft.
But in that hour before dawn
The world is cold and lonely,
And the spirits rise.

“Successful, are ye, son?”
Love shuts his eyes,
shudders out a breath.
Sampson is a shade on the hearth,
wisp of an old man, red eyes, white hair.
“Think ye can rise above it all?”
The past, he means, colored skin,
the War Between the States.

“I’m all growed up,” says Nat,
“a fine cowboy now. I got a family…”
“How long?” whispers the shade,
“How long will it last?”
Jim Crow caws from the fence.
The sun rises and shadows fade.
It’s only embers on the hearth, and
ash stirred by the wind.

—Lela E. Buis

Go South Young Man

McMurdo’s a rough town,
bullets cheaper than bread.
Shiverskins fresh off the boat
sold snow shoes by hucksters,
as if the Melt changed nothing.
Gold so common, they hear,
you throw the silver away.

The polar railway got stopped
when they dynamited out
that lode of ruby jack. Besides,
four legs is best beyond the pass.
But there’s no law south of south,
where crews of robots drill for oil
and cyborg killers prowl the range.

No hope for honest miners then,
until that stranger came to town,
alloy faced, and packing
twin gatlings. Didn’t give a name,
said it was just passin’ through.
Tin heads that ran the place forgot
there’s some that can’t be pushed.

Reflexes like you never saw;
left the wrecks of custom-built
metal smoking in the street,
then with one spark, fried their boss.
God bless Antarctica!
Men say the stranger just rolled
away into the Midnight Sun.

—David Barber

Sound of a Cowboy

This is the sound of a cowboy
drinking all night long
no where else in space
can he turn his head and face
himself like the wiggly memories
he so often invites to dance.
And they do dance madly
out on the shivering prairie
like the whiskey flows
the fire glows
and finally when he thinks he knows
there ain’t much could be better
He jumps hard on his trusty star
signals he’ll be riding quite far
and pulls the reins in tight
spurs his star like a meteorite
and travels down the road
approaching the speed of light.

—Tim Young

After 140 Years, The Birdcage Theater Ghosts Have Grown Weary of the Tourists

Visitors and employees of the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, AZ, have reported seeing the spirits of former prostitutes and men in cowboy hats. Some claim to be touched and pushed by unseen forces. At night, the sounds of laughter, yelling and music have been heard, as though the parties of “the old west” were still raging.     —

It’s our saloon. It’s been ours since it was
opened, back in eighteen eighty-one. Just
cause we are dead, it don’t mean we want to
up and leave. Nope. We aint gonna git. Boo.
Hear that now? That’s laughing, coming from us.
Lookee there, there’s someone who bit the dust
right behind you. Can you feel her coldness?
You scared yet? Listen here, like we told you
It’s our saloon.
Don’t like it when your hair gets pulled? The brush
of chilly fingers on your cheek? I trust
that’s frightening. We ain’t done. We got a few
more ghostly tricks up our sleeves to get through
if you don’t git out like we said. You must.
It’s our saloon.

—Juleigh Howard-Hobson

A Suitcase Full of Clothes and Money

She knew how; charmed the cowboy coming off the dusty trail with titillating whispers. Her cream-yellow skin, delicate under kerosene light. She’d massage his broad shoulders, his tired back with her feet—her silk kimono brushing him. Moans soon led to other favors. She poured him laudanum-laced whiskey.

In the morning, only stagecoach tracks remained.

—John C. Mannone

The Breed

This isn’t about what I did,
or what I said in court.
They all said I was guilty.
I killed someone,
it don’t matter why,
’cept I’m part Miwok.

Cast shadows from
the bars on my window
stripes on my mattress,
no sheets, “in case the breed
tries to escape

that was a laugh.

The worst part was the wait,
with preachers
and crying women,
all that talk about Jesus.

Then the walk;
I stumbled
on the fourth step.
Nine more to go,
head bowed
watching my feet

to that hooded
white man on the platform—
I guess it was a man,
ashamed to show his face.

Fingers knot the blindfold,
draw the noose taut;
a jerk, and I’m free,
thinking of a song.

—Marge Simon

Small-Town Lawman

To be the new Sheriff
there are steps to take.
Shed the skin
in the saloon’s
parlor room.
Hang it,
Water it,
The new guy getting in
has a smaller head.
We have make sure
the face doesn’t slip
during horse rides.
Not just anyone can be Sheriff;
It has to fit right.

—Destine Carrington


Bogeyman lives on the adjacent homestead.
No house, just cordgrass and thistle
behind miles of split rail fence.
He carries the smell of mold,
talks to prairie dogs in their language,
loads his lever-action rifle
with slow-expanding slugs,
twists his body into terrible shapes,
whispers my name.
He has gooseberry skin,
a voice quiet as a tile saw.
I wish he were the wandering
soul of a dead person.
But he lives as a bat
with the face of a terrier
who preys on poultry and children.
He is a county clerk who eats hunks
of his mother between slices
of fresh sourdough.
I’ve tried to chase him,
but he skitters away.
When I tire of tracking him
he wheels and flies at me.
Not just another boggard,
no lord of the underworld,
he is reincarnated from intestinal gas
of Pecos Bill in a nitrate two-reeler.
Central Pacific’s Jupiter slows
as it passes a diorama
lit by flickering gas lamps.
Lips protruding,
breast sacks drooping—
Bogeyman in wax.
When I open a door,
place keys on a hook,
stand at my window,
he is simply there.
I get little rest.

