Lone Ranger by Julie L. Moore

Lone Ranger

        He could shoot the left hind leg off of a contented fly sitting on a mule’s ear
        at a hundred yards and never ruffle a hair.
                — Oklahoma Yarn about the shooting prowess of Bass Reeves

He’d always been my father’s hero,
though he never knew his name,
couldn’t see that a Black man’s holster

held the Colt 45s butt-handle forward,
Winchester sleeved in his scabbard.
My father liked him the way he was portrayed:

White-on-white, riding his gallant Saddlebred
to perilous rescue, Tonto at his side, giving proof
of the narrative most Americans proudly hailed.

Dad didn’t know about the real ranger’s run
from slavery or his tongue’s impressive stream
of indigenous languages, couldn’t imagine

going home with him in dawn’s early light
to the land where Seminole & Creek,
Cherokee, Choctaw, & Chickasaw dwelt,

their tears trailing them.
Didn’t know he had a memory like a daguerreotype,
capturing every detail in each warrant read aloud

by officer or judge. Dad just loved how
the masked man always
drew first, a bright star outshining

outlaws by the thousands. Loved how
either hand would do, how he killed
desperadoes only when he had to,

each red glare his anthem to light.
Loved how he was both genius & blessing
in disguise, bursting with law

& order like, what else?, a bomb.
His radio & TV got the silver
all wrong—there was no Hi-Yo,

no unspent ammunition left behind
when his job was done. No.
Poor though he was, Bass Reeves

deposited silver dollars in victims’ wallets
as his claim to fame, flagging him
as brave as he was fierce.

Legend has it he knew no master but duty
it was striped on his back like the Bible verses
he’d recite when cuffing criminals,

including his own murderous son.
Shoot, with his many deputies,
he tamed the whole godforsaken territory!

So by the end, he was neither hireling nor slave.
Oh, how Dad wanted to be him—the cheap
imitation, I mean—& so did every kid I knew,

as we all pretended to be larger than life,
cap-gun fire spangling summer days,
puffs of smoke dissipating in heat.


A Best of the Net and eight-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Julie L. Moore is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Full Worm Moon, which won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and received honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s 2018 Book of the Year Award. Recent poetry has appeared in African American Review, Image, Quartet, SWWIM, Thimble, and Verse Daily. Learn more about her work at julielmoore.com.

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