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Sessums, Mississippi
About Mike Reese




A Twilight Song

He was sitting on a little rise
As the sun set in the West
At just about three hundred yards
I laid the crosshairs on his chest

As my finger touched the trigger
His head lifted to the sky
So I let him sing his death song
Like an Indian before he dies

His song was sad and eerie
In a high falsetto whine
He told a tale of persecution
That sent shivers down my spine

Across the void between man and beast
A poignant message came to me
We owned this land ten thousand years
Before Columbus sailed the sea

Does some paper at a courthouse
Say my rights were repossessed
And make you the lord and ruler
Who puts these crosshairs on my chest

Then pull your trigger emperor
But you cannot stop my song
A distant brother will take it up
To tell you that you were wrong

I took my finger off the trigger
Then I saw him drop his head
And I watched him for a little while
In the new light his song had shed

My eyes swept the blood-red sky
I looked back and he was gone
But not before I heard the truth
In a coyote's twilight song

2006, J. Michael Reese 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Handing Down the Reins   

He was big ol' stout and broncy colt
So I double-snugged my girth
I shortened my stirrups to keep me back
Over his head will get you hurt

Times were he'd never throw me
Now we'll just have to see
I noticed lately that my reflexes
Ain't what they used to be

I led him out to center pen
And told the boy to get his head
But he just stood there looking at me
Like he didn't hear what I said

I turned ready to make my mount
But he stood right in my way
It's always been just yessir nossir
What's into this guy today

He said okay, give me the reins
And I mean no disrespect
But you know you're a little old
To be getting in a wreck

It was only then I felt the fear
A sudden shortness of my breath
I was raised up riding rough stock
All his were broke to death

He could see it back behind my eyes
And the way my jaw was set
One day I gotta hand'em down
But I wasn't ready yet

He said that sun's thrown three shadows
On the red dirt in this pen
I'll thank you now that you can't argue
Two of them belong to men

I tried not but heard the truth
In the very next words he said
You know I'm the one that got too old
To be the one that's on his head

Still toe to toe and man to man
Like two gunfighters at high noon
But more like Marines trading places
At that unknown soldier's tomb

In life you'll have these kinda days
Something lost yet something gained
I put my hand up on his shoulder
And handed my son the reins

2006, J. Michael Reese 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mike told us,  "Twice now in the last couple of years, when we knew a colt would buck, my son has tried to get me to give him the reins. I haven't handed them over yet, but in the Autumn of '06, I'll be 62 and the day of this poem is drawing near. Thinking about that moment when it does arrive spawned this poem. It wouldn't have to be bridle reins, in a lot of different ways I think both men and women can relate to this day in their lives -- a time for the changing of the guard."

This poem is included in our poems about cowboy dads and granddads.

A Chosen Few

I used to have a buddy
Who made me walk the line
And walk a straighter path
He laid his tracks in mine

Hunting he walked beside me
His questions came rapid-fire
My answers were his gospel
My buddy never tired

On a horse he rode behind me
My buddy was over-bold
He loved a half-broke skittish bronc
My belt loops were his hold

We waded out among the stumps
Into many a snakey pond 
We tore 'em up with plastic worms
Muddy water sealed our bond

My buddy had the spirit
No matter our enterprise
Menial tasks he made adventures
With the fire behind his eyes

With pickup truck for royal coach
No kingdom was more immense
Those emerald summers when I was king
Because my buddy was a prince

I taught him how to skin a deer
And how to catch a snake alive
I taught him how to throw a rope
Then I taught him how to drive

I couldn't find my buddy
His mother said he'd gone
I couldn't find my favorite shirt
My buddy had it on

I spend these long days by myself
Mighty lonesome if not sad
It's a chosen few who ever knew
A buddy like the one I had

2006, J. Michael Reese 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mike told us: "Such are sons that, as a pre-schooler my boy chose to spend his time with his father. Wherever I was upon planet earth, he was - on the pickup seat beside me, on the back of my horse, in the tractor or combine cab,
wading out fishing in some snakey slough or deep in the deer woods. No man ever had a better buddy than I had. For cool swimming hole or scorching-hot hayfield, he was in there with me, and always with the fire behind his eyes. Work and play were all the same to him, and so they became all the same to me. But the years sailed by and one day I would come to that last verse, though words could never tell how it felt."

This poem is included in our poems about cowboy dads and granddads.


About Mike Reese:

Some folks seem to put a geographical stipulation on the word "cowboy." Certainly more cowboys are to be found west of the river than east but it would take a lot more than a big ol' muddy river to drive a wedge between kindred spirits. Though no longer in the cattle business, I still dress as if I owned ten thousand head and though I'm down to seven horses, two mules and a half-bulldog as the sum total or my livestock enterprise, I still claim the title, Mississippi cowboy.

Certainly at age 61, having been around my share of rough stock, having been in my share of horse wrecks and having experienced those certain episodes that only happen far from the concrete, I have been blessed to experience more than my share of those special moments that are poem-worthy. I could never sit down and write a poem, it is only at those times that some sight or scene or event touches my very soul that the Muse comes and tells me the words and they spew out faster than I can write them down. Sometimes I read back and am absolutely amazed at what something deep in my spirit had to say.

There are several definitions of a poet and as for mine, I don't think putting words that rhyme on paper qualifies you for this title. It is the obligation of a poet to see and then point out with whatever eloquence he or she can muster, something that goes much deeper than a coyote's twilight howl or a child that's out of place or handing someone a horse's reins.

If then, I am honored to have you read my humble words, my only hope is that I can reach way down to twang some little heartstring that might otherwise, as you traveled this ol' long and dusty road that we call life, have gone forever untwanged.



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