III

THE SHEPHERD

 

Neither did Pastor Bill leave the town,

but his sojourn was of no dark renown.

‘pon hearing the bell of his church’s foresight,

fled the old man to make sense of the night.

 

Of no recent sin could his flock be accused.

Of nothing upon which Hell might have mused.

So there were questions to be asked and answers revealed,

before the shepherd accepted his flock’s fate was sealed.

 

But who was the Keeper of Dark Secrets in town?

To whom would he go when the folk had shut down?

To the one man in town who served the Measures of Sin.

Pastor Bill set his face to the Keeper of The Inn.

 

Oil lamps blazed in The Place of Empty Spirit.

In windows they shone to burn away the fear of

the promises of creeping, snarling Night.

In the empty Inn, the oil lamps burned bright.

 

Absently polishing vessels of joy and despair,

the Inn-Keeper failed to see the Pastor there.

Stood he in the doorway in the dust of the day,

looking around silently as if to say…

 

‘Quiet tonight…don’t you think?

Why not pour me a quiet drink?’

 

But Bill coughed intrusively to waken the man,

and the Keeper took him in a glance, which you can

when there’s nothing else doing and the town’s locked down:

‘Someone said somethin’ ‘bout a horseman in town.’

 

Bill nodded and came to the bar in a shot:

‘I need your help, cos you listen a lot.

You hear the stories they’re tellin’ t’others,

the ones they won’t share with even their mothers.’

 

With a crooked grin, the Keeper laughed dark:

‘Ain’t much I hear don’t suit that remark.

But I’m guessing you don’t want tales of all kinds.

You be here for the things of which God would remind.’

 

While the Keeper polished the well-polished jar,

Bill took off his hat, set it down on the bar:

‘The Horseman’s consignin’ us all to some fate,

Lest we ‘fess up to suh’m worthy of terrible hate.’

 

Then spied they each other in the silence and gloom,

‘til the Keeper fell foul of the empty room.

He could not resist when a secret needed told:

‘This happened when I just turned eighteen years old:

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