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.
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.