—Bill Ratner

You Have Died of Dysentery

You have died of dysentery.
I see my fate in the abyss.
But I ain’t no missionary
so God, what sorcery is this?

That here I am alive and well,
back on the deadly trail again.
Or might this be some kind of hell
that I do fail to comprehend.

We set off from Independence,
but I have never felt less free.
I keep losing my dependents,
all my supplies and sanity.

Indeed, I feel mighty feeble,
driving two oxen in a yoke.
Then my wife comes down with measles
and the doggone wagon won’t float.

But yet, I am resurrected
in some alternate universe.
Still, my family gets infected—
o why must I relive this curse?

How is one supposed to endure
as a damned man on a mission?
I wished the gun could be my cure
but ran out of ammunition.

This whole world feels simulated
like I exist with no control.
True, I may be pixelated,
but that don’t mean I have no soul.

—Russell Nichols


Loch Ness monster
Nevada desert summer home
Using fins to swim through sand

—Matthew Wilson

Badlands Billboard





—LeRoy Gorman


prospecting for gold
deep among the asteroids
lost among the stars

—Juan Perez


there’s a gunman named death
who came to town

he was overheard at the bucket
of blood discussing

the sins of clayton spence
who happened to be my pa

word is pa did wrong
according to death

when men wore grey
& blue & both

got smeared with red
“you’ll soon be dead”

this said at bright
noon in 1873

but pa knew when
to pull & shoot

& death fell to his knees
“someday,” pa said,

“& i’ll have it coming,
but for now go on with you

vulture death,” & pa
rode me home in our buckboard

laden with our fare: flour,
bullets, beans, & a pretty

mirror for ma

—William Clunie

Lobo Hunter

“Not one steer lost this week.
We’re much obliged,”
the rich man says,
speaking for the valley’s
nodding ranchers,
handing over the heavy gold
that fit so well in the hunter’s pocket.

He tips his hat
humbly, at the praise,
humbly takes his leave.

“Fifteen,” a young ’un says outside
as the hunter passes.
“Fifteen wolves laid nose to tail,
and boy howdy!
were them last two big.”

The general store owner nods to him
and tacks his “Help Wanted” sign
to the clapboard, aiming to replace
the clerk that run off.
The livery, hiring, too,
their stable boy just as gone.

The hunter swings his leg
across the palomino’s back,
heads north to home,
Virginia City way,
his reputation
as the scourge of wolves
dependent on replenishing
his rifle’s special
Comstock Load.

—Gail Sosinsky

The Airship Rustlers

The wind blew fierce when
I rode out to check the herd,
held down my hat and cringed
till a clangin’ like a farrier’s hammer
caused me to turn around.

In the sky, a flash of silver
trailing streaks of oily blue,
a canvas and steel egg,
windmills pushing it along.
I reached for my Colt and found
myself staring into a Gatling gun.

“You so much as move, Hoss,”
a voice crackled from inside,
“and I’ll plug you full of holes.”
Then with a banging much worse
than any repeatin’ rifle,
the giant egg began descent.

A hatchway opened on its side
like a curtain pulled up
on the music hall’s stage.
The giant egg alit on that dusty
soil and men on horseback
poured forth, surrounding the herd.

They rounded up the cattle
and marched them flank-to-flank
through that great maw upon
the airship’s side. Soon there was
nothin’ but me and my horse
and an overgrown flying egg.

It shuddered and sputtered
then blasted a cloud of steam
before a-risin’ like the harvest moon
and disappearin’ over yonder hills.
To watch was all I could do.

My fellow ranchers (and Turner,
that scurrilous free-ranger)
had similar tales to tell,
yet Sheriff Borden,
flanked by his deputies,
blamed it on the Indians.

I tell you now, what I saw
was not the result of some
Navajo or Apache
summoning a Thunderbird
or Kachina spirit down
from heavens above.

Though I ain’t got proof,
those lawmen know more
than what they’re lettin’ on,
for there’s a passel of new
money in this dyin’ town.

And that airship, it had a stink
like a Chicago slaughterhouse.
I think those industrialists
from back east found a way
to cut the cost of beef.

So my hands and I are
formin’ up a posse with
some miners out Red Gulch way,
to wrangle up those rustlers
and make ‘em pay for what they took.

It’ll take some doin’, but
we got ourselves a canon and some
shells, left over from the Civil War.
We’ll aim it toward the sky
and blow those rustlers
straight to Hell.

—David Lee Summers & Kurt MacPhearson


The cowboy crouched beside the fire,
Head bent low so he could feel
Its warmth on his scalp and
See nothing but darkness.

It was early evening but the light
Of the moon and stars already
Danced with the sun-glazed snow
And he could hear the coyotes
Yipping and playing in the foothills
Of the sawtooth mountains
Before him.

Cold night, Brother?

A withered voice spoke from
Across the fire and the cowboy
Rose his head very slowly to meet
Those hollow yellow eyes just
Shy of ten feet above that
Somehow silent snow.

I’ve felt colder.

The thing was gaunt—
Haggard like a tree in a wind-blasted
Mountain pass—but, the cowboy
Could sense, strong.
Antlers protruded above
The hood veiling its face:
Devices of torture or prophecy.

What’s a man like you doing
Out here on a night like this?

The thing’s eyes smiled,
But the body was motionless—only
Its cloak moved solemnly in
The alpine breeze.

I believe that’s none of yer business, sir.

The thing took a step closer
And this time the snow crunched:
An important detail to
The cowboy as now he knew
It could be shot with
The pistol in his saddlebag
Three yards away.

Brother, you are my business.

It has been said that the
Wendigo is the call of the wild,
So it is not surprising that when the
Cowboy dove to his saddle,
Grabbed his pistol and shot the thing
Square in the chest,
It vanished into the air like
The steaming breath of the man,
Now alone.

It is also not surprising then,
That upon closer inspection,
The cowboy found a human
Footprint remained, next to
A puddle of hot, red blood.

—Trevor Livingston

The Survivor

Born in the dystopian ruins of a small camp bleached and mummified by twin suns. Surrounded by talking mountains filled with ancient mysteries of cosmic roots.
He can see into the dream and know things.
He wanders, a solitary figure beneath the silvery shadows of the elusive night moon, the old cosmonaut suit stifling as it protects him.
Sweat drips into his eyes, stinging and blurring his vision. He plays a staccato beat of dust and loneliness on the strange drums he found.
He watches the silhouettes of horsemen riding on the horizon. There's more today than yesterday, and he wonders why.
He imagines water, lush vegetation, and ripe fruit.
Most days, in his small teepee shelter, he shuts his eyes, and the images come: A woman wrapped in a long robe, strange people fleeing a dying planet, hungry, scared, and hopeful.
He ties rope and metal together until his fingers cramp and burn, willing day into night.
He falls into ragged sleep. The woman in the long robe smiles at him; she speaks to him, but he can't understand the words.
Evening brings coolness and welcome relief.
The ground shakes, the earthquake swarms are light.
He feels better.
He senses a change and feels hope.

—Barbara Candiotti

A, Chahta Sia

Bumblebee, you come to me, so liberally
and say: “you’re just some fucking white girl
what are you doing marking that box
on that application, that doctor’s chart,
that official government paperwork
what are you going around calling yourself native for
you look just like me, and I’m a progressive white girl,
I took black studies and donate to… buzz, buzz”

buzz off, bitch

It’s 1838: bumblebee, you saw them
saw my umafo and my pokni
from your high horse, your TV eye trained to
my ancestors, nameless great-greats,
watched as Andrew Jackson sent us
on that westward path of flyover states
barreling towards the Dust Bowl
as our sisters collapsed into white flowers;
I know you’re sorry, yes, and I say
yakoke to your delicious reparations
which paid for my university education.

Bumblee; still I have to wonder
if those who walked those not-yet-state lines
would spit at us blonde carriers
of tribal cards and immunities,
if Great Spirit still accepts
us washed-out children
with eyes of blue and green
if She knows that it’s us, by the scent of our blood
despite the unspeakable acts,
If she’d greet me with a halito
into the happy hunting ground
of the hereafter.

Bumblebee; you come here often
you or one of your many friends
all orbiting my face,
inspecting for textbook features,
while I, knowing the art of sitting still,
wait for the inevitable pause.
I’ll put you in the fire, loathsome creature,
I’ll consume you in my can of corn.

—Paige Elizabeth Wajda

Songs of the Forest

Some say the songs of the Chickasaw women
were so sweet birds would be silent and listen.
On their way to the river each morning
to bath their strong bodies
and wash their straight black hair,
they would become the forest choir.
Their songs were so sensual, luminous butterflies
would rise from their open mouths
and adorn the trees along the path
so they could find their way in the grey dawn.
Deer and rabbits would
willingly lay down their lives
for the village hunters to find,
so the music would never die.
These hearty women sung songs
they had learned from sounds
they heard coming from
the deepest parts of the woods,
and from the highest stars in the morning sky.
They sang stories they had heard from grandmothers,
they sang of children who played beside them,
and warriors who made love to them in the night.
They raised their clear voices to the setting moon
to moan their losses, and to let all the world know
of the future they feared.

Some say the songs
of the Chickasaw women can still be heard
if you hold an ear to a tree where the forest once stood,
If you walk on the path to where the river once ran,
if you look to the sky where the stars used to blink.

Some say if you are a daughter of the clan,
luminous butterflies will rise out
of your open mouth when you speak,
and take your words to the very heart of this wounded earth.

—Rose Moon