Spaghetti Westerns With My Father

As we watched the sheriff win a gunfight
with a man whose life probably didn’t pan out
the way he had hoped—collapsing, face down, under the high noon—
my father shares the film’s sentiment of justice served;

but once the lawman says what little he needed to
and trots his journey back to where he lays his head,
I couldn’t help wondering what he was returning to
and whether he considered such a place "home."

If, at every sunset he rode into, every lone cactus and tumbleweed he passed,
he would see the faces of men he justly served,
staring at him like cattle before supper—frozen
where they stood, spurs sunk in the soil,
boots worn in a way as though running was all they had known.

Or, after leaving his wife more times than chambers emptied,
whether she considered him a dead man—
not so much to stop herself from seeing his silhouette in every lantern flicker
nor prevent the bodies propped up in the mortician’s window from resembling him,
but more a shooting star wish to spare his soul
from the duty that made his heart as hard as a badge.

Before the final shot faded into credits
I turned to my father and asked, “who really won?”
And, with a stern look and a blank stare,
he replied, “the man with a clear conscience.”