Tombstone, AZ, 1884


Beneath a black wool hood

the hanged man grins, his breath

hissing through clenched teeth

like steam from a waiting locomotive.

When the trap door dropped

he’d felt his weight plunge. Yet here

he is, hovering between crossbeam

and dirt, the day earth’s gravity changed.

He wonders if he’s dreaming

until he hears frantic whinnies

of horses outside the saloon

floating where they were hitched.

He feels a weight has been lifted,

that the trap door opened on a new life.

A startling moment for anyone, no doubt.

To be relieved of the reflux from long

festering regrets, the memories that

nail your shoes to the floor. Imagine

never being tormented by your

personal stage coach heist, whatever

it might be. To be cut down from

the gallows and walk away. To slap

the past’s dust from your jeans.


Ken Hines

You’ll find Ken Hines’ poems in AIOTB, Psaltery & Lyre, Vita Poetica, Rockvale Review and other magazines. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, his poem “Driving Test” won Third Wednesday Journal ‘s annual poetry prize. He lives in Virginia with his wife, the painter Fran Hines.

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