old wake

when I was a kid
living in the hills
I remember old wake
coming to town
once a month
on his big white horse
a tiny man with
a mane of white hair
riding bareback
on the big steed
down the sleepy
main drag of
the small hamlet
a pair of croaker sacks
wired together
tossed across
his shoulder
he lived in a
little handmade cabin
up the hollow
and kept to himself
rarely seen except
for his monthly
trips for provisions
and sometimes
lurking around his
trotline on the
muddy buffalo river
checking for flatheads
or whatever food fish
he could snag
the little man looked
regal aboard his
horse his white hair
flowing long like Custer
in motion pictures
his white full beard
brown around his
mouth from chewing
tobacco and his
eyes like azure stones
he never blinked or
shied away
you could tell that
there was nothing
on earth that
made him afraid
he was a hero to
a 12 yr. old kid
an old man who looked
as though he could
have fought Indians
or Yankees or
the dirty commies
in Korea if they
got within his reach
we would stand on
the board sidewalk and
watch him pass
he never acknowledged us
never turned his head
never spoke
always staring straight
ahead into what
was coming
he would go
to the general store
and a while later
ride out of town
the same way
except his full
croaker sacks slung
across the horse's
broad neck
we watched until
he turned from the
road up the gravel
lane that lead
across the wood-floored
bridge and on
into the mysterious
hills where rattlers
sang in the afternoon
sun and muscadines
grew in the top
of tall red oaks
here 45 years later
I know old wake is
sleeping somewhere
beneath hillside sod
but I wonder if his
ghost doesn't sometimes
ride those hills
and hollows aboard a
ghost white horse
two croaker sacks rustling
in the dark wind

